In the Palm of Your Hand

In the Palm of Your Hand

Mobile technology helps secure the future of security

In our current culture, smartphones and tablets are everywhere. With more than 220 million users in United States alone, it’s nearly impossible to find someone who doesn’t own a smart mobile device. The growth continues with an additional 10 million users expected to be added annually through 2021. Mobile phones are no longer used primarily for making phone calls, but instead, are portals to consume information, communicate with others and interact with the world around us while on the move. This rapid adoption of smart mobile devices and technological advancement of this small device has led to the rapid rise of the development of mobile applications.

These mobile apps now offer solutions in virtually every market and industry: banking, ride sharing, shopping, navigation and, yes, security. The security industry has seen rapid growth in the use of apps to enable security solutions. For every customer need, there is a budding idea for a mobile solution.

Ideation to Application. With more than 2.2 million apps on the Apple App Store, there’s clearly demand for mobile solutions and talented professionals who can bring mobile apps to the market.iii One may ask where all the ideas originate for these applications. The foundation of many apps is a mobile-friendly version of an existing desktop solution.

Many times these types of mobile apps provide only the features of the desktop site that are in demand and well suited for a mobile user. The existing desktop solution may work well, but is not mobile device friendly and may be too feature-rich for what a mobile user needs in a mobile app on the go. In developing the mobile version, the developer will balance simplicity, ease of use, and functionality vs. the comprehensive desktop solution. Another key area of ideation for mobile apps is the end user themselves. Many organizations focus on voice of customer feedback to understand the wants and needs of the users who interact with their business.

Whether it is through focus groups, online communities, surveys or ongoing interactions, listening to the pain points and frustrations of the customer drives the concept of the solution. These solutions are delivered via a mobile application to help accomplish the goals of their audience.

Once the concept and use case for the idea has been proven, the design and development of the app can begin. The Agile development methodology is the leading way apps are created today. In this methodology, it is important to select a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) scope to focus on and bring to market as quickly as possible. Getting the application into the hands of real users is the best way to know if value is being created for them with the solution. Once in the market, user feedback will help the team understand the needs of the user and prioritize future feature development.

Developers then work to bring the top requests to market quickly through an app update. This feedback loop creates a cycle of ongoing improvement which continues after the app has launched, making it a “living and breathing” product. A big advantage of mobile apps is the ease of “pushing” data to the mobile phone users who have downloaded or subscribed to the app. This ability to keep the app’s users updated in near real time with important data is a major benefit for users of mobile apps. In what other ways could security apps be useful for end users?

Real Time Access to Information. Mobile security apps allow users to access critical information from anywhere in real time—even while on the go and not at their desktop. Were any store locations disarmed when they shouldn’t have been? Did all store locations open on time? Did an employee attempt to access a restricted part of a building where they were not authorized?

Security mobile apps allow security professionals to answer these questions and more regarding the security systems across their organization. Users no longer need to wait to get back to an office or computer in order to gain access to information, as the robust security apps can deliver these answers immediately.

Security Notification and Response. Protecting an organization’s assets is critical and is achieved through a variety of technologies. With the increase of ownership of smart phones and new applications in the market, companies can add protection for their most important assets, including their employees when they are outside the physical borders of a company. Mobile apps now exist that allow employees to initiative a duress alert, take audio and video evidence of the event and have a response process in place to dispatch responders within minutes.

Simplicity and Convenience. One of the great aspects of mobile apps is that the best ones are traditionally very easy to use—the interface is intuitive and the choices are streamlined. What could take four or five clicks of the mouse on a traditional desktop format can be accomplished in half the time with a mobile application. For the security sector, this is important because it expedites critical changes that need to be made within a security system. Additionally, because the user can take the phone with them, the app can be accessed at any time. Regardless if the security professional is conducting store visits, interacting with a satellite location, or traveling with executives, the ability to have access to their security system at their fingertips is impactful.

Integration. For any security professional, notes, evidence and documentation is critical. By using mobile apps, professionals not only have access to a security specific app but also have access to the contents and applications of their mobile device. So now pictures, audio clips, videos and notes that have been taken with a mobile device can be easily and efficiently utilized in the specific security app. A process that once required a full desktop or laptop with an internet connection can now be completed with a few swipes on a smart phone.

A key consideration in using mobile apps is the security of the application itself. Is your phone secured from hackers? If someone gains access to a phone, can they get into a security app and make changes to a security system or access sensitive data? As with any connected devices, precautions should be taken. First, always make sure the phone locks after a set time of inactivity. Use a strong password or the fingerprint reader to unlock the phone. Second, consider entering login information for the security app every time you login to the system. By logging out of the app, in order for someone to gain access, they would need to know both the phone passcode and app account login. Finally, be cautious what wireless networks are accessed with the phone to ensure it is connecting to a secure, trusted network.

As technology continues, the presence of mobile apps will only continue to grow as a part of everyday life and as a part of the security industry. Today, mobile apps allow users to arm and disarm security systems, set up alarm systems, control heating/cooling/ lighting aspects of buildings, and access video recordings of events. In the future, apps may use facial recognition via phones for dual authentication to access doors, start cars or login to computer systems. The possibilities are endless.

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Security Today.

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