Two Technologies That Might Finally Bring BYOD & Mobile To Your Workplace

Credit: ucedtech
If you use your own tech in the workplace, you might have come across some challenges getting it connected to the corporate network. In fact, the biggest barrier to Bring Your Own Device (aka BYOD) tends to be a resistance to mobile work which often includes a corporate culture that does not support the use of different technologies due to IT concerns around insecure network access and records management.

I think I may have come onto a solution that can kill those birds with one proverbial stone.

Last week, I stopped in for a few sessions at GTEC, the Government Technology conference held annually in Ottawa. (I shared my notes, if you're interested) Thanks to my date for the morning, @BlaiseHebert, we managed to score some passes to get into the Ignite Session which explored: "How not to control the uncontrollable".

Part One: Responsive, Dynamic Network and Apps Privileges 

The first part of the solution comes from a presentation by Michael Holden of Cisco, who told a day-in-the-life story to explain how bring your own device and the mobile workplace can be managed in a secure, standardized fashion.

It's pretty simple: Let's say you have a tablet that can connect to the Internet via WIFI and 3G. Loaded on your tablet are:
  • applications to permit you to log into to your work network both directly and using remote access (VPN), 
  • work-specific apps (customized apps geared to the work that you do),
  • email, phone and video conferencing apps, 
  • and of course all the other apps you happen to load onto it.
Let's say your tablet is configured to connect to WIFI by default, so that you can save your 3G connection for when you are out and about. Ok, now picture this:
  • At work: Your tablet connects to the office wifi as soon as you walk into the building. Your tablet is configured so that when you are on said office wifi, you have access to any and all information you need without additional logins or passwords.
  • At the coffee shop: Your tablet detects the coffee shop wifi and automatically connects you or prompts you to log in. You have access to all of the native applications on your tablet, and the option to VPN in to your work network.
  • At the hockey rink: Saturday morning at the rink, you decide to catch up on your email. Your tablet connects to the Internet via 3G and automatically turns off your videoconferencing and other high-bandwidth applications to minimize your potential data usage. You can VPN in to your work network to access your email, take calls, and use all other essential apps.
So in the Cisco story, network security and application privileges are applied depending on how and where the device user connects to the Internet. Network-specific security and application permissions.

So far, so good.

Part Two: Responsive, Dynamic User Interfaces 

Ok, we dealt with the security issue. But how do we deal with culture change? How do we make the execs and other decision-makers in the company comfortable with the realities of the mobile workspace, if either they just aren't familiar with the tech, just don't use it themselves, or don't think that the work their organization does lends itself to being done remotely?

Sitting and listening to Mr. Holden, I suddenly realized that there is another tech that could be combined with the vision Cisco presented, to not only get the buy-in of the C-level, but also even transform how and where they themselves work.

You might remember earlier this year when I wrote about Chameleon, the Android app that can change your homescreen dynamically depending on your network connection or time of day.

See where I'm going with this?

What if we enabled tablets so that homescreens and security settings dynamically change, depending on their network connection and location? You could customize multiple homescreens that make available only the applications and systems to which they can have access on whatever Internet connection type they are using at the time. The right homescreen would appear at the right time: the interface responding automatically as the user moves from one connection type to another (office wifi to public wifi to 3G and back again).

So, revisiting the earlier examples: at work, full access to all the key applications that are visible or available via widgets on the "work" homescreen. At the coffee shop, restricted access, fewer applications available and perhaps a VPN quick launch widget on the "Wifi" homescreen. At the hockey rink, only low-bandwidth applications that do not require high security. All automatically displayed, depending on how you connect to the Internet.

This approach would ensure the highest levels of security in a user-friendly interface. You could pick up a tablet for the first time and be hard pressed to mess with the system or access confidential information over an unsecured network.

A near fool-proof mobile office UI. Hopefully by seeing how much of an enabler the tech can be, there will be more acceptance of moving to this type of work setup. Who knows, this Solution to BYOD might be just so simple that it works.

Of course, now we just have to convince the powers that be that we will actually be working when we are off-site but that's a fight for another day...