The Imperative and Opportunity of Ruggedized and IoT Device Management

Ruggedized devices, single-purpose mobiles and the Internet of Things (IoT) have already entered into the fabric of many enterprise business and operations models. These endpoints are critical in industries such as retail, manufacturing, logistics and medical, and in any role involving physical movement and computing activity — i.e., non-desk jobs.

The decisions that IT and security leaders have traditionally made around ruggedized and IoT endpoints have typically centered on design, long battery life and overall ease of use. Increasingly, businesses are focusing more on IoT device management, security and compliance of these endpoints, as well as an overall strategy for these devices.

Why the sudden change? One reason is that many enterprises are approaching a tipping point in their ruggedized and single-purpose device deployments and their life cycles. Aging legacy devices — based on Windows CE (embedded Windows), proprietary operating systems (OSs) and even PalmOS — have many organizations rethinking ruggedized and IoT endpoints in the context of modern OSs, such as iOS and Android. These devices provide lower per-unit prices and are more customizable and flexible from a hardware and form factor standpoint. Organizations are also thinking of how these devices will fit into modern endpoint management and analytics frameworks.

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Why Ruggedized and IoT Device Management Is Essential in the Modern Enterprise

Unified endpoint management (UEM) is a broad technology category that generally applies to the management of smartphones, tablets and laptops — both bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and corporate liable — with a focus on managing email, calendar, and other corporate applications and data. UEM also controls, provisions and manages ruggedized mobile devices and, increasingly, nontraditional, network-connected endpoints, or IoT devices, in the workplace. UEM for ruggedized and IoT use cases focuses on managing one or a few specialty apps, as opposed to calendar, contacts and email.

However, data security, device management and configuration, and especially location are critical features in ruggedized and IoT deployments. Some of the most sensitive, critical data in a business traverses these types of endpoints — think of mobile devices for shipping manifests in logistics, tablets for medical data and information input, or credit card numbers in mobile point-of-sale (POS) and retail use cases. The ability to track physical locations and guarantee security settings, configurations and safeguards on such devices is essential for IT teams. Just as critical is the ability to configure endpoints and deliver OS updates over the air (OTA), thereby eliminating the need for a device to leave the premises for maintenance and reducing the impact to business.

Beyond ruggedized and single-purpose mobile OS deployments, many enterprises are scrambling to manage diverse IoT endpoints in workplaces as more traditionally unconnected endpoints, such as conference room displays and building systems, connect to corporate networks. Employee workspaces are increasingly surrounded by connected devices. Tablets and touch screens are replacing clipboards and paper-based processes in many instances. Interfaces to equipment and machinery in specific industries (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, manufacturing and agricultural equipment) and general-purpose devices such as printers are connecting to networks with mobile-oriented OSs and user interfaces (UIs) layered on top. These workspace IoT environments promise increased productivity and richer interactions with meeting spaces.

Beyond simple configuration and monitoring of such devices, enrolling these endpoints in a management framework also allows businesses to collect and analyze data on how connected endpoints are used, which can be put in the context of overall business operations and efficiency.

How IBM’s MaaS360 With Watson Platform Is Leading the Industry

IDC recently published a MarketScape (competitive vendor analysis report) on enterprise mobility management (EMM) platforms specific to the use cases of ruggedized and IoT device management. Among the key criteria IDC used to evaluate EMM software vendors for these deployments was the breadth of OSs supported (while the industry moves toward Android and modern OS devices, there is still a large legacy-installed base that must be supported during upgrades, or for organizations intent on extending the life on fleets of older deployed devices).

Additionally, IoT endpoints and connected office devices typically run nontraditional endpoint OSs, such as Linux, QNX and other embedded RTOS software, requiring more specialized management and security functions.

IBM’s MaaS360 with Watson UEM platform was named a Leader in the “IDC MarketScape: Enterprise Mobility Management Software for Ruggedized and IoT Deployments” report. Contributing to IBM’s positioning as a leader was MaaS360’s support for a broad range of endpoint device types — from mobile OSs (Android, iOS) to desktops (ruggedized Windows PCs and laptops are still critical to many industries). Additionally, MaaS360 can manage specialized OSs, such as Linux/Raspberry Pi, Android Things and watchOS — all of which are used in emerging workspace IoT endpoints in the enterprise.

Along with legacy devices, MaaS360 offers support for emerging IoT endpoints, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens platform for business (augmented reality headset hardware and software). Another differentiating capability for IBM was its tie-ins with the company’s larger Watson IoT platform — where MaaS360 UEM deployments feed endpoint device data to Watson IoT for analytics.

To read more about the role MaaS360 plays in ruggedized and IoT device management and IBM’s solutions in this market, download the IDC MarketScape report.

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Phil Hochmuth

Program Director, Enterprise Mobility

Phil Hochmuth is the Program Director on IDC's Enterprise Mobility team. His research provides insights into how...