Presented by Zebra Technologies
As support for Windows CE and Windows Mobile is slowly phased out, agencies are looking for alternatives. In a recent interview, Harold Reeves, Senior Technology Implementation Specialist at Zebra Technologies, spoke about why agencies should look at migrating to enterprise-grade Android.
From smartphones to laptops, when looking at the current state of mobile technologies within the federal landscape, there’s no doubt that a diverse set of devices are at play. A common thread across all mobile technologies, however, is that at the core of all these devices is a unified operating system powering day-to-day operations.
Since the late 1990’s government agencies have come to depend upon Windows CE and Windows Mobile to provide this operating system and power their day-to-day operations. However, as support for these systems comes to an end, agencies are on the hunt for suitable alternatives. One alternative that IT departments shouldn’t overlook is Android. Enterprise-grade Android offers agencies the security and flexibility needed to deliver on their mission, regardless of where their work may occur.
Since the last time agencies were “in the market for devices,” product offerings have changed drastically, says Harold Reeves, Senior Technology Implementation Specialist at Zebra Technologies, an enterprise-grade technology manufacturer.
“When you look at the landscape that’s out there, agencies have the ability to choose an operating system that is ready for active service today,” Reeves explained.
When selecting an operating system (OS), many view them from a consumer-based standpoint. And although this isn’t wrong by any means, Reeves highlights that for business-critical operations, agencies should be setting aside their biases and instead be looking to how the OS can best address business needs. For example, agencies may need devices that are managed remotely, data wiped between users or offer common encryption keys, all of which are services that go above and beyond the typical consumer demand.
“There are scenarios like data management and encryption where you need a partner that brings an overall device management strategy to the thought process ... and so a hardened OS that’s been upgraded into an enterprise-grade solution will allow you to bring the tools you need together,” Reeves said.
The Benefits of Enterprise-grade Android
In addition to providing agencies with a device management strategy, enterprise-grade Android devices offer organizations a medley of other benefits, ranging from encrypted security to extended device support timelines.
IT modernization in government operations is becoming more and more important from a security standpoint. Without support planned for Windows CE and Windows Mobile moving forward, devices running this outdated software could present a security risk.
“Given the current landscape of increasing IT breeches, cybersecurity should be a top consideration when evaluating devices, software and vendors. Government agencies should select IT systems that meet today’s security standards and as new threats evolve, only consider solutions from a vendor with a commitment to supporting security on an on-going basis,” Reeves said.
Mobile devices with an enterprise-grade Android operating system may offer specific features and services crucial to protecting government data and network access. These features may include a home screen that allows IT managers to specify apps only specific users can access, the ability to disable device features, automatically launch apps, and remotely stage and configure small to large batches of devices. They may offer the ability to monitor the security status of mobile devices in real-time and offer easy access to fleetwide management and data metrics.
Extended Device Lifecycle and Support
Countless agencies within the federal government are bound to strict budgets and timeframes, both of which aren’t conducive to the fast-paced consumer lifecycle. However, these restrictions should not be the “end all be all,” according to Reeves. Instead, enterprise-grade technology provides fiscally conscious agencies with the ability to “map out” their mobile strategy, extend the lifecycle of their devices up to 3x and lower their total cost of ownership vs. consumer grade devices.
“A really good enterprise vendor is going to be able to come in and bring you a high-level solution strategy for your needs. Together, you can map out a specific mobile device strategy with an achievable plan, ” Reeves said.
More often than not, agencies have to adhere to a stringent set of requirements for mobile device usage. Although these requirements are not centralized, agencies can still work in conjunction with technology providers to tailor-make solutions for their specific needs.
“You can fine-tune base features of the operating system, such as location features and even cloud features … when it’s needed, you can even step in and partner with rugged enterprise operating system vendors and get a feature from the factory disabled,” Reeves said. For example, the FBI has requirements that dictate agency devices must have Bluetooth capabilities disabled.
Alternatively, if agencies require specific add-ons, they can partner with enterprise vendors to request them. Reeves highlighted countless add-ons, ranging from spare batteries to integrated RFID capabilities able to host “tap-to-pair” options. Whatever the use case is, agencies can tailor their devices to take advantage of efficiencies, improving day-to-day operations.
Optimizing the End-User Experience and Increasing Productivity
While federal agencies continue to shop around for the best mobile device providers, Reeves highlighted the need for IT departments to arm themselves with multiple form factors based on platforms, like the Android OS, that increase security and allow for robust management capabilities.
After security and management capabilities are reviewed, it’s important to consider the end-user experience. “When we start equipping people with technology, we want to evaluate how they will use the device. They may need a heads-up display, for example, because they may need to have their hands free all the time...so it’s very important not to make assumptions that one size of device or one type of device will fit every use case,” said Reeves.
By improving the end-user experience via mapping out agency-specific use cases with enterprise-grade providers, departments can augment their productivity in the field by up to 54%.
“When you choose an enterprise-class provider, they’re going to be able to deliver devices that have longer life-cycles, go across use cases, increase security, and simplify device deployment and management,” Reeves remarked. Mobile devices running an enterprise-grade Android OS will meet these government agency requirements.
Learn more about how Zebra Technologies can help your agency improve day-to-day operations.
This content is made possible by our sponsor Zebra Technologies; it is not written by nor does it necessarily reflect the views of Nextgov's editorial staff.