The UK is finally catching up with other parts of the world as 4G is on its way. With promises of faster download and upload speeds – reportedly up to 100Mbps for users on the move, it’s worth taking a moment to examine how wireless technology has already revolutionised the business world and the opportunities still to be explored. This article looks at five ways wireless technology can, and is being utilised by forward thinking organisations.
Every executive briefcase today contains a myriad of wireless devices – but it’s not just white collar workers benefiting from these communication tools. A quick trip on London’s underground and the proliferation of small electronic devices to stay connected is evident. So, just what are they capable of:
- Road Warriors’ Secret Weapon
For many field agents, the paperwork is the least enjoyable part of the job. It’s fundamentally a waste of time, paper and effort – researching and completing paper based forms and questionnaires that then have to be entered when back at the office. For one team of NHS contractors, mobile technology has eradicated this inefficiency.
Instead of filling in patient questionnaires when making home visits, they remotely connect using a laptop or tablet directly into the network and update their patient’s information in real time. Not only does this remove the duplicated work, but it also means they can check and receive advice during the consultation improving the experience for all parties.
- Talking Money
When it comes to finances, many businesses are keeping a watchful eye on their balances. If cash flow is tight it’s still imperative to keep one eye firmly on the bottom line with the ability to move money, between accounts or even institutions, when necessary. Mobile banking has been popular among consumers and is a growing trend in the professional world too.
- The Quick Fix
The IT infrastructure has become critical in keeping the vast majority of organisations operational so, when something goes wrong, money literally haemorrhages through the organisation’s workstation pores. Twenty-four hour support, seven days a week is imperative. In the event of a network outage, or even a problem on a single PC, ‘Knights of the IT table’ can remotely connect to the network or take over a workstation, identify the problem and get users back up and operational.
- Physically We’re Closed … Virtually We’re Open
‘Internet shopping’ isn’t just a consumer trend. Opening up a sales portal can replace the paper purchase order, and makes operational sense. The ability to check stock, complete the order process, and follow the status of a delivery virtually is a ‘no-brainer’. Mimicking the consumer market, shopping apps via smartphones, tablets or any device of the future is a trend that is bound to prove popular.
- Intelligence is the Weapon of Choice
Being able to share intelligence is vital in today’s connected world. For example, our road surfaces hide a myriad of networks. With gas pipes, electricity cables, drainage etc., contractors can’t simply turn up and start digging and hope they don’t cut through a utility pipe. Today these maintenance crews are armed with a JCB, a virtual map and a GPS signal to pinpoint exactly where it’s safe to crack the tarmac – and more importantly where isn’t.
And the problem is … These are just five scenarios and, while they may not exactly mimic working practices within your organisation, a seed of inspiration for those that do will have been sowed. However, heed this warning, if you’re going to allow anyone to remotely connect into your network, insecurities can quickly blast the benefits out of the park:
- Identity theft from stolen patient records
- Money disappearing from bank accounts
- Malicious software installed during maintenance
- A rival reseller steals ‘the deal’ from another
- Tom, Dick, or Harry know what lies beneath their feet
You get the picture? If not, I suggest you have a little internet search as there’s a veritable library of the insecurities introduced when allowing remote connection. Rather than regurgitate those in this article, let’s move on.
If you allow remote access, you must do so securely. Two-factor authentication (2FA) – the combination of something you know with something you possess, is a proven technology for reducing the incidence of online fraud. Drawing on a parallel in the consumer world – traditional 2FA is ‘chip & pin’. The ‘pin’ being something the user knows, and the chip something possessed.
The majority of professional 2FA solutions require the person ‘authenticating’ themself to enter a UserID – something they know, combined with a passcode – something they posses, usually generated by a ‘token’. However, not all ‘tokens’ are the same.
The two key differences are a physical token versus a tokenless solution.
As the name suggests, the former requires the user to have in their possession at the moment they intend to log into the system a physical device that generates a changing passcode typically on an LCD or e-ink display typically from companies such as RSA Security. However, the limitation (and expense) of this approach is providing every person that ‘may’ need to connect to your network at some point with a physical token.
In contrast, a tokenless solution utilises wireless technology to turn a mobile phone into an authentication token. One variation is a passcode delivered via SMS message. Another is an app stored on a smartphone that mimics a physical token. To help illustrate this option, and again drawing a parallel with the consumer world, earlier this year new technology was revealed that allows customers to withdraw cash from an ATM without their card. Instead a one time passcode is sent to the customer’s mobile phone.
These tokenless solutions are being designed and developed by forward thinking organisations ready to embrace a wireless world where proving one’s virtual identity will be paramount. When a user upgrades their handset they’ll simply ‘move’ their token. With a multitude of systems to connect to, apps hold multiple identities. It’s the users that control, and manage, how they receive their code.
While true 4G may be twelve months away, a year is no time at all. How will your organisation embrace these faster speeds to improve business workflows? Whatever it chooses to introduce, and how ever it decides to connect, make sure the price isn’t higher than the projections allow.