For the most part, the sharing economy we’re living in is working out pretty well for us. Uber Pool customers share their rides with strangers and Airbnb owners share their homes with paying guests. So how about sharing your phone with that guy in the next cubicle? Better yet, just give him part of your mobile device and you hang on to the rest of it.
Before you give me that look, consider what may be the next innovation in mobile solutions: a modular phone prototype developed recently by scientists at University of Waterloo, University of Calgary, and Dartmouth College.
Truth be told—and the scientists admit to this—the prototype is not a pretty-looking toy, but may be a pretty good idea. The researchers stacked three phones of varying sizes in a 3D-printed resin housing. The largest phone sits on top and serves as the main device. Imagine you’re in a meeting and you want to show the group what you’re looking at on your device. You just slide out the two smaller phones underneath and pass them around the conference table. You control what other people can do with these loaner devices, including what apps they can access.
The research behind the project builds a credible case for the usefulness of such a device, and its promise as the next-level generation in mobile solutions. The lesson here is that remote work is booming—which means there’s a hot market for creative IT upgrades.
From BYOD to LAD (lend a device)?
So what is the point of such a contraption in today’s world of BYOD? As part of their modular phone project, the university researchers conducted a survey and found that all respondents had lent their phones at some point to either a family member or close friend, work colleague, or a complete stranger.
In the workplace, device sharing could have benefits beyond providing a convenience to a colleague who has an urgent call to make and no functioning phone on hand. Beyond the conference room example we painted above, other scenarios where lend a device makes sense include:
- Remote work, with team members sharing devices controlled by the field supervisor.
- Business trips where co-workers can use a modular phone not only to share devices but also a single VPN connection.
- Sales calls where clients can look at products and enter their orders on a shared device that the sales rep can view and monitor in real time.
- Health care settings, where patients are handed mobile devices with diagnostic apps that they can use to scan a wound or lesion while a nurse or doctor watches and takes notes on the main device.
Mobile solutions go beyond the lab
You won’t find the modular phone on any store shelves today, but don’t let that stop you from expanding the capabilities of the mobile devices your teams use for work. With more than 1.7 million Canadians now working from home, and with business people spending half or more of their week working outside the office, IT managers need to look at innovative ways to push beyond the limits of today’s mobile phones and tablets.
Did you know you can extend your organization’s mobile devices by making them a virtual version of your office desktops? True story: Mobile solutions exist that can connect phones seamlessly with desktop applications. This truly extends an organization’s mobile technology by making it a virtual version of the office desktop, which can then be shared with colleagues or clients by simply saying, “Here, let me show you on my phone.”
Robust management and support are key
As you stretch the limits of your mobile solutions, control and security of your team’s devices will become more critical than ever. Another out-of-the-box mobile solution to consider is Device as a Service, which allows businesses to customize their device and accessory mix, use analytics to optimize and better manage IT assets, and improve cost predictability while maintaining plan flexibility. Device management is a big plus for IT when BYOD runs rampant on the network and off, giving the visibility needed to keep data protected and processes successful.
Robust cloud-based management is a must. The right level of support and protection is also important as more and more employees turn from desk jockeys to remote worker warriors. Look for services that provide help such as travel repair and replacement, onsite support, and accidental damage services. A mobile workforce means more moving parts, which means more chances of mobile devices getting lost, stolen, or broken.
The researchers behind the modular phone plan to make another model in the near future so who knows, you might see it on store shelves one of these days. In the meantime, there are plenty of mobile solutions around that can take your team’s devices to the next level of productive greatness. It’s all about the right technology, applied by innovative IT managers.