The Summit on Enterprise Mobility – a few observations

I attended the fifth annual Summit on Enterprise Mobility earlier this month presented by the Strategy Institute in Toronto.  I was interested to see how the thinking had evolved since I first went to this conference three years ago. My previous conference review can be found here.

It wasn’t a very large conference but it did seem like a worthwhile event for anyone interested in mobile services and applications. One caveat – I’m not trying to summarize the presentations or provide speaker interviews in this blog. I am sure there are others who will do that. I want to provide my own observations and conclusions.

My first observation was that the sub-heading for the conference – security, cloud, data and IoT strategies – seemed to expand the scope for the conference a lot. Cloud computing and IoT are ecosystems for which mobility is an important component but is there a chicken and egg question here?

Many of the presentations were case studies so there seemed to be a relatively low emphasis on the technologies and the future trends. The case studies included the National Hockey League Players Association, Dynacare, Saint Elizabeth Healthcare, Appleby College, American Express, Canadian Blood Services and Smart Communities. The remaining sessions were labeled as keynotes, industry experts, CIO panels and special addresses.

Many of the presentations were quite interesting, and served to illustrate what is possible with good products and innovative design.

In the first keynote, Dominic Nessi, retired CIO of the Los Angeles World Airports, described how airports can harness technology to improve both the customer experience and business operations. This includes everything from replacing ticket counters and providing a lost bag website, adding RFID tags to bags, to the complexity of security alarms (with 4,000 cameras) and emergency response.  The LA airport is effectively a small city – it caters to 120 airlines servicing 72 million passengers per year.  Airport automation – a “Smart Airport” based on mobility – is a significant airport transformation.

Pierre Perron, CIO of the RCMP, described how mobility is producing a similar transformation in policing services, even though the circumstances are quite different. Since police operate independently but must co-operate across different jurisdictions, systems need to be harmonized and interconnected.

Ann Cavoukian, executive director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, discussed the importance of security and privacy by design for IoT environments. The very large number of things and the vast volumes of data associated with IoT will require advanced design thinking if IoT solutions are to be successful.  Breaches in IoT (e.g., in connected cars) can be life threatening as well as very expensive.

Mobile applications were also the subject of several sessions. Adam Fish talked about building more engaging mobile applications and highlighted some of the underlying technical requirements. David Sayavong from Veem Canada discussed availability – using the “Internet of the Cruise Ship” (a cruise ship is a “thing”) as an example of an always-on environment.  One important observation is that emerging technologies are not independent and, in most cases, are not easily used in isolation.

One quote from Rod Davenport, CTO of the State of Michigan, that rang true for me was that “change goes slower than you expect but also goes deeper than you perceive.” However, the timescales for new technology diffusion seem to be more compressed than ever before, even in public sector organizations.

Wendy Cukier, VP at Ryerson University, noted that mobility has a maturity curve that follows the usual stages – ad hoc, opportunistic, repeatable, managed and optimized. In most cases, however, the technology itself is not the limiting factor – people have to adopt and make use of them in innovative ways.  The adoption of new technologies in business seems to be getting easier now that consumers are the drivers.

Some observations:

  • Defining new technologies, such as mobility, is often hard (which makes setting strategy and creating business cases more difficult). For example, does the term “mobility” equate to only wireless communications when some wireless devices are not mobile?  Is mobility the combination of wireless and portable devices (as with today’s smartphones)?  If so, are the applications and app stores part of the mobility ecosystem?
  • I-B-SMAC (IoT, blockchain, social, mobile, analytics and cloud) are useful both as standalone technologies and also combined into ecosystems. For example, social networks and cloud computing can be used separately with the Internet and desktop PCs, without any mobility support.  However, allowing service access at any location (even walking on a sidewalk) has greatly extended the reach and value of many apps and has helped in the consumerization of IT.
  • The future for mobility is assured – a large percentage of the 50 billion “things” in IoT will be connected wirelessly. Wireless networks such as WiFi and 5G cellular will need to meet the needs of IoT, grid computing and cloud access, and will need to provide universal coverage (e.g., in rural locations).  User interfaces need to eliminate the Pokémon GO phenomenon (i.e., walking into things).  The “personal digital hub” needs to integrate new things such as watches, body monitors, glasses displays and intelligent earphones.
  • New technologies are arriving faster and faster. Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are already displacing IoT as the newest of the emerging technologies.  Agility is no longer just for application development; it is for all areas of IT deployment.
  • New ways to compose solutions from building blocks are also necessary. It will also not be feasible to engineer different wireless systems for each application.  APIs will be needed for subsystems, not just for software components.

Perhaps most importantly, I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure that all the I-B-SMAC pieces will fit well together. In my opinion, there has never been a greater need for open standards (and open systems patterns) for technologies, ecosystems and services.

This is what the conference made me think about. How does mobility fit into your vision for I-B-SMAC? Let us know in the Comments section below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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