Wanted: One Mobile Device, for a 24/7 Life

[qi:gigaom_icon_mobile] Mobile life seems to know no boundaries. Though the etiquette of turning the CrackBerry off during a date is as important as ever, various facets of our personal and work lives are rapidly merging and in many cases, overlapping.

I’m an employee, a friend and a sibling; I play different roles in a 24/7 time frame. To that end, I’m looking for a smart device to support my diverse lifestyle, one that doesn’t compromise either my IT department’s sleep schedule or — more importantly — the integrity of my personal data. In order to make this happen, targeted re-engineering of mobile devices and device management technologies is essential.

Many CIOs are exploring user-owned device computing. In this model, the user buys and owns the device, while the company pays for the plan and supports the enterprise applications that get provisioned on it. Per most enterprises’ acceptable usage policies, IT departments retain the right to corporate data on the device, which is fair and necessary. The way these policies are implemented, however, is where things get tricky. Certain events, like a job separation, trigger their enforcement, requiring the mobile operations administrator to immediately remove corporate data from the separated employee’s device. In order to do so, however — even if the enterprise is equipped with leading device management technologies (among them BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Microsoft Mobile Device Manager and iAnywhere Afaria) — the administrator is forced to wipe the entire mobile device “owned” by the user.

So, what’s wrong with the story? From the corporate side, nothing. The now former employee, however, would have lost all of the information stored on the device he’s now left with, some of which was likely not related in any way to the company that was footing his monthly bill.

Mobile devices currently offer users the option to tag Personal Information Management (PIM) data (email, contacts, calendar) as personal or corporate. But personal or corporate, all data — even application-level data — is stored in the same data repository on the device, which means device management tools can’t leverage those user-defined tags to selectively wipe out any of it.

I believe there is a significant opportunity for mobile device manufacturers to re-architect a mobile device operating system to enable data classifications at a fine-grained level. Similarly, device management tools need to be updated with capabilities to selectively manage corporate data without compromising the integrity of the data deemed by a user to be personal.

As our work and personal lives become increasingly harder to separate, we will become increasingly unwilling to tote around more than one mobile device. Until we’ve implemented technologies related to on-device data storage classification and associated device management updates, however, one truly mobile device for a 24/7 life will remain out of our reach.

Balaji Natarajan is a senior IT strategist for Capgemini focused on smart grid, mobile computing and unified communications.

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