The Sustainable IT Challenge for Mobile Computing
Everyone wants sustainable IT, right? But the challenge of implementing sustainable technology in a business is proving to be difficult in reality. Let’s take mobile computing, as an example. The latest research from Panasonic shows that European businesses are struggling to implement sustainable mobile computing strategies. In fact, buyers report that rapidly changing business requirements are forcing more than half to switch their mobile computing devices before they are even two years old.
Although the research doesn’t go into details on the exact nature of these changing business requirements, it’s not hard to imagine. Disrupted industry sectors and changing buyer behaviours might be putting pressure on businesses to change the way they work. In addition, it could be the adoption and implementation of new technologies, such as moving to the cloud, to Android or harnessing real-time data for competitive advantage.
All these factors can alter the way an organisation works and the type of computing device the mobile workforce might require.
Although there is a clear desire to do more, these business pressures appear to be preventing IT decision makers from taking a more holistic look at their mobile computing strategy and considering sustainable best practices.
And it’s not just the challenge of replacing old devices with new too regularly. The statistics seem to suggest that there is an issue in addressing sustainability right through the lifetime of the mobile computing devices.
Less than half of those surveyed said they evaluated their devices on the basis of sustainability or environmental impact before purchase. Having a clearly defined strategy ahead of purchasing devices can ultimately lead to a longer useful lifespan once in the business.
Beyond regular maintenance (57%), less than half are doing anything proactive to prolong the life of their devices during operation. Training mobile workers how to care for their device and proactive monitoring of the mobile computing estate through the use of software are both useful tools in ensuring mobile computing devices stay productive for longer.
Finally, more than half (54%) of organisations do not regularly repurpose devices for a secondary use in their business. Although a mobile computing device may no longer be fit for purpose for some mobile workers, it seems hard to believe that these devices could not be reused in another part of the organisation with some forethought.There is clearly still some way to go for our desire to be environmentally-friendly with technology turns into business processes to force us to act in this way. In the challenge to reuse, rather than renew, both businesses and device manufacturers have a role to play in helping to build more sustainable mobile practices.
Businesses could benefit from a more holistic approach to the purchase, use, reuse and disposal of devices. Technology analyst Rob Bamforth talks about a five phase maturity model that organisations should benchmark themselves against. He characterises the five main phases as:
- Rethink – does the overall strategy and procurement process take into account the whole usage lifecycle and environmental considerations?
- Regular use – what are the primary environmental considerations during normal operation and how are they managed?
- Repair – what happens when things go wrong, how are they fixed and what is the environmental impact of failure and fixing?
- Re-use/repurpose – how is the lifetime of the device extended, either through redeployment and reuse or adaptations and changes?
- Recycle/recover – what are the processes used at the end of life to minimise environmental impact?
By considering these questions, IT buyers can begin to see where their business stands on the mobile computing sustainability and think about the practical steps they can take to implement a more sustainable mobile computing strategy.
In addition, manufacturers can do more to help their customers build in sustainability by producing devices that can be more easily reconfigured and reused. I’m proud to say that Panasonic is the first in the rugged computing industry to bring to market devices that are designed for sustainability through their ability to be easily reconfigured and reused. The TOUGHBOOK 55 can be repurposed easily by the user in the field providing the opportunity for devices to be reconfigured for different uses, multiple times throughout its lifetime. Accessories such as bar code and smartcard readers can be added with a simple switch, fit and click by the user, as well as more integral elements such as graphic cards.
This type of breakthrough design and technology will enable businesses to better handle rapidly changing requirements and help to encourage a more sustainable mobile computing strategy.