Three Tips – and One Tool – to Keep Your Company’s Mobile Devices from Disappearing

The new cloud-based Device Tracker is one way to quickly locate any Zebra Android™ handheld mobile computer, tablet or wearable connected to your Wi-Fi network, even if the battery is dead or missing.

A retail store associate uses a Device Tracker tool to locate a missing mobile device.
by David Degrassi
May 26, 2021

There’s no doubt that productivity is directly tied to one’s online connectivity. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find someone whose job isn’t at least partially dependent on digital data. Farmers, factory workers, retail associates, transporters, and utility field technicians must all be able to report, receive, and review information related to the job at hand in order to meet demand, even while on the move. But they aren’t the only ