Personal devices are increasingly being used across enterprise IT, from smartphones to wearable devices, and these are becoming the true edge. This episode of Utilizing Edge brings Field Day delegates Mark Houtz and Jim Czuprynski together with Stephen Foskett to discuss the personal side of the edge. Mobile Device Management (MDM) has been used to manage smartphones and similar technology is used for personal computers, but it seems inevitable that there will be a mixing of business and private data. The mix and match of personal devices at the edge is sure to be a topic of future focus.
Host and Guests:
Mark Houtz, Senior Network Engineer with a passion for Private LTE/5G and Wifi networks for Education and Business. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn and on Twitter, and learn more about him on his website.
Stephen Foskett: Welcome to Utilizing Tech, the podcast about emerging technology from Gestalt IT. This season of Utilizing Tech focuses on edge computing which demands a new approach to compute, storage, networking, and more. I’m your host Stephen Foskett, organizer of Tech Field Day in publisher of Gestalt IT. Joining me today are two Field Day delegates Jim Czuprinski and Mark Houtz. Welcome to the show.
Jim Czuprinski: Hi, nice to be here Stephen. Thanks for having me. I’m Jim.
Mark Houtz: Hey, thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. I’m Mark.
Stephen: Thank you both for joining us today. It’s great to have you be part of the delegate community. Those of you who aren’t aware Field Day basically is made out of people, it’s just like soil and green um essentially we have a great group of independent technical people that we work with that we invite in as part of our conversations here on the podcast as well as at our Field Day events and without our delegate Community, well Field Day wouldn’t be Field Day. And so it’s good to have you guys joining us to talk about this because not everything we do has to be focused on products and tech, you know, companies and and so on. what happens behind the scenes as you guys both know is a lot of conversation about emerging technology a lot of conversation about the impacts of technology and that’s really what we’re going to get into today so one thing that we haven’t talked about on this season of Utilizing Edge is the extreme Edge you know the the personal aspect of it. Now I’m not going to you know turn this into a discussion of social media and apps and things like that and we’re certainly not going to cover Apple’s iPhone launch but these things have a lot of relevance to the enterprise space as well and you’re seeing a lot more portable personal devices being mixed in, in retail, in manufacturing, in offices certainly. Mark I guess let’s start with you. You know, I think this is closer to your area of focus. How are these devices, portable mobile devices and personal devices being mixed in?
Mark: In the Enterprise the personal devices are being used extensively throughout Enterprises because lots of people have them at home and they want to use them. I have multiple users all over my organizations that they want to use their personal device to get their work done um they want to be able to access it when they’re at home, when they’re on vacation, wherever they are, they really want to be able to use those devices that they know and love and in any way that they can, whenever they can. The the nine-to-five job really kind of is no longer a full thing, it’s really becoming getting work done whenever it can wherever.
Stephen: And that’s true really beyond just I guess what we would traditionally call white collar or office or knowledge workers. You know you see these things everywhere in all sorts of settings. Jim what’s your take on this portable personal device revolution
Jim: Well it’s interesting because I’m plugged into it. I’ve got my own Smart Watch which this is the first year I’ve ever used that. I’m not a fitness nut but I used to use a chest strap for monitoring my heart rate right? So found a couple of these items, got one actually for my wife as well, not quite as smart as mine but she’s using it to monitor her sleep at night because she has a lot of trouble with sleeping. She definitely does not want to get one of the CPAP machines like I’ll never wear that thing you know. With this you can actually get a feeling for how good or poor sleep night she’s having and I love it because you know if I’m just working around the house or something and I’m going hey here’s a chance to burn 280 calories I don’t have to go get the chest strap, put it on. I love this idea of the wearable technology and then you tie it into an app like Strava. And actually the reason I got the watch was because a bunch of my friends and family members were on Strava and going hey you can record you know your bike ride, you can record your whatever you’re doing right and make it fun. You get this little network of people all basically patting each other on the back going hey nice little workout. This is revolutionary in my mind. I mean okay I’m a little older right but for me the ability to do that type of networking, human networking, as well as essentially right over Wi-Fi, it’s amazing, it just is to me and it’s really made a difference for me, especially having trying to lose those extra couple pounds you usually get after you hit 65. I’ve got an accurate heart rate monitor like I’ve never had before. So the wearables to me I think is something that we’re going to see a lot more of and especially tying them into you know, our own home networks and even maybe with our physicians’ and you know Medical Care in the future. I don’t know does that make sense Stephen? What do you think?
