Absolute brings data wipe, device tracking to Android

With BlackBerry and iPhone support already in its portfolio, Vancouver-based Absolute Software Corp. has extended its flagship laptop theft recovery software to the Android OS.

The mobile device management firm, which will make Computrace Mobile for Android available on May 3, said the update comes in response to huge demand for the platform by its existing customer base. The Android-supported software will include remote data wiping capabilities, app notification functionality, and an historical/real-time tracking feature through Google Maps.

Pam Seale, director of product marketing from Absolute, said that with many IT departments letting staff bring their own devices to the office, the ability to selectively remote wipe corporate messages and data is a key differentiating feature.

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“Many times it’s an employee-owned device, so it’s not entirely acceptable to delete the whole device,” she said.

Seale added that customers using Computrace Mobile in conjunction with Absolute’s laptop tracking platform will be able to manage all of their devices from a single portal. The only exception being iOS-based devices, she said, which are managed through a separate Absolute product.

Without a management tool in place, Seale said, an enterprise will not be able to safely open its doors to multiple mobile platforms.

In addition to the more traditional geolocation features, the software also allows IT administrators to build a virtual “geofence” around a particular city or region. If a mobile device is taken outside of the area, a notification will be sent to the IT department.

Johnathan Lonsdale, IT director at Venus, Fla.-based Delray Plants Co., said Absolute’s notification features have proven to be the most useful throughout the firm’s initial pilot with the software. The indoor foliage company’s IT department, which has 55 Android devices rolled out across its organization, receives a notification anytime an employee installs an unapproved app.

“We have an approved app list,” Lonsdale said. “If somebody installs anything other than what’s on that list, we get a notification and contact the user to remove it immediately.”

He added that while users are rarely installing these apps for malicious purposes, the ability to control the distribution of third-party Android apps is an important feature for his IT shop. In a future release, Lonsdale hopes Absolute will add even more specific notifications. This includes the ability to know the names of the unapproved apps being installed.

“Instead of just telling us that an unapproved app was installed, we want it to let us know what that app is,” he said. “That would definitely be a nice feature.”

Lonsdale said Absolute’s Android software has worked a viable replacement to BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which the company has used in the past.

“The device wiping feature has been great,” he said. “We’ve had to use it a couple of times after some employees left their phones in rental cars.”

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