Mobility's Evolution Is Changing the Enterprise
By Samuel Greengard
As a leading researcher in the fields of computer vision, biometrics, mobile application development and image processing, Patrick Flynn, a professor at Notre Dame, offers a unique perspective on the rapidly evolving state of mobility. Flynn is also an IEEE Fellow, an IAPR Fellow and a past associate editor of several IEEE publications.
Baseline recently caught up with the professor of computer science and engineering and asked him for his thoughts on mobile technology and its impact on business.
Baseline: What do you see as the biggest trends in mobility?
Flynn: We're seeing an emerging maturity in the understanding of how to use mobile devices in the enterprise. Mobile device management is moving into the mainstream, and developers are increasingly supporting multiple platforms.
There's an uptick in cross-platform products and projects. Mobile app development—including both native and Web app development—is becoming much more attractive from a development cost point of view.
Baseline: How far along are organizations in the mobile arena?
Flynn: The enterprise has a lot of constraints on the deployment and use of IT. This had made it difficult to develop a technology use strategy that can really take advantage of a mobile device. Organizations are continuing to struggle with usability versus safeguards.
Many businesses are in the nascent stages of mobile enterprise support and fully integrated BYOD [bring your own device], but a lot of enterprises are moving forward. They understand the need for broad adoption.
Baseline: In regard to mobility, what should IT executives focus on at this point?
Flynn: There's no one-size-fits-all enterprise model for mobile. In some cases, there's a need for new infrastructure. Legacy systems require a good deal of reengineering in order to make data available through mobile-friendly APIs. They also require a lot of authentication.
We need stronger and better tools. The fingerprint sensor in the new iPhone may accelerate identity management on mobile devices.
Baseline: What are the biggest challenges in terms of mobile app development?
Flynn: Everyone understands that mobile in the enterprise makes a lot of sense, but people aren't really sure how to do it in a way that works best for the enterprise. Organizations must learn how to fit mobile into their existing frameworks and within existing usage policies. They must learn how to develop better-integrated software.
Baseline: What affect is mobile technology having on enterprise cultures?
Flynn: It's creating new social arrangements and social communication patterns. Social networking has been around for a while, but it is only beginning to hit the enterprise in a significant way.
Baseline: How do you see things unfolding over the next few years?
Flynn: We are still learning and experimenting with design and form factors. For instance, how do you take advantage of a tablet-style means of presentation and the limited sort of interaction opportunities that these devices offer? If it's a finger on a virtual keyboard versus a physical keyboard, how does the mode of interaction change? We also have clouds, mobility, big data and other trends intersecting.
This is creating new possibilities but also new challenges. How thin do we want the mobile device to be? At what point are we sacrificing computation power that's needed on the device? It's also important to think about how mobility will evolve. Over the next few years, we will be seeing a greater use of sensors, geolocation data and Internet-connected devices.
Baseline: Any final thoughts?
Flynn: There's a need for new thinking and new IT skills. The field is changing very rapidly and it's important to have a fundamental understanding of mobile along with a good design sense for mobile apps and services.