The What and Why of Dedicated Mobile Devices for Businesses

By design, mobile devices are versatile. They can typically run a variety of applications and be used for many purposes at once. This is part of the reason why the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) principle has become so popular: it lets employees use the same device for both personal and work-related activities.

But while BYOD has its place, letting employees use the same device for multiple purposes is not always the best approach to mobile infrastructure. For a variety of reasons, businesses may wish instead to build a mobile strategy rooted in dedicated mobile devices, which provide much more control over how devices are used and what they are capable of doing.

This article offers an overview of dedicated mobile devices, including how they work and when businesses should consider using them.

What Is a Dedicated Mobile Device?

A dedicated mobile device is a device that is designed for a specific and limited purpose. It may be configured in such a way that it can only run certain applications, for example. Or, it may be designed so that users cannot make any permanent changes to the device.

Dedicated devices may sometimes be referred to as Corporate-Owned Single Use (COSU) devices, a term popularized by Google. Another popular term used by businesses is single-purpose devices However, the terms COSU or single-purpose devices are somewhat misleading in that dedicated devices don’t necessarily have to be limited to a single-use, which implies that they can run just one specific app or support one narrow workflow.

In reality, dedicated devices could be used for multiple purposes at once. For example, a dedicated device may run one specific software application that employees need to use in the field, but also be able to make calls in case mobile employees require that functionality as well.

Thus, the defining characteristic is that their functionality is limited in some way, not that they can only run a single app. That makes them different from generic, off-the-shelf devices that are designed with the potential to do everything under the sun.

Dedicated Devices vs. Custom Devices

Note, too, that dedicated devices are different from custom or bespoke devices. The latter terms refer to mobile devices that include customized hardware and/or software.

Dedicated devices can be deployed using off-the-shelf hardware and a generic mobile operating system. The devices simply need to be configured in a way that restricts their use to a specific purpose. Operating systems like Android provide native features that make this possible to do without having to customize the OS.

Dedicated Devices for Testing vs. Production

There can also be some confusion around the term “dedicated mobile device,” because you may sometimes see it used in the context of mobile software testing.

When developers create mobile apps, they sometimes test them in “device clouds” that provide access to a variety of mobile hardware and software configurations in order to simplify testing. In this context, there is a distinction between dedicated devices, which give each team of developers exclusive access to mobile devices for testing purposes, and shared devices, which multiple teams use at once for testing. However, a dedicated device that is used for testing is not necessarily limited to a specific function (in fact, the opposite is usually true). It’s just dedicated in the sense that it’s not shared among development teams.

Using dedicated mobile devices for software testing purposes, then, really has nothing to do with using dedicated devices for production. They are entirely separate concepts. In this article, we are discussing dedicated devices that companies can deploy to serve a specific need for their employees or customers. When mobile software developers talk about dedicated devices during software testing, they are referring to something unrelated.

Dedicated Mobile Device Use Cases

Dedicated devices can serve a variety of use cases.

One common use case is a kiosk that a business deploys as a place where customers can check in or look up information. The device that hosts such a kiosk needs to perform a specific range of functions. It should not allow customers to install extraneous software or perform tasks that are not related to the kiosk’s main purpose.

A device that employees use for inventory management is another example of a dedicated mobile device. In this use case, the device would need to run whichever software employees need in order to keep track of inventory. Any other functionality would be superfluous, and would be disabled within the device. Devices that employees use in the field when serving customers fall into a similar category.

As a third example, dedicated mobile devices could also be used to create mobile points of sale solutions by provisioning them with the software required to accept payments. Or, a dedicated mobile device could be deployed in restaurants to allow customers to place orders and pay bills.

Reasons to Use a Dedicated Mobile Device

Deploying dedicated devices often requires more upfront effort than rolling out generic devices because businesses must implement specific configurations for their dedicated devices. However, this investment can be worth it in situations where organizations need to leverage the special benefits that dedicated devices offer.

1. Control

Chief among the benefits of dedicated devices is a high level of control over what the devices can be used for. The business can determine exactly what the device is capable of doing. And as noted above, this can be done without having to customize the hardware or software.

In this regard, dedicated devices give companies the benefit of fine-grained control over their devices while still allowing them to use off-the-shelf hardware if desired.

2. Security

High-security standards go hand-in-hand with the rigid control that dedicated devices enable. By limiting which software a device can run and how users can interact with it, businesses can significantly reduce the potential attack surface to which the device is exposed.

3. Performance

Limiting which software and configurations a device supports can also improve performance. Not only are dedicated devices free from extraneous, resource-wasting apps that users might otherwise install on non-dedicated devices, but they can also maintain optimal configurations that help teams leverage the best performance possible.

4. Reproducibility and Scalability

When the configuration of a device is narrow and specific, it’s often easier to clone the device in order to deploy identical devices. If you’re a company that needs to deploy a number of kiosks or field devices quickly, then, a strategy founded upon dedicated devices makes it easy to do so.

5. Maintenance and Updates

The fewer configuration variables and apps you have on a device, the easier it is to manage and update it without running into issues like incompatibility between an update and an existing configuration. In this way, too, dedicated devices offer a key benefit to businesses, especially those that must manage a large mobile fleet.

Conclusion: Consider Dedicated Devices to Supercharge Your Mobile Strategy

Dedicated devices are certainly not the right solution for every type of business mobility need. Some use cases will require devices that are capable of hosting a range of applications, and that can be modified easily in the field.

But in cases where a device needs to serve a specific purpose that is not likely to change rapidly over time, dedicated devices are an ideal approach. They are easier to secure, manage, and scale than generic devices, and they provide businesses with maximum control over how they work and what they are used for.