Smartphones have been around for a while, but IT departments are still trying to grapple with a challenge they’ve created: In addition to their laptops, every single employee is writing documents and firing off emails on a company-issued smartphone. That makes for a whole lot of ways to get in trouble, including, data breaches, unsecured public WiFi, stolen or forgotten phones, viruses and leaked documents.
Seattle-based NetMotion Software is introducing a new operational intelligence platform designed for mobile devices. The platform allows IT departments to review all sorts of data in real time, including where on the map a company’s phones are, where they’ve been, where they’re sending data, who is using the most data and who is using the least. It also spots devices not using a VPN to protect data.
NetMotion CEO Christopher Kenessey said the platform is the first of its kind. “We think it’s going to help companies offer better support to their mobile employees,” he said.
This deluge of data can be put to use in all kinds of ways, Kenessey said. To start, the platform can be used to spot security risks and connectivity problems on the fly. For example, Kenessey said he’s learned on his travels to London that hackers armed with portable equipment set up their own free and unassuming wifi networks throughout Heathrow Airport, then scrape data off every device that logs on.
In addition, those geolocation features that track devices are meant to be used to find stolen phones or make sure everybody is OK after a fire, flood or terrorist attack. Another use: Kenessey said companies can use the data to suggest more efficient routes for their drivers. Law enforcement agencies use the geolocation feature to ensure officers are patrolling the toughest parts of town, Kenessey said.
The ability to track employees’ movement and pinpoint their locations naturally raises privacy questions — especially for those who called in sick and went to the movies.
Kenessey said the tracking features can be turned off by employees who want more privacy. Where data tracking is concerned, he said the platform isn’t reading specific emails. Instead, it tracks data by cities, countries and IP addresses. He also stressed that the platform is available only to IT departments, not consumers.