Stephen: Yeah that I think that the thing that gets me is what you’re saying is some of the benefits for you as a person to use these devices, but then at the end there I think you’re really getting to the question because, so, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals. Everybody has an Apple Watch on you knowWi-Fi is everywhere now in that environment you know, you go to retail everybody’s got a smartphone on them and a lot of applications are starting to use personal devices. There’s a lot of crossover where there never was and even if even in environments like hospitals where they try to keep things separate where they have their little Vosera badge that they can tap, they’re also texting each other, they’re also you know, there are things that are crossing the boundaries and I think that this is happening everywhere so my my question or my wonder at this is how are companies going to deal with this situation where it’s inevitable that portable devices whether that’s mobile phones and wearables or even just personal laptops personal whatever, they’re going to be engaging with enterprise business data at the edge you know how do they manage this?
Mark: This last week Mosal I think it was, Mosal announced that you can now monitor and control Apple watches in their MDM. It’s personal advice, why do you want a business controlling your Apple watch? Ultimately there’s organizations out there that are looking to use provide Apple watches, insurance companies or whoever, healthcare companies or whatever, they’re giving these devices to their employees to monitor those type of things. It’s a definite consideration that you need to look think about privacy and all that level of issues when it comes to this. But organizations, businesses are starting to go there’s data there that provides us as an organization some benefit to have those type of, that type of tracking of data down to the personal level whether it be a smartwatch an Apple iPhone or Android or whichever down to that level. There’s a lot of data available to the business that can provide some great benefits.
Jim: Mark that’s an excellent point and okay now we get into some interesting things. So my company gave me an Apple smartwatch to monitor my blood pressure, whatever it might be, who owns that data, what are the personal and medical or personal health I should say information restrictions on that. What if they were able to find out that I’m not having good sleep at night because I’m overstressed. You’re getting into some really interesting privacy and security issues as well right? Do I get to take that data when I leave the company maybe because I want to track my health care with my new company or is it mine? Wow these are some pretty thorny issues that I’m sure the Loyals will eventually figure out but wow these are interesting times.
Stephen: Yeah and those are real concerns because you know the flip side of that is do you really want your company tracking literally your every move 24/7? Do you really want you know is it relevant for your company if you’re sleeping well? Is it relevant for your company if you’re using your smartphone to access the company, you know, a client, and slack, and sending and receiving emails alongside your personal stuff? And again I feel like it’s just natural that this stuff would get mixed I mean email, think about that. Like you know most of us are conducting business using you know, via email many of us have our email logged in the same app so we’ve got our business and our personal. I mean raise your hand if you haven’t accidentally sent an email from business for regarding personal stuff or personal regarding business stuff? It happens all the time and that’s kind of embarrassing. But it’s also a security risk. It’s also a potential you know, potentially a big problem for companies.
Jim: yeah that’s an excellent point and what if you’re encouraged to use slack at work right? You can do it right off your phone right? We’re truly 24/7 by 365 these days. You know what if you thought that was a private channel and it wasn’t and you’ve caused the stock price to drop 20% because of something you said? The idea of ownership of the information to me is the most intriguing part.
Mark: Ultimately how many of people are still carrying two cell phones? Very few these days, it’s getting less and less and less. I still do for my organization but most people have a single phone and we’ve solved to a certain extent the data management on those devices with MDMs or other other things to kind of separate, silo the data around how do we handle that data when it starts becoming more personal HIPA related, privacy related. How do we handle that data when there’s a blurry, when it gets blurred between the organization data, personal data, when those lines start to bleed together, email on those will vary. There’s a very strict line, this is email, this is organization, provide own data. We get into these health issues, tracking location, or whatever, then we start blurring the lines. Whose data really is it?
