Transportation and logistics companies and mobile technology: Lessons for other industries

Photo by Rhys Moult on Unsplash

In the run-up to the holiday season, it’s the transportation and logistics industry that makes wishes come true for young and old alike. Though these holiday heroes make it look easy, transportation and logistics companies rely heavily on mobile technology to help them deliver, suggests FleetOwner.

Companies in other industries should take cues from the transportation industry on how it uses mobile technology to get the job done.

The transportation and logistics industry has important enterprise mobility insights because it’s an industry that’s mastered knowing the location of its people and assets using location-based services and the IoT.

Here are five mobile solutions powering the transportation and logistics industry and lessons other enterprises can learn from their applications:

1. Geofencing

As highlighted by DreamOrbit, the transportation and logistics industry uses geofencing to create virtual boundaries around assigned areas using GPS-enabled devices. For example, transportation and logistics companies use geofencing technology to track when trucks enter and leave a depot yard or overnight parking area.

Geofencing technologies aren’t just for tracking vehicles, either. A healthcare institution can use the same technology on devices within its network to limit access to patient information. It can also integrate geofencing technology with enterprise mobility management(EMM) solutions. Doctors or other healthcare professionals can bring up the patient data they need on their mobile devices when they’re working their shifts. As soon as their shifts end, their mobile devices won’t be able to log on to any hospital resources holding patient information. This technology can be critical for hospitals with mobile workers to remain compliant with the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

2. Location-based services

Whether trucks are in freight yards or delivering toys for Black Friday, it makes good business sense to know their locations. Companies use mobile devices and onboard GPS to support location-based services across their fleets. Location-based services can feed into back-office systems including management dashboards and analytics platforms for reporting purposes. Management can use that data to make informed decisions about its next business moves.

Companies in the retail, healthcare and field services industries use these technologies when it’s necessary to track employees and customers for security and other purposes. For example, consider when a cable company equips its vehicles with location-based services so it can track them and dispatch the closest technician to service a customer.

3. Mobile-based planning apps

Firms use cloud-based applications (sometimes called transportation management systems) to manage and track shipments from the warehouse through transport to shipping. Drivers can access these systems using mobile apps. Some vendors also offer secure chat and collaboration features as part of these applications, giving them channels to communicate back to dispatchers and corporate offices if something changes on their routes.

Mobile planning apps have many applications across other industries. Though field service companies such as construction firms are a natural fit, these apps point to a future in which mobile devices will run more business operations. Furthermore, the implications for secure collaboration and communications are transferable to healthcare, financial services and manufacturing, where mobile workers need close communications across one or more facilities during daily operations.

4. The IoT

The barrier to entry for the IoT is going down for the supply chain, according to Logistics Management. This is leading to some exciting applications for the transportation and logistics industry. Consider a transportation company that tags its loads with IoT beacons. Each beacon communicates with its main dispatch center or even directly to customers, enabling them to track goods through their entire shipping cycles. Transportation management systems, enterprise resource planning platforms and even customer relationship management applications can then read these IoT beacons.

The transportation and logistics industry sets an example for its implementation of the IoT to track vehicles and packages while going through the supply chain. Similar parallels for the IoT exist in pharmaceuticals and healthcare, where IoT sensors can monitor patients both in hospitals and at home. In the end, it’s about the IoT sensor triggering a notification prompting a person to take action. Other enterprises will also use IoT devices to monitor machinery and other assets.

5. Enterprise mobility management

The transportation and logistics industry represents a mobile workforce like no other industry because of its delivery challenges, deadlines and the distances its workforce covers. All this makes the industry a natural consumer of EMM solutions. Mobile devices need to receive security, app and mobile OS updates, whether they’re on the road, at a corporate facility or at a rest stop later that night. Using today’s EMM solutions lets transportation companies secure IoT devices and integrate geofencing solutions into their overall mobile security solutions.

Look at the landing page for many EMM solutions right now and chances are you’ll see a vendor trying to suit its platform to cross-industry business requirements. That’s a testimony to a mobility vendor that’s learning from the transportation industry to create the best solutions for its customers.

Part of becoming a better mobile enterprise is studying how other industries go mobile. The transportation and logistics industry is a perfect case study in mobility because it represents businesses with critical timelines that require flexible and secure mobile technologies to ensure user productivity.

