Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon spreads in manufacturing

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon is now spreading to manufacturing sector. Smartphones and tablets are increasingly being used to manage equipment remotely and observe processes when employees are on the move or in another part of the factory.

A recent report from IHS Technology confirms that a growing number of manufacturing workers are utilizing smartphones and tablets to monitor and control industrial equipment.

The growth of BYOD in manufacturing segment is driven by the increasing networking of industrial automation equipment. Some of these equipments employ standard wireless networking technologies, which lend themselves to use with consumer mobile devices.


And while the penetration of wireless technology in industrial automation equipment remains low, the area holds big growth potential in the coming years, IHS said.

BYOD movement in manufacturing sector is now being driven by individuals, but in future companies are likely to accommodate this phenomenon by provisioning ruggedized devices tailored to the rigors of the factory floor, IHS said. Since the trend is now being driven by individuals, gauging the number of BYOD devices being used or to forecast the growth of the market is difficult.

Another outcome of the BYOD growth in manufacturing is that such devices augment the functions of industrial PCs. The global industrial PC market is expected to generate shipments of 4.1 million units in 2016, up from 2.5 million in 2012, IHS said.

In some cases tablets are also used along with machines to provide visualization and control of the manufacturing process.

The growth of BYOD in manufacturing also brings new opportunities for app developers. Many Android and iOS apps were released in 2013, and more are expected in 2014. An example of this type of app is Opto 22’s groov, which offers a system for building human-machine interfaces (HMI) to monitor and control manufacturing automation systems. These HMIs can be accessed in a wide variety of devices, including tablets and smartphones.

BYOD adoption  in manufacturing is likely to encounter challenges mainly due to the fact that consumer mobile devices are not designed for the ruggedized use in manufacturing sector. However, such requirements will arise in future, and companies may provide workers with tablets and smartphoens that are specifically designed for ruggedized applications.

BYOD can also bring safety and security concerns in manufacturing. For example, a fault in the consumer mobile device can result in disturbance in the manufacturing process, resulting in serious implications.

Govind Rammurthy, MD & CEO, eScan, recently told InfotechLead that today, mobile devices have become the weakest link in the security strategy for many businesses.

“As mobile devices undergo rapid transformation and many new devices introduced in the markets at regular intervals, it becomes difficult for IT team to keep pace with changes in devices and their adoption, constantly changing and managing the permitted list of devices and security policies around them to better answer BYOD,” Rammurthy said.

Personal devices such as the Tablet, Smartphone, laptop, etc. are generally harder to secure than organization-issued devices as using these devices can put the organization’s information and systems at higher risk of compromise, Rammurthy added.

Despite these challenges, with the great usefulness and increased utilization of BYOD in the manufacturing realm, companies will be compelled to deal with these issues in 2014 and for the years to come.

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