Stephen: Yeah and business applications as well. I mean if you, you know, if it would be very normal, I think, for people to want to have access to their business applications in all the exciting places. I mean you know your Apple Watch is a good example. You may have two phones but are you really going to have two Apple Watches so that you can have business slack over here and personal you know over here? Probably not. So I guess you know you mentioned mobile device management, that’s one thing. Another thing to consider is is networking and an area that we’ve heard about at Edge Field Day was basically SD-WAN at the Edge which is kind of a mix between what we would consider maybe a VPN and true SD-WAN you know. What’s your take on client device SD-WAN?
Mark: Ultimately tracking of the data monitoring that connectivity to the client device through the SD-WAN technologies clear down to that edge, to that device really provides a lot of business sites but what value is it to the client is to the person, how much value is there?
Stephen: To me I think that it’s really the connectivity enabling connectivity and roaming connectivity no matter where they are and no matter what device they’re using. And also that sort of zero-trust approach meaning you know this person may appear on any one of these 10 devices, any one of these you know, it’s not like the old days like when you had like this is my one laptop you know, you may end up using corporate resources from multiple things, I would imagine right?
Jim: Well it’s an interesting idea you know Stephen because I’m sitting here you know pressing my communicator here and then realizing that oh I’m not in the 23rd or 24th century yet but you know it’s kind of like when Star Trek: The Next Generation comes on and someone goes well you know, where is Commander Crusher you know is where is Wesley Crusher that little gutteral snipe you know the computer says he’s not on the Enterprise right now. How do they know that right? So it’s like would are these communicators tied into an SDW or some other you know sort of white area network or something so that people can know where they are? I mean just even the fact that I’m riding my bike which I did earlier today trying to come up with some great topics for this you know through three or four different um Wi-Fi zones as I’m connected to my phone right through two or three different cell towers because I did about 10, 12 miles you know. That aspect of how do I maintain that you know, the fact that maybe I drop off the network for a few seconds does that mean that I’m there or I’m not. I mean there’s like you’re saying Mark right there are any of these logs are they really valuable? we’re certainly retaining every single one of them for terabytes if not pedabytes worth of space all the time. Yeah there’s a lot of issues in terms of edge computing and you know edge technology like that so, and again who owns that is the fact that I’m broadcasting on my phone or you know off my Smart Watch, is that like my 24th century communicator and we know where you are all the time? I don’t know that’s that’s a fascinating thing that we need to think about I guess.
Mark: How do we guarantee connectivity too because our cellar networks are getting better but there’s still lots of dead space around the world where we do not have even cell towers, Starlink and other technologies are promising to help with that in some of the rural areas but ultimately how do we make ensure that the data we’re collecting is being collected or they’re not in a bottom of building where there is no connectivity at all and the device just the data is just lost?
Stephen: That’s one of those things where I know Mark you know a lot more about the connectivity that’s happening there, everything from you know Wi-Fi to private 5G to Lorawan and things like that, but of course also Bluetooth beacons. There’s now ultra wide band. Apple just showed that again you know. Even here in our office, I just implemented presence tracking with home assistant based on Wi-Fi logins so if an employee is here it takes the air conditioner out of away mode and cools it down for everybody. That was surprisingly difficult, well, it was actually it was easy to implement badly, but it was surprisingly difficult to implement well and I’m still kind of trying to figure that out because as you say implementing it badly is super easy. Basically you ask the router can you see Mark’s phone, yes or no, and if you can he’s here and if you can’t he’s not. The problem is Mark appears and disappears a hundred times a day and that’s not great you know because you know, for whatever reason you know, the Wi-Fi disconnects or whatever, so that’s not a good way to do it. There’s a lot more logic needed and then also the question is you know again for example, home assistant it’s very easy to use Bluetooth as a beacon to see somebody’s phone as well but if I’m tracking Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on the same device, how do I unify that and reconcile that in terms of presence and then furthermore what happens if I leave my phone at work? Am I still at work? You know should I be tracking Apple Watches? Should I be tracking laptops? Should I be tracking cars? I mean and again not me but you know, us all it’s not easy to do that stuff it’s it gets pretty hard pretty quick.