This post originally appeared on Mobile Business Insights on November 2, 2017. The site is no longer in publication.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

Mobile device management (MDM) strategies for healthcare organizations

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The value of customer data is a top priority for any enterprise. Patient health information (PHI) carries higher security stakes, requiring mobile device management (MDM) and accompanying strategies to secure this high-value information and ensure patient privacy.

Mobile strategies for HIPAA compliance

When users access PHI using an unsecured device, they are violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA, according to HIT Infrastructure. Such violations bring costly fines and lots of bad press.

Further complicating the issue, doctors and other professionals accessing the data may not even be employees of the hospital where they are providing patient care. IT must prepare for this BYOD scenario. Creating BYOD policies for healthcare organizations requires:

  • Defining cases for acceptable use
  • Detailing privacy and data ownership expectations
  • Approving devices and device provisioning
  • Crafting security policies for BYOD devices
  • Evaluating risks and liabilities

It’s possible to bring mobile devices into HIPAA compliance by developing an MDM or enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategy and implementing the appropriate security policies to secure PHI and institution-owned or BYOD devices. Achieving such compliance may require bringing in a third-party professional services firm that specializes in mobility compliance. You should also be working with your outside auditor at every step of your mobile device rollout.

HIPAA compliance also extends to texting, group chat and instant messaging within a healthcare enterprise. There’s a growing list of HIPAA-compliant messaging solutions that target healthcare enterprises. Client apps for these solutions are often available for:

  • Corporate-owned devices
  • Employee-owned devices
  • Corporate-owned PCs
  • Personal PCs

Physical working environment

The healthcare industry workforce is on their feet for eight to 12-hour shifts, with much of that time spent responding to immediate patient needs and emergencies. These working conditions make it easy to leave a mobile device on a counter or a table; the open nature of a hospital makes it easy for somebody to walk off with the device inconspicuously, never to be found.

Having MDM with geofencing, which uses a mobile device’s GPS to create a boundary that triggers a response when a user crosses it, can also protect PHI from leaving the healthcare facility. For example, you can set a policy that blocks access to hospital applications that contain PHI from all corporate and BYOD devices running an MDM client app as soon as the user leaves your facility with the device. When they return for their next shift, the geofencing solution restores their application access.

Wearables and connected devices

Wearables are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, and the healthcare field is finding ways to use wearables for patient monitoring outside the traditional healthcare setting. Healthcare providers may issue patients a wearable for use in monitoring a health issue. There are also patients who already own a wearable device that captures data that might help their doctor to further monitor their health condition.

Healthcare enterprises face many of the same challenges as a commercial enterprise when securing wearables, but they have the added need of strict HIPAA compliance. The amount of PHI data these wearables generate also prompts the need for strong data governance and an MDM strategy. Your data management policy will need to account for:

  • Patient data ownership
  • Privacy policy compliance
  • Cybersecurity protections over the data in transit and at rest

These challenges extend to medical devices such as insulin pumps, defibrillators, CPAP machines, cardiac monitoring devices and oxygen tanks equipped with IoT sensors for remote monitoring. These medical devices provide real-time information to caregivers and clinicians while enabling the patient to receive care at home. Sensors Online explains these devices face the following challenges:

  • Design: The design process for a remotely monitored device is different from those designed for in-hospital use and different from common IoT devices, such as telematics or security devices.
  • Certification: The often-underestimated wireless device certification process, which is separate from the FDA’s testing for all new wireless devices.
  • Collaboration: Connectivity challenges are posed from manufacturers all the way down to the people who manage these devices.

The OWASP Secure Medical Device Deployment Standard provides a guide and checklist for deploying these network-enabled devices. You can expect to see MDM vendors evolve their IoT security portfolios to secure these devices. Blockchain, the secure digital ledger, shows promise in helping secure medical devices, according to Network World, but it is an emerging security technology that is still suffering performance hurdles.

Mobile device management in healthcare organizations

The prognosis for implementing mobile device management in a healthcare enterprise is healthy if the healthcare institution’s IT staff works closely with their user community and outside auditors to implement HIPAA-compliant mobile solutions that empower clinicians and other healthcare professionals to serve their patients better.

This post originally appeared on Mobile Business Insights on January 11, 2018. The site is no longer in publication.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly