Managing a mixed-device environment in the public safety workplace

In today’s increasingly mobile world, one would be hard pressed to find someone who does not own a smartphone, tablet or portable device. The popularity and growing usefulness of mobile devices means that users increasingly expect the same...

Consumer device manufacturers consider style above all else. Considerations like radio performance and antenna design may not be at the top of the list when features are being prioritized. For consumers, a dropped call can be frustrating. But for a first responder, it can mean critical minutes lost in reaching and helping someone in need. Public safety departments must consider the possibility of critical applications becoming unavailable during emergency situations and must have contingency plans in place. Public safety officers rely on their communication devices to do their jobs effectively and safely, and CIOs must carefully consider the implications of overreliance on BYOD consumer devices.

Key strategies for managing a mixed-device workplace

A mixed-device workplace is a balancing act, but several strategies can be implemented:


Continually evaluate device options

BYOD is a reality that all CIOs must address with clear policies and technology enhancements. CIOs should consider new, advanced device options for mission-critical data applications.

New public safety devices, such as Motorola Solutions’ LEX 700 Mission-Critical Handheld, combine the security and critical intelligence first responders need in the field with the familiarity and sleek design of a smartphone. In addition, these advanced devices are rigorously tested to ensure they are reliable under continuous use in harsh environments. They can perform in extreme heat and cold, in blowing dust and rain, and even after repeated drops on concrete.

According to the Motorola Solutions survey, more than half of government and public safety IT decision makers would prefer to invest in communication devices specifically designed for public safety.


Understand all associated costs

While consumer devices offer a lower initial cost, CIOs must look beyond the initial price tag of the device to the lifetime total cost of the device. According to a report on Mobile Computing by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the reductions in time, personnel, money, consumables, accuracy, and safety when using public safety grade rugged devices can drive cost savings of 20 to 40 percent.


Have experts manage the devices

Government and public safety agencies will need to institute a BYOD policy that addresses the challenges specific to each jurisdiction. For instance, what applications will be allowed, how will the department handle the issue of lost or stolen devices, and are there security applications in place to remotely wipe an employee’s device when needed? Managing the proliferation of mobile devices is no easy task. CIOs should leverage companies that already have the tools and expertise in place to manage large and diverse populations of mobile devices. These firms enable public safety agencies to stay focused on public safety.


Fortify the network

While awaiting access to private, dedicated LTE broadband networks for public safety use, CIOs should revisit the security and reliability of existing networks. The increasing variety of devices accessing the network leads to new opportunities for malware and security breaches. Departments should consider implementing new security measures that properly segment the network. Additionally, CIOs should assess the capacity of the network and ability for the network to properly prioritize mission-critical applications in emergency situations.

There is no question that with the range of device choices available, government and public safety agencies will have a mixed fleet of rugged and consumer devices that leverage increasingly critical applications. CIOs should acknowledge BYOD and implement policies to ensure appropriate use and security. At the same time, agencies must consider advanced, purpose-built devices for mission-critical applications. While BYOD might be a reality, consumer devices clearly are not built to serve first responders.

Whatever the mix of consumer and rugged devices, public safety agencies must acknowledge the complexity of mobility and count on outside expertise to administer mobile policies on a daily basis. With these considerations, government and public safety agencies can safely take advantage of the latest consumer technology while becoming better prepared to respond to emergency situations with purpose-built technology.

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