Device Management

Digitalizing Day-to-Day Tasks of Public Field Officers

How Sri Lanka’s government administrators can digitalize vital citizen data collection functions

Photo by Chamindu Perera on Unsplash

Sri Lanka has a multitude of government agencies with varying levels of processes involved. At present, numerous public field officers employed by these agencies perform many tasks – such as citizen data collection – manually using paper forms. They include village officers (or Grama Sevakas), public health inspectors (PHIs), community midwives, environmental police officers, municipal council employees, and field officers from the Department of Agrarian Development and the Department of Census and Statistics to name a few. They then visit the relevant area government offices to sync their work – again performed manually.

In a bid to digitalize key government functions, some agencies have begun distributing public field officers with mobile devices that contain a set of apps to eliminate these manual tasks and ensure that data is available in a centralized system in a timely manner. 

While this is a welcome move, this endeavor does not address key functionalities. These include:

  • A centralized strategy to monitor and manage devices deployed in the field.
  • An ecosystem to provide remote app updates or new apps. Public field officers are required to manually download and install apps. 
  • Strategy to provide operating system (OS)/ security updates and mandatory app updates such as virus guards.
  • Remote troubleshooting of device, app, and OS related issues that would eliminate time consuming and costly field visits by IT support teams.
  • Tools to enforce data usage restrictions, misuse of devices or data/ device theft.
  • System level architecture to provide centralized identity, device management, integration or APIs.

The lack of these functionalities would pose several challenges that will impede the long term success of a large scale project such as this. This blog provides a step-by-step guide on how government agencies can implement a device strategy that addresses these functionalities and simplifies data collection whilst saving costs in the long term.

Device Strategy and Ecosystem: A Step-by-Step Guide

The device strategy and ecosystem must address each of the following considerations before devices are used in the field.

Device functionality

Takes into account issues such as device robustness, how they would work in the field seamlessly, battery life of each device, and device weight.

Device specifications

Operating system used by devices (i.e. OS or Android), scanning requirements, whether or not devices are able to connect to printers, and the warranty period of devices.

Device ownership and user policies

Privacy and user guidelines are central to a project such as this. The device strategy must address who exactly will be given access to use devices in the field, guidelines for doing so, and the policy adopted for usage outside of official duties.

Identity and access management and storage

Security and identity management (IAM) are often the cornerstones of a sound device management strategy. A successful IAM system consists of single sign-on (SSO), self sign up, password set ups, and password resets. This system must decide on whether OTPs for sign up will be sent via SMS or email for secure signing in and the official verification/approval process.

Device configuration

Test devices, check runtime usage, and ensure that onboarding configurations are functioning as intended and device apps work in offline mode.

App development

Apps must incorporate user behavior, use the mobile device management (MDM) app store, sandbox environment in place, and kick start beta testing.

Device distribution and education

Once all of the above are in place, the relevant government agencies must prepare lists of device recipients, map serial number ID with employee IDs, decide on a complete support structure (i.e. who will provide 1st and 2nd level support), prepare instruction manuals to educate users, and organize device delivery to the field force. This is also the ideal time to formulate the device roll out plan and scale the device system with the expected support load.

Run a pilot and deploy devices to the field

This is the ideal moment to define the defect reporting process and the warranty claim process.

Pre-work device check and monitoring

Finally, before devices are in full use, assess the level of support needed, how alerts/escalations are reported, and app functionality.

Data Analysis and Visualization to Aid Policy Makers

A project such as this will require particular attention paid to methods of data storage and visualization to facilitate analysis by policy makers. The device strategy requires a central data storage mechanism – by ‘data’ we refer to both citizen data and device functionality data. Data visualization will be enabled in the form of dashboards to aid government employees and policy makers.

By implementing a device strategy with these considerations in mind, government agencies are better able to lower costs through greater control over device usage, plan for the long term, and start digitalizing services for the benefit of citizens, policy makers, and public field officers alike.

Entgra provides has worked with many public agencies and private sector organizations to implement robust device strategies. Learn more here.

A 7-Step Device Strategy To Succeed With IoT Technology and Create Flexible Organizations

A device strategy must take into consideration business planning, product building, operational efficiency, scaling, tech support, value creation, and sustainability to thrive

Photo by Benjamin Smith on Unsplash

With the ongoing pandemic creating many upheavals, organizations are increasingly grappling with a monumental challenge – creating seamless workflows and remote working environments whilst staying resilient, relevant, and flexible to respond to present and future changes. These changes are also taking place against a backdrop of evolving technology usage, both by organizations and individuals. Industry analyst Gartner identified Internet of Behavior (IoB) as a strategic technology trend. Explained simply, IoB is a data-driven approach to guide behavior. Data is gathered from many different sources and IoB will increasingly shape interactions between people and organizations. Using data from multiple sources and devices to gain insights into business operational processes and productivity is of course not a new phenomenon. Organizations across industries have been moving towards deploying connected devices and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled business environments for quite some time.

Successful use of IoT technology requires a device strategy, regardless of the type of organization. When we use the term “devices,” we refer to both mobile devices and IoT enabled devices. A device strategy must take into consideration 7 important factors to thrive: business planning, product building, operational efficiency, scaling, tech support, value creation, and sustainability.

Business Planning

Organizations that require a device strategy fall into 4 broad categories – device manufacturers, application developers, system integrators, and device users. Each of them has different needs and priorities when formulating a device strategy. As a starting point, ask yourself some crucial questions about your organization – which of the above 4 categories you belong to and what your organization envisions for itself.

