Almost daily, new services and solutions are brought to market, enabled by the proliferation of wireless devices, networks and backend management systems. Wireless devices (aka mobile devices) range from application specific hardware, such as purpose-built modules that connect to vehicle electrical systems or stationary equipment in remote locations, to consumer mobile devices (phones, tablets, PC, wearables) that are used in countless ways based on the applications running on them (tablet-based Point-of-Sale equipment for example). As these mobile devices are generally connected to some type of wireless network, they can be remotely controlled, updated and monitored Over-the-Air (OTA). OTA is a subset of what is known as Mobile Device Management (MDM).

 

MDM is a term used for the management of mobile devices. MDM can be accomplished in-house, or hosted by a trusted third party. The need for MDM spans across countless industries and applications, and grows every year. Some industries solutions include Transportation & Fleet Management, Field Workforce, Utilities, Public Services & Law Enforcement, Medical Equipment & Devices, Retail, Inventory Control, Commerce, Hospitality & Entertainment, Real Estate, Petroleum and Asset Tracking & Management.

 

Because of the depth and breadth of some industries using mobile devices to expand and optimize their services, the decision to have MDM hosted or outsourced to a trusted third party with deep expertise in a given industry segment makes sense. The trusted third party generally offers MDM as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, along with SaaS applications. A few enabling technologies where the SaaS option should be carefully considered include Telematics, Internet-of-Things (IoT) & Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Near Field Communication (NFC) and Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID).

Telematics- Generally referred to as wireless communications involving vehicles and/or transportation systems. This includes a wide variety of applications ranging from fleet management and asset tracking, to car infotainment and navigation systems. The wireless communications infrastructure can be satellite, terrestrial or a combination of both.

 

Internet-of-Things (IoT) / Machine-to-Machine (M2M)- Involves wireless (or wired) communication between two or more devices, or a device and control hub connected to multiple devices. Applications include but extend beyond vehicles and transportation. Some examples include remote utility meter readers, stationary data devices for agriculture, smart city deployments (i.e. parking meters, traffic control), consumer appliances and home automation.

Near Field Communication (NFC)- A short range wireless technology for mobile devices, primary for securely passing credentials or a very small amount information. There are many applications, however more common ones include:

  • Mobile payment- payment credential exchange between a mobile phone and Point-of-Sale (POS) equipment. Can include club membership information, coupon submission and loyalty points/offers.
  • Access Control and Field Workforce (i.e. proof of presence for field employees, keyless entry to utility sites).
  • Service Discovery- launching a mobile phone browser to a specific website by touching the mobile phone to a NFC “tag” embedded in some type of physical advertising medium (poster, counter card, interactive display).
  • Automatically pairing of two Bluetooth enabled devices.

 

Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID)- a useful and flexible contactless (proximity) technology used for decades across a vast number of industries and use cases. Just a few applications include:

  • Asset management- Intermodal container tracking, retail product tracking, inventory management.
  • Electronic Toll Collection (i.e. TollTagTM), public transit fare collection, ticketing.
  • Retail theft prevention, automobile key authentication (Automobile Immobilization Systems).
  • Wildlife tracking and household pet identification (veterinarian-placed ID tags/capsules).
  • Medical applications, sports applications, industrial equipment tracking, payment devices.

 

All of the above require some level of security, more so with payment and access control credentials than with retail inventory managment applications. When the need for security is high, such as OTA provisioning of payment credentials, a form of a trusted third party is used to host and provide credential managment services, called a Trusted Service Manager (TSM). For obvious reasons, robust, resilient and secure communication links and backend platforms are also required for many telematics applications. Another consideration is the potential complexity of having to integrate with (or decommission) legacy backend systems, as well as forward compatibility requirements with emerging systems and platforms. These and other factors help to define the type and scope of Professional Services that may be required by an MDM provider.

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