in Aerospace / Defence / Features

Applying BYOD in the aerospace and defence sectors

Posted 1 May 2014 · Add Comment

Jeff Pike, Head of Strategy & Marketing for the IFS Aerospace & Defence Centre of Excellence, examines the adoption of mobile tech - including the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend - in aerospace and defence.

There are numerous examples where technology trends have started in the social environment before moving into civil industry and then migrating into the military. Mobile apps – just one great example of a development which has been driven by consumers – are starting to have an important impact on aerospace and defence (A&D) as part of several government initiatives worldwide.

A&D Embracing Mobile and Apps
Already the defence market is actively embracing mobiles. The Pentagon has already tested new mobile technology during its Network Integration Evaluation and did think about using network-ready smartphones as part of the mission in Afghanistan. At the same time, the DoD, the General Services Administration and NASA are all building online app stores where users can find and download mobile tools to assist in their work.

In May 2013, the US Department of Defense released its Mobile Defence Strategy, with the objective of creating “a highly mobile workforce equipped with secure access to information and computing power anywhere at any time for greater mission effectiveness.”

Similarly, the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has developed smartphone apps to provide an alternative to computer-based personnel training and last summer, the Australian Government put out a request to industry leaders for information on the viability of providing secure smartphones and tablet computers for military use.

And the same goes for A&D industry. The advantages to using mobile app technology in the field – as well as within industry organisations themselves – is potentially huge. The ability for personnel to access mission-critical maintenance information in the field would provide a much more agile response to a changing tactical situation.

Apps in the Field
Companies within the A&D industry such as IFS have also embraced the potential of mobile app technology. One example is a Flight Log App which tracks critical information on the user's air and land assets. A synchronised and consolidated flight log, including flight details, disruptions, faults and crew associated with the flight, and pre- or post-flight inspections, can now be in the hands of those on the front lines.

These Apps are becoming popular as the soldier out in the field doesn’t want – or need – to be bothered with complex functionality and information management driven by the march of enhanced network technology. Full enterprise can mean that a soldier can be overloaded by support functionality and information on one hand, whilst in the other, he needs to focus on his operational task. The IFS approach is that mobile apps should:
• Only give soldiers the sections of functionality in the app which they need for the specific task they need to complete
• Only offer the functionality in a form they are familiar with – e.g. a mobile app as it increases efficiency and effectiveness
• Be operational scenario 'big finger' friendly
• Be agile and easy to create/adapt, so that the soldier can get a new or amended app tailored for each campaign
• Avoid clutter – don’t load the soldier with superfluous overhead

But will BYOD follow the same route?
Taking mobility one step further, it's interesting to see how the BYOD trend may take hold in defence in the future. Is it unacceptable for security and data control reasons or just another inevitable trend that Defence needs to embrace for the future?

Recent research conducted by IFS in the UK asked 200 CIO and IT managers from companies in multiple sectors with at least 1,000 employees for their attitudes towards investing in enterprise mobility schemes. It raised a number of questions: can the enterprise provide access to corporate data while retaining control over access from multiple devices, over some of which it has limited control? Is the ROI worth the effort and cost entailed in securing mobile access? What are enterprises doing today to address these key issues? And what type of mobile solutions will improve competitive advantages in the short and the long term?

The study identified the drivers and inhibitors of mobile strategies and BYOD schemes, and found that 76% of firms questioned in the UK have already invested in a mobility scheme, with 64% of those which hadn't yet invested planning to do so in the next two years.

The equivalent IFS study in Germany revealed that there are challenges to implementing a BYOD strategy. Whilst as many as 38% of all respondents have access to a BYOD strategy, only 21% of those who have a mobile business device available to them can currently use it to access ERP functions. Gaining access to corporate applications came top on their list of desires for a mobility policy, with 74% highlighting this as the most important factor.

Both of these studies reveal a desire within the corporate world to embrace a BYOD strategy, indicating that this trend is truly happening. However, for such a trend to transfer across from the consumer world successfully, companies must make it possible for employees to access the information they need from their mobile device, and to do it securely – whether that is their corporate email system, or functionalities of the company's ERP system on their own device.

But what could this mean for defence?
Many defence departments or military institutions may shy away from such a trend due to security issues, data concerns and coordination problems, and it's unlikely that this will take hold in defence in the short term.

Yet does the prevalence of such technology and the desire for it to be possible in the civil environment mean that the BYOD trend could follow the same path as its predecessor, mobile apps?

Defence departments are already talking BYOD and how such policies can be implemented effectively. Take the Australian Department of Defence, for example, which has already created a BYOD plan called 'corporate owner and personally enabled' (COPE), which will be supported by a Defence app store.

In fact Dr Guy Bunker, renowned network defence specialist and author of ENISA's key report on cloud computing, says that BYOD is “here to stay” as a strategy for enhancing military IT usability.

Members of the UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB) also have a keen focus on secure collaboration and seek to understand and ‘position’ the evolution of BYOD for their organisations. It is widely agreed that the challenge of maintaining security when creating access for personal devices is now being addressed by commercial organisations as the consequence of not doing so is a dilution of a company’s ability to maintain control over its information – a positive move for the shift to defence.

So the answer is yes – BYOD is likely to happen in defence, but the route for doing so is likely to be progressive and selective in order to ensure optimal security.

Setting BYOD policies and working out mobile app development priorities is a challenge for any organisation, but these issues are of course magnified in the highly-scrutinised environment of Defence. This current natural reticence is understood, but it's clear that BYOD is here to stay, and will prove to be inevitable in the future as technology developments make it a reality in defence.


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