Here is an overview of the different technology requirements for these organization types:

  • Device manufacturers – to develop devices and basic software (such as an API) to showcase device capabilities
  • Application developers – need to build IoT applications on top of their existing hardware
  • Systems integrators – to integrate several IoT applications and create value in a particular industry
  • Device users – provide devices to their employees to be used for specific purposes

Product Building

All of these organizations must then identify the specific market requirements, target customers, and the expected types of device engagement. These are the things to keep in mind for a product building strategy.

A generic guideline is as follows:

  • Device manufacturers consider where and how the devices are to be used, taking into considerations issues such as device robustness, protocol use (existing or new protocols), chipset usage (existing or new chipsets), device security, and power consumption.
  • Application developers are mainly concerned with the types of devices that will be used, the type of software platform to use, application distribution, and how the application logic compares with power consumption.
  • Systems integrators’ main concerns are with integration – which platform to use, the need of new platforms, security, protocols, analytics, dashboards, and how they can expose APIs with external parties.
  • Device users need to understand if they’re using the right type of device, whether or not these devices are user friendly, data security and storage, and device ownership (who owns the devices – the organization, device manufacturer, or the employee).

Operational Efficiency

Once you build your IoT applications and deploy your devices, then it’s time to think about operational efficiency. Your key concerns at this stage would broadly consist of detecting device failure notifications, identifying device anomalies early so as to minimize operational disruptions, pushing software updates to all your devices in your ecosystems, and how you can reset your devices in the case of a security breach.

Scaling

Any organization must first have a thorough understanding of their IoT deployment so that they can formulate and implement a scaling strategy. A starting point for this exercise would be to first identify which architecture layer within your IoT deployment needs scaling and how this can be done, recognize usage and failure patterns, consider questions around device throttling, and finally, if your organization will use server or edge computing capabilities.

Support

When we talk about technology support, the biggest issue is what actions an organization will have to take when a remotely installed device fails. Using backup devices is an option (although this is often not the most cost-effective choice).

Value Creation

Devices and their deployment are expensive. Long term value creation must therefore be a cornerstone of your device strategy. Measure the impact of device integration and understand what steps your organization can take to prevent your devices from becoming less valuable over time, how your organization can gain a competitive advantage through your devices, what type of data can be generated from your devices for business insights, and how you can diversify your business offerings and processes.

Sustainability

A discussion about value creation naturally leads to questions about sustainability. Sustainability focuses on 3 areas – technology, data security, and legal challenges.

On the technology front, devices and platforms used today may not be valid in several months’ time. As such, organizations must address any vendor lock in issues with your devices, whether or not your platform can be scaled with other devices and applications, and any license fees and data ownership concerns that you will encounter.

When considering data security, any breach impacts consumer trust in your organization which in turn affects sustainability. Pay particular attention to how your data is stored, whether or not you use a managed cloud service, who will be given access to the data, whether or not a data filtering mechanism exists within your organization, and how your mobile apps were developed. 

Finally, on the legal challenges front, many regions have introduced data privacy and security laws, for example, GDPR in the EU, CCPA in California, USA, and CDR in Australia. With these regulations, there’s a chain of liability, many different and complex data ownership scenarios, and automated contracts. Any questions on a sustainable device strategy must look into the intricacies of these regulations and even in the absence of formal regulations, pay heed to privacy concerns of individuals and device users.

Learn more about our Mobile Device Management (MDM) and IoT technology. Our customers span the Android device manufacturing, original design manufacturing, government, education, pharmaceutical, healthcare, insurance, and service industries.

Understanding Entgra’s Enterprise Mobility Management Capabilities (Part 1)

A quick overview of our remote screen sharing and control features

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

This blog is the first in an ongoing series that takes a look at the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) offered by Entgra. These blogs will provide a better understanding of how Entgra’s technology can help you manage and secure your devices, improve the performance of your employees, and increase business profits through seamless device management.

Show Me Your Screen

Imagine that your neighbor wants to work as a driver for Uber. Yet after registering with Uber, he encounters strange errors when logging into the app. Luckily for him, you are a support engineer at Uber. Your neighbor comes over and shows this problem to you. With a few clicks here and there,  you fix the problem for your friend and now he uses the app happily. 

Now imagine that a customer is experiencing an issue in another country. You cannot identify this issue over a call and you need to see what exactly the customer is doing to understand the problem. Unfortunately for you, the customer is not your neighbor to make both of your lives simpler.

But there’s a way around this problem. 

Entgra IoT Server, with its EMM features, provides remote screen sharing and control capabilities to tackle similar enterprise scenarios. If you have a set of field devices with a mission critical application on a set of enterprise owned mobile devices, you may want to know where these devices are and remotely troubleshoot in case there are issues that are hard to fix. Clear the app data and cache, reboot, reinstall the app, examine files from the app and in some cases, you may need to wipe the device to fix the problem. Your options here are to buy a very expensive remote control solution and install it on all devices or get a solution such as Entgra’s with remote control capabilities. 

Here’s a short video that illustrates how simple remote and access is: 

Under the Hood

When your devices are used in the field, you may initialize a remote session by clicking on the “connect to device” option on individual devices. This starts a web socket connection with the device and streams the device’s screen as a live feed. On top of this, we have written a custom keyboard that sends keyboard inputs to the device and types them in when needed. The mouse inputs are also sent in a similar manner which translates to click, drags or presses as commanded. The bottom line is that you have access to a complete remote login system via Entgra to manage and troubleshoot your field devices.

In our next blog, we’ll be taking a look at how you can work with files. You can learn more about our IoT, EMM, and Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology here. We’re always happy to hear from you, so drop us an email on contact@entgra.io to start a conversation with us.