The trend of workers wanting to use their personal devices as work tools – a phenomenon known as bring your own device (BYOD) – is gathering pace as more people own smartphones and tablets and the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated.
Juniper Research forecasts that 150 million employees will use personal devices for work this year, rising to 350 million employees by 2014, 23 percent of all consumer-owned smartphones and tablets.
Recognising this trend, more businesses are allowing their employees to use their own devices due to the productivity benefits this brings. Telekom Austria found that nearly one out of two Austrians in employment has the option to use their personal device at work.
In addition, 20 percent of companies in Austria actively support employees using their personal devices at work. This shift is being mirrored elsewhere and will soon have an impact on both operators and handset makers.
One of the most significant results of this shift is that people are less likely to have a device for work and another for personal use, meaning operators and device makers will experience a loss in revenue as people move from two phones to one.
Whether consumers buy their devices or businesses subsidise device purchases as a staff benefit, the potential sales growth for business contracts and devices is likely to be affected by people having fewer devices.
The question then is how operators and device makers can support this trend while generating revenue to offset a loss of device sales. The most obvious approach is to provide additional services that can be monetised.
Operators already provide business-focused services but the BYOD trend is an opportunity to expand the services they provide to address the different challenges it presents. However, the way in which these services are delivered will require careful thought.
Security will become a major issue as most personal devices aren’t equipped with security software that will sufficiently protect company information and communications.
Although security is generally the responsibility of the IT departments, as these devices will be bought by individuals, operators could potentially provide BYOD-related security services in the consumer channel.
The ability for individuals to buy personal phones that are suitable for both work and pleasure could be something they are prepared to pay for, or that businesses would be willing to subsidise.
Other operator-provided services could include integrated mobile app management for businesses to easily link staff devices to their systems and to manage work-related apps and information. This kind of technology would ensure personal and work applications don’t interfere with each other.
Handset makers could also develop tools that address the emerging BYOD demand. For example, dual-mode devices that can be easily switched between work and personal mode could be offered. The modes could be activated by two different PIN codes, with different contacts, apps and data available to users, depending on the current need.
Again, this kind of functionality could carry an additional cost that businesses would be prepared to pay to ensure personal devices are up to standard for their business and which would generate new revenue for operators that could also be passed on to hardware vendors.
Operators clearly need to be creative in thinking how they can monetise the BYOD trend by expanding the services they provide. What form these services take isn’t yet clear but there are plenty of possibilities for operators to benefit by embracing the BYOD revolution.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members