Mark: With GPS’s and all that, they’re not the most reliable either. We’re relying on so many different technologies for tracking and which one’s the proper use case, which one fits in this use case, are we doing ultra wide band because we’re super close? Okay great but what if you’re outside and you don’t have sensors super close? Well then you switch over to GPS. Well what if GPS is being, there’s issues with the GPS in that moment or something. So definitely lots of issues when when you look at the tracking and automating the systems these Edge networks and these Edge devices, automating them to produce different things.
Stephen: Yeah and that’s the challenge right? So let’s take this out of the home setting and into like the business setting. You know if a company wants to implement a hey where is the nurse or where is the machine operator or where is the minor kind of technology, that’s really really harder than you would think. I would imagine did you mean minor with an OR or ER by the way. I meant it with an ER.
Jim: Yes okay but because I know parents that would love to know where the O is as well right? Otherwise you’re going to be heading to the ER because the O went to a place. I am not making this up I had a family member who was recently I kid you not struck by a car glancingly and immediately we’re like okay which parent is close enough? Are her siblings already at school because just trying to figure out how do we get her literally to the hospital if she needs it and just trying to allocate all of that, you know, and trying to understand all that. Who’s closest you know, is it their father or their mother you know and what about the kid. This is complex stuff that we’re talking about.
Stephen: And there are a lot of privacy issues and things like that there too. So you know in that situation you know should you be able to then query where is everyone right now and what does that mean for everyone and should your business, should your boss be able to query where is everyone right now? That could cause issues too.
Mark: Going back to the O one there the minor O, you start getting into major privacy issues with especially as an organization such as a school or daycare or something like that with tracking kids. Parents definitely do not want that data shared or a lot of times used and so you get into some major compliancy issues around these types of tracking, Things at that level. The minors as adults we’re consenting whatever. It’s a little less of an issue but especially in that O minor kids level at a school or something you definitely have a lot of concerns there.
Jim: Well and you could put it the other way what do you mean you weren’t keep paying attention to where my child was when she wandered off the playground. I mean it could go the other way too so wow wow. Yeah I think we really have quite a quite a a good opportunity here to let lawyers go crazy over this but these are all excellent points wow.
Stephen: And another thing that occurs to me is there’s another angle here too and that’s that if we get this stuff working, well we may become reliant on it and then it may fail. So for example if a company is expecting employees to have to use their own home Wi-Fi, well where Wi-Fi can go down and then that causes business disruption or it’s always DNS, it could be you know there could be a DNS problem there could be a you know, there could be some other problem. Something could get stolen you know, if we were, imagine a retailer that expected well everybody’s got a phone so what I’m going to do is I’m just going to have everybody use a special app on their phone in order to do their job, check people out, or whatever it is. You know what happens if there’s a problem with that app, what happens if people you know, don’t have a phone. I know, I know, it’s possible you know what happens if somebody you know, there’s all sorts of, sort of we’ve become too reliant on all these technologies and too you know assuming too much from these technologies.
Mark: Just adding on to that piece there you have the concern of they don’t want you to use their device. I run into that all the time. I have employees that just install this app and use the two-factor authentication on your phone and they they fight me on it because it’s on my personal device, I don’t want you putting anything on my personal device.
Stephen: And they’re not wrong. I mean there have been cases recently where you know innocuous business applications were shown to have been used to do intrusive you know, tracking of employees and and things like that and heck there’s always malware. I mean that sometimes happens too.
Jim: So interesting, I just basically was working on a mini project speaking of things at the edge. I have a little garden on our back porch if you will here in Illinois and one of the things I’ve been working on this year was I want to build a Raspberry Pi controlled watering system, solar powered, that will take water out of a rain barrel, small problem here in the Midwest. I’d have to fill the rain barrel from you know, my hose, we’ve had a bit of a drought this year but assuming I get that all working it would be really cool to be able to control all that right and have it literally at the edge it would all be powered via DC 12 volts or step down enough to power the Raspberry Pi right. I still need to get a backup electrical system for that and all these other kinds of things but one of the cool things I wanted to do was leverage technology in the cloud to basically say hm you know what, it’s 6:30 p.m. I don’t need to water today because it’s going to water it’s going to rain I should say in three hours. So I actually used Oracle’s rest API so that I could grab stuff and put it into a database because I want to track it and see how my watering progress is going and things like that. But of course I was also using wireless to gather data from NOAA directly. So this is a cool little project, especially since the components are still sitting on my workbench behind me. I had to actually build a digital twin using OpenHab to do it just so that I could have some way to figure out all the you know connections and stuff. So the reason I built it and by the way I called it the tree planting system TPS because I always wanted to generate a TPS report, anyway what about taking that to the next level and you know being able to have multiple things like this. I find especially with the newer technology for super cheap probably for under $100 you could build watering systems you know across a neighborhood like this and they can actually function as almost like many weather systems as well, you know, and many you know plant progress systems you know how are your tomatoes doing today, I mean you could really I could see you know people doing this with open source completely and really generating some very interesting data.
