BYOD Gains Traction as Employees Demand Access from Mobile Devices

Many Employees Practice BYOD on the Job With Their Smartphones and Tablets. Have Companies Found a Way to Let Them Do It Safely and Securely?

By Dan Hebert

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"The hard-wired panels were obsolete, and they had trouble maintaining them," Cusimano says. "They had about 10 of them in specific locations throughout the plant. They could have replaced them with current models, but it was less expensive to purchase a few general-purpose portable devices. The operators and techs needed access to the information when they were on the floor, and it made more sense for them to have access anywhere."

BYOD monitoring is accepted by most all operations personnel, but not necessarily IT.  "I wanted to use my own iPad for monitoring a natural gas pipeline, but it took a while before I was finally allowed access to the company Wi-Fi and VPN," says Dennis Brown, senior measurement engineer at Cherokee Basin Pipeline in Independence, Kan. (Figure 1). "Historically, there's been a policy of no access for personal devices, with security always cited as the primary reason."

Here to Stay

Although this article focused on the use of personal devices to monitor and control production processes, BYOD is also 4idely used to view and make changes to industrial operations in many other areas of the enterprise from accounting to logistics to sales and marketing. (The "Sharing and Syncing Data Using BYOD" sidebar discusses methods to provide access to these areas by integrating devices into the entire enterprise via hybrid clouds and other tools.)

BYOD is a growing trend, but some companies are still afraid of it. Perhaps an interim solution would be for a company to supply smartphones or tablets to employees. That way, the company's IT department could install all the necessary procedures, access controls and other requirements needed to ensure a safe and secure working environment. Once everything works to the company's satisfaction, it then could transition to a BYOD policy.

On the other hand, your company could get forced into BYOD, and sooner than you think. Stamas explains how Mowhawk's system got launched: "Our BYOD solution was requested by the president of the paper division. He wanted real-time visibility into the state of plant applications for himself and his staff 24/7. He told me he wanted to be able to wake up in the middle of the night and check the status of his operations in minutes."

So when the president of your company learns that such things are possible with a smartphone, you might get the same request.  

Not many people oppose using personal devices for monitoring production processes, but there are myriad concerns when it comes to using them to make changes to an operating facility.

"Our view of BYOD seeks to ensure that a specific enterprise footprint is provided on a personally owned or a company-provided device, with either limited to certain applications and data. In our case, that's manufacturing applications and data."

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