Who’s iPhone goes into the plant?

When companies add communication via wireless devices, who’s device is it? Is that my iPad, or the company’s?

01/10/2012


Dear Control Engineering: Our company is looking at using wireless devices in our plant, but they don’t want to buy any of the hardware. I’m supposed to bring my own iPad. Sure, I own one, but I don’t want to take it into the plant. Does that seem right?

As the story about mobile devices pointed out, more companies are using smart phones and tablet computers for HMI and control applications. While various situations will be different, there are reasons why companies may want to buy the devices and others why you may want to use your own. All the elements of that discussion may not be completely clear, but most arguments suggest that the company would want to own and control the devices.

This sort of thing has been going on for many years in the office as employees use their own laptops, tablets, and smart phones to access company email and the like from the road or home. One area that gets complicated from a legal standpoint relates to who owns the data on your personal device. Should your company want you to have sensitive company information on your computer? What if it wants it back? If you get fired, can it demand that information from you? Can your boss look at what’s on your computer? There have been situations where hackers have broken into corporate networks through somebody's home computer that's connected to the company network. Somebody sitting in a car outside your house within range of your home WiFi signal will probably find your home system a pretty soft target.

What about your personal information? What if you drop your iPad from a catwalk and all the photos of your wedding get destroyed? What if a virus from your computer gets transferred to the plant control system? How about the reverse?

Maybe you want to use your own device in the plant because you don’t want to use that iPad after Bubba has left slimy fingerprints all over the screen. Still, the company can probably insist that you use a company-owned device. At this point, that is probably the most prudent approach for all involved. Bring your own bottle of Windex.

Here’s a more involved discussion of the topic.

Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com