Mark: Raspberry Pis are very versatile. You can do a lot of stuff with them. There’s a lot of projects, I heard of a golf course that has Raspberry Pis that dispenses the golf balls for the the range. They’re using Raspberry Pis at a golf club at a golf course in the machines. The reason they use them isn’t because of the lower price because these machines are massive and probably costing lots of money, they have great dev community, they have thorough documentation and long-term support. And so a lot of Raspberry Pis are being used in ways that we aren’t even thinking about. I personally, I’m using them to track earthquakes and there’s a whole organization that uses Raspberry Pis are called Raspberry Shakes to track earthquakes around the world. The problem with earthquakes is you have to put them in a place where there isn’t a lot of environmental noise so in typically in most households there’s lots of noise when the furnace turns on or something but we’re looking part of one of my part of some of my organizations are looking to use private cellular to reach out connect up a Raspberry Pi Shake, one of these Raspberry Pis to measure earthquakes in a location where it’s more challenging to get connectivity. So definitely Raspberry Pis are very useful for things that people are just starting to imagine at this point.
Jim: Mark that’s a great topic because curiously would they use a specific sensor? It sounds like you’re using a noise sensor but does it actually have like literally a shake sensor that says oh okay this this shouldn’t be moving.
Mark: Yeah it’s got they have some that have three dimensions. So they got ones that go do up down left right and all three dimensions and it senses and will track the earthquake in all three dimensions and it’s actually a community group. And so it’s just anybody can go buy one, stick it in wherever they want. We’re using them because we have I’m part of organizations with higher ed that they’re tracking it at the state level and so they have them for that tracking but we’re able to use these with Raspberry Pis to bring the cost down because they’re cheap but and also to get them out into these sites away from where all the noise is.
Jim: So it’s interesting you mention that because I was just thinking about the the disaster that just happened in Libya this past week right and the fact that now again that wasn’t earthquake specific but still weather specific and you can get the ability of being able to do that kind of stuff and even in other disasters where people are going. We still haven’t found everybody and one of the ways they know that is we haven’t been able to find them on their cell phones and when you get down to what a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino is really not much more than a cell phone infrastructure right except it doesn’t have the pretty face and everything else. So the ability to connect like that you know to Starlink or something Starlink like and know the site’s gone okay maybe we have an earthquake or maybe it’s been washed away to sea. I mean there’s some invaluable ways of being able to leverage this Edge technology that even what five years ago we would never been able to do that.
Stephen: Another, there’s a bunch of other kind of crowdsourced things involved in this so there’s you know I’m involved in the ADSB airplane tracking thing with a Raspberry Pi and a you know software defined radio. another thing Mark I think you’re familiar with is the Larowan network that’s built out of. I know there’s a crypto aspect to it but the ability to create this giant Larowan hey there you go tell us just quickly what is Larowan and why should we care?
Mark so Larowan is low power B, you can stick batteries in these sensors that last like five years super super lower power super super low through put, but a lot of these sensors don’t need a ton of data throughput but you can go miles, you can put them up on the mountain side and have connectivity. And so there’s a lot of these groups that are trying private cellular or larowan to connect these sensors and provide connectivity. You can trace, you can track devices. I have a buddy that has sent a tracker in something he shipped and he can track it across the country and know exactly where it is. So Lan’s very very useful, it’s very very low power, batteries last a long time long distances. There’s lots of stations around but work great. Organizations are using them for Smart Meters. The other day I was at a site and looking at the power meter and the power meter had larowan on it and so the power company’s using laraown to track the data at that level.
