Docking Stations are Becoming a Critical Profitability Factor for the Connected Workforce Gear

What The New Generation of Enterprise Docking Stations For Mobile Devices Bring to Businesses

Empowering the Workforce While Protecting Valuable Physical and Data Assets

Remember what life was like before mobile devices made it easy to get answers to almost any question from virtually anywhere on the planet in under a second? For employees in the transportation, healthcare, and retail industries, having real- time access to critical information is the only way to guarantee the health of the enterprise and its customers. With the growing adoption of personal digital assistant (PDA) devices, also known as mobile computers, in the workforce, there are various aspects that need to be reconsidered and properly managed, from physical and data security to optimizing battery management. And now, there are peripherals, such as ‘smart’ charging docks that help manage these devices more seamlessly and effectively.

“These days, mobile technologies are an integral part of the work environment. The proliferation of devices — whether in the hands of customers, partners, or employees — is delivering unprecedented access to information, improved productivity and collaboration, and increased engagement for organizations,” says Jessica Goepfert, program vice president of Customer Insights & Analysis for IDC. According to IDC, 63% of global enterprises regard mobility as the most significant factor contributing to competitive advantage and more than 7 in 10 cite it as a top priority.

Too often, companies eschew the benefits of the connected enterprise because of the liability and management costs of PDAs and other mobile devices. Now with the help of smart peripherals, enterprises can keep the devices safer, help them last longer, and even improve efficiencies by automatically customizing any available device for specific employee profiles and/or specific tasks upon authorized sign-in. Advanced PDA solutions such as Datalogic’s Memor 20 with its smart docking system (SmartDock™) is helping to do just that, reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) while improving physical and data security.

Connected, Yes, But at What Cost?

Samsung Insights estimates that connected enterprises spend on average $1,415 per employee every two years to provide mobile devices, support, and connectivity services. That may seem like a high price, especially when the number of devices rises. However, studies show that mobile workers gain an extra 240 hours of work per year, for an average of more than $5,000 in productivity gains per employee.

A driving factor for the cost has to do with device replacement and repair. Research by Venture Development Corporation (VDC) reveals that 35% of consumer-grade mobile devices used in industrial environments must be replaced within the first two years of operation. The number of replacements reaches 80% within the first three years. Compare that to rugged industrial PDAs, where failure rates drop to an average of 2% per year.

The truth, however, is that hardware replacement costs may only be the tip of the actual cost from a “lost” PDA because of the corporate data it may expose. According to peripheral OEM Kensington, more than 23% of IT devices are stolen at work, and 34% of those thefts are from employees. Forbes recently claimed that 41 percent of data breaches begin with a lost or stolen mobile device, while healthcare industry statistics reveal that 1 in 5 data breaches stems from a stolen computer or device with unencrypted data. Finally, the average data breach costs a company upwards of $4 million per event, according to IBM. Mobile device management, including smart charging docks with both data and physical security features, are critical parts to solving these concerns.

To guard against device and data loss, companies typically utilize four strategies, namely:

  • Banning connections to public Wi-Fi networks
  • Maintaining manual inventory of devices
  • GPS or indoor localization to verify device location
  • Remote device locking or wiping capabilities

Unfortunately, without the technological capabilities to know who is using what device and whether those employees are following corporate rules, these policies are not enough.

Efficient Wireless Charging = True Difference on Your Bottom Line

A smart charging station is designed to perform its core function – charging the device – to perfection. But, it’s also capable of independent and fast data transfer to the PDAs via an Ethernet-wired connection, adding other layers of security and management features to the devices.

Rugged mobile devices, or PDAs, are purpose-built units that allow users to roam throughout the enterprise, performing various tasks depending on the application and industry. In most cases, the docking stations that charge typical mobile computers, have spring-loaded contacts that connect with contacts at the base of handheld devices. But these docking station designs are prone to capturing dust, debris, moisture, as well as spills from coffee and other liquids. Over time, the contacts corrode and degrade, charging becomes inconsistent, and eventually the mobile units fail. The retail and logistics applications have shown that contacts are the #1 source of device failure, impacting 15% to 25% of the TCO. In Transportation and Logistics, vehicle vibrations and frequent manipulations dramatically shorten the lifespan of the PDAs. And in healthcare environments, the contacts become the gate for microbial contamination.

Wireless, or inductive, charging is today the most attractive option for enterprises with fleets of dozens or hundreds of rugged handheld devices. Wireless charging doesn’t require special contacts that wear out and is typically more convenient than wired charging systems. However, in the past, wireless charging stations were slower than wired chargers. By increasing the total power available for charging from the Qi-wireless standard of 5 W to the industrial PDA wireless standard of 10-15 W, mobile PDAs now match the best wired charging stations based on time to charge.

Higher-power smart charging docks now charge devices wirelessly as fast as any wired connection. Smart charging docks help oversee proper battery management by device, while visual indicators let users know the device is fully charged and ready to be checked out of the dock. The locking mechanism of the SmartDock can also determine when to release a device once it reaches a user specified charge level. Technology today go even further and allow the locking mechanism of the charging docks to also determine when to release a device once it reaches a user specified charge level.

SmartDock: Secured Portals to the Connected Enterprise

In addition to adding convenience without adding charging time, mobile device management solutions that include smart charging docking stations are an important link to protecting the enterprises physical assets as well as their data.

The reliance of connected enterprises on mobile devices necessitates “smart” docking systems that use a physical lock to secure the device when not in use. This helps ensure the device is not breached and is a key element in the IT security arsenal. For example, a healthcare or retail facility may use badge readers or fingerprint readers to confirm the user’s identity and profile settings when checking out a device, while less secure applications might use a sign in code; but in any instance the devices will not be released from the docking station until authentications are verified. By controlling the locking features of smart charging docks, companies build accountability amongst the authorized users.

Since physical security requires that any smart charging dock solution also communicates with remote security servers that manage authentication credentials, new charging solutions need separate data ports to access this data without adversely effecting wireless charge times. Separate data connections also make auto-configuring the device based on user profiles including apps, wallpaper and settings, possible.

The ability to manage individual authentication when unlocking a device from the smart charging dock and report back to a centralized server also helps companies in highly regulated industries, like healthcare. In these industries, device audits can be constant and tedious8. Using mobile device management systems that include smart charging simplifies regulatory compliance. Having records of how many devices are in the organization’s environment, who has what device, the status of software updates, what profiles and settings have been assigned to each device, current encryption status, and what restrictions and configurations are applied are key to any healthy and secure enterprise.

Powerful Partners

By adding data connectivity to high-power wireless charging, the new generation of docking stations like SmartDock helps enterprises to empower employees while protecting valuable physical and data assets. Employees who check out devices from the enterprise are more likely to take better care of the device, resulting in fewer repairs, replacements, and opportunities for data theft. It also encourages using the device only for business purposes, keeping the enterprise assets focused on enterprise business.

But the benefits don’t stop at the device. When regulatory enforcement is factored into the equation, including up to $4 million on average in losses from a single data breach resulting from a lost mobile device, the need for smart charging solutions moves from a useful peripheral to enterprise level insurance against both small losses – to replace a device – as well as potentially catastrophic losses from data theft.

To learn more about how to choose the right smart charging solution, to identify the PDA that will best fit your needs, and to work with a partner in your mobile device management program, visit Datalogic at