Samsung is largely known as a consumer electronics brand and has been a dominant player in the premium handsets segment in the country for the last five years at least. But there is an enterprise division of the company that is looking to ride out India’s digitisation journey by offering enterprise mobility and management solutions. One of Samsung’s enterprise products is called Knox, a security feature built into all the firm’s devices, smartphones, wearables and tablets, that separates business and personal content on a single device. A user simply has to click on an icon to switch from work to personal and vice versa.
In an interview with TechCircle, Sukesh Jain, senior vice president of IT mobile enterprise business, Samsung India, said that as enterprises look to digitise processes to gain more efficiency and save costs, Samsung is delivering customised solutions via its Knox platform. Edited excerpts:
You said that Samsung was offering a majority share of its enterprise mobility solutions via Knox that was developed to be a security solution. Could you explain how you turned it into a mobile device management (MDM) platform?
If I were to look to Knox, I would define it in two parts—the first and foremost is Knox as a security platform focused purely on securing the device from the root and kernel level up, and the second is Knox as a platform service that we developed over a period of time. The Knox platform [has many] features [that can] customise and manage [a] device and secure it with fine granularity. For example, [it can manage] hardware keys, control hard and soft reset, Play Store level controls, whitelisting and blacklisting of apps and URLs, and create advanced kiosk modes, to name new a few.
The platform itself can be divided into two or three products which are more like a plug and play solution for our customers. The first one is Knox Manage which is the MDM solution and the biggest advantage of it is that it can be configured through the cloud. One of the major challenges that enterprises face is ensuring that the right set of applications are preloaded and set in the right frame. Samsung took this feedback and came out with a product which is based on cloud configuration and pushes all the required applications and policies changes to the device from the MDM perspective. The moment a person boots up his device and puts it up on data network the applications and policies [are] automatically downloaded and these cannot be deleted. Even if the device is reset, the next time it is booted up, the same configuration is pushed again. This is great for enterprises as they don’t have to unbox the devices, side load all policies and applications and then distribute them, [which saves a] lot of time and costs.
We had also received feedback on how the device can be customised to the customer requirements even from the hardware perspective. In this case, we worked with our set of partners in which we brought in an integrated device where a tablet or mobile would be at the core and along with it, we built a ruggedised environment, with options of an added printer, extra battery, a fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication, smart card reader etc. With this, we can customise the device according to the requirement of the end customer so that he does not need to carry multiple devices. There is also a separate service called KC or Knox Customise which can help customers pre-load logos of their companies in the boot cycle of devices.
Chief information officers often say that most MDMs don’t have the facility to update devices safely when it comes to internal applications or in the case of an operating system update. Can Knox tackle the issue?
Yes, it can and we are about to release a new product called e-FOTA (over-the-air) on Knox in India soon. CIOs often complained to us as well that several MDM solutions couldn’t handle app upgrades or OS updates. Simply put, they had no way of testing if the new app or the OS would smoothly integrate with their subscribed MDM solution. However, with e-FOTA, we are not only giving the option of sharing the updates over the air but also providing an environment for CIOs to test the new upgrades.
Not only that, as a company, we expose our APIs (application programming interfaces) and SDKs (software development kits) with our customers or independent software vendors (ISVs) who are employed by our customers and also offer help via our technology team sitting out of Bengaluru and Noida to help them integrate apps better. For example, if a partner or customer sees that a certain app is consuming a lot of RAM (random access memory), then our engineers help optimise the performance of the app. Needless to say our APIs and SDKs work only with Samsung devices, while Knox can be used to manage any Andorid device running KitKat and above operating systems.
How do you market your enterprise mobility solution?
Let me explain via an example. Once a company decides to automate or digitise a business process, it either calls its in-house team or an external software developer to develop a new application that will be the spinal cord of the digitisation process. Once the software team is nearly done with the app or software, it needs to be tested on a device which is when the software developer or the independent software vendor contacts us for testing the app on our devices. If they are satisified, they place an order. This is why we have focused our efforts to sell through our channel partners [as they] have more visibility of enterprises especially small and medium businesses (SMBs).
Other than Knox, what are the other services or products that are a part of Samsung’s enterprise mobility solutions bouquet?
Samsung has a variety of solutions other than just Knox. These products and services include displays and screen overlays for different use-cases. While we have some displays just perfect for office board rooms or video conferencing rooms, other displays form a part of the retail-based solution such as malls, cafes and large-area shops such as H&M or Shoppers Stop.
Which industry segment has been adopting your enterprise solutions and what are some of the use-cases or sectors that these products and services are being used?
From the security perspective, the BFSI sector has been the most progressive in adopting security features in order to implement stringent BYOD policies. Another use case is for businesses that require field force automation (FFA). Our services can enable mobile workforce to report and manage field activities efficiently, give top management access to real-time MIS reports for taking instant decisions, add features like service/sales call management and scheduling and time and location reporting along with ensuring effective deployment of field personnel across different businesses.
We have also worked on Samsung mobile point of sales (mPOS/mATM). This solution can help businesses expand their reach and sales by taking the payment process to the customer. The displays that I spoke about can also be used to create digital catalogues for profitably marketing goods and services and can provide a platform to sales representatives with interactive multiple content capabilities and easy usability. Tata Motors has used this solution in combination with a tablet in showrooms to help customers play with the digital versions of their cars. The displays can also help push updated content to the sales team on a real-time basis avoiding [expensive] printing and logistics costs.
In which industries has Samsung implemented its enterprise solutions?
Samsung has worked in sectors such as education, finance, transport, logistics and some projects with the government. With Samsung's Education Solutions, teachers can stay connected through innovative technologies with advanced peer-to-peer systems using tablets, interactive displays, and printing options. We have partnered with Indian content publishers in K-12, distance learning and test preparations segments, offering both students and institutions a choice of tablets and content bundling.
Our transportation and logistics solutions include empowering staff with rugged devices for seamless communication, enhancing a customer’s travel experience with digital devices, GPS-based vehicle tracking systems and vehicle diagnostics and monitoring solutions.
We have also worked with the government and its agencies, [offering services such as] Aadhaar-enabled mobile payment systems, mATM solution for financial inclusion, tablet-based field survey solutions, e-challan for law enforcement agencies, waste management system, utility metering and billing solutions, and public distribution system use cases.