Stephen: So what are the key companies in that space
Mark: Key companies, oh there’s a lot of them. The big one that everybody talks about with the crypto is Helium, the Helium Project. They’re the big one when it comes to the crypto world world but there’s a lot of different vendors, lots of sensors from all types of vendors. They have things for check tracking your toilets, to check tracking water, a lot of your zigg devices at home, your door sensors making sure they’re open or closed, they have all those types of sensors made for it. So you can definitely bring this technology into an Enterprise if you want to start tracking those level of things and then you have your Edge Computing on site where that’s uploading to the cloud or to another site doing the processing local with the edge technology. And so you can provide that connectivity down at the edge to collect the data either process it locally or whatever and then send it to cloud for management or what other reasons.
Stephen: So now that we’ve had a little bit of chance to discuss this, Jim what’s your takeaway from this discussion of personal and portable devices at the edge?
Jim: it’s not going to slow down. I think it’s going to just continue to multiply even to the point of perhaps in the near future having devices that can inject medicines directly through uh Wi-Fi connectivity you know or even monitor someone’s health in several different ways. I mean we’re just starting to see that happening with the wearables it is not that much of a jump from in my mind at least a wearable watch that’s detecting how well I’m sleeping to maybe we should change the dosage on your anxiety drug to help you sleep a little bit better or pull it back a little bit better so you can be a little bit more alert. I don’t think we’re that far away from that.
Mark: Ultimately I think we live in a connected world and everything is getting more and more connected. We’ve moved to watches tracking sensors what data have we gathered from this that are saving lives what other data points can we gather out there in the world that can save lives, such as earthquakes or tracking floods or what other whatever else you can just imagine. I think ultimately connectivity is a good thing, there are definitely concerns we need to be aware of with security, privacy, and other things that this edge technology is definitely needs to address and needs to be thought about as we move forward. But the power behind this technology is there.
Stephen: Yeah absolutely and I think that not just the power but the temptation of this technology is there and I think that to me when I think about personal devices and portable devices I think that it’s as I said earlier it really is inevitable that these things are going to be used, They’re going to be finding their way into everything. As you say a Raspberry Pi is just a cell phone without the cell phone you know. I mean it’s all the same technology. Many of the smart devices that we’re starting to see are all mix and match built off of the same kind of cell phone technology. That stuff is ubiquitous, it’s affordable, it’s low power, it’s everywhere. People are getting more and more familiar with it and we’re just going to have more and more of this stuff at the edge and those of you listening to this conversation you know if you want to continue this conversation, we would love to hear from you. Mark where can people connect with you and continue talking about connectivity?
Mark: I’m mainly found on LinkedIn is where I post most of my stuff but I’m also on Mastodon. I’m on the bird site X Twitter whatever you want to call it, all those but mainly Mastodon or LinkedIn is where I’m found.
Stephen: And Jim, how about you? Where can people talk about data?
Jim: I’m not allowed on the dead bird site, so I’m on Mastodon at JimTheWhyGuy at TechFieldDay.net and of course on LinkedIn and I’ll be appearing at Oracle Cloud World this week actually doing, I think I’ve got four or five different presentations and those are going to be rebroadcast later.
Stephen: And as for me, you’ll find me as SFoskett on most sites including SFoskett at TechFieldDay.net on the Mastodons and on LinkedIn as well. I’d love to hear from you, I’d love to continue this conversation. If you’re curious as well about Field Day, as I said these are the kind of conversations that happen when the cameras aren’t running and we all just get together and just nerd out about everything and it’s a lot of fun, so if you’re interested in getting involved check out TechFieldDay.com and you can learn more about that. So thank you very much for listening to Utilizing Edge, this is part of the Utilizing Tech podcast series. We would love to hear your review, your rating, we would love it if you subscribed. We’re already starting to think of what we’re going to do for next season of Utilizing Tech, so maybe give us some ideas there. This podcast is brought to you by GestaltIT.com your home for IT coverage from across the enterprise. For show notes and more episodes of Utilizing Tech go to our dedicated website UtilizingTech.com or find us on Twitter and Mastodon at Utilizing Tech. Thanks for listening and we will see you soon.