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» » 2013 Prediction: The Rise of the Office ‘Smart’ Phone
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By Keith Nealon

Image: macinate/Flickr

It’s that time of year when we all pull out our crystal balls and make predictions about what events and trends will emerge in 2013.  Some are pretty obvious.  For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, companies will review their business continuity plans and be more prepared for a similar event.  Other trends might be a little more provocative.  For example, I predict the rise of the office “smart” phone.

Before you start laughing, I’m not suggesting that people will toss out their iPhones and Androids in favor of landlines. Quite the opposite.  There is no doubt that the use of internet and Wi/Fi enabled mobile devices will continue to grow.  These gadgets have become a ubiquitous and sometimes indispensable part of our personal and professionally lives.   We call these devices “smartphones,” but what makes them smart?

I’d argue that it isn’t the applications or the capability to access the web, lots of appliances can do both, but aren’t considered “smart.”  Rather, it’s the data that makes your phone smart.  It knows how to contact all of your friends and colleagues; it knows where you are supposed to be at 11:30; and it has a record of your email, text and social media correspondence.  Your phone is smart because of what it knows, not because of what it does.

Why would this ever change?  For starters, ask anyone who has ever lost their phone.  By their nature, these devices are with us out in the world, exposing them to all sorts of calamity.  Phones get lost, stolen, dropped, rained on or simply left behind.   A missing or useless phone is no fun, but missing or inaccessible information can be very disruptive.  How often have you seen a social media post from a friend or colleague that goes something like, “Ugh!  Left my phone in the cab, please DM me your phone number.

Even if you manage to keep your phone functional and available, other data issues can pop up.  I recently went to visit my accountant.  He was nowhere to be found.  The next day, he called to ask if I was going to make it to our appointment.  Turns out, his smartphone was out of sync with the calendar on his PC and he had no idea where he was supposed to be when.  I suspect this has happened to all of us.

So what’s the answer?  Office “smart” phones.  We won’t call them “smart,” of course, but they will follow the model of thin client lap tops and net PC’s.  If your contact information, calendar, correspondence and other critical information resided in the cloud, instead of on any particular device, a lost or dysfunctional phone would present only a temporary, easily resolved problem.  In fact, this is a key step in the drive toward true device independence.

We’ve already seen this with laptops and PC’s.  Apple iTunes, Dropbox and are great examples. With data in the cloud, users can log in to their information from any internet connected device and it becomes “smart” immediately.

A key driver of this trend will be the increasing use of personal mobile devices for business purposes.  While IT teams want to enable employees to use the devices that they love and be productive from anywhere, they need to be assured of data security.  A thin client phone with data in the cloud is a big part of the solution.  A lost phone will no longer provide a stranger every detail about your business.

Office “smart” phones will rise in 2013, not because mobile devices are less important, but because they are more and more so.

Keith Nealon is a division vice president with ShoreTel, the leading provider of simple unified communications platforms, including business phone systems.  He is a technology industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.

Source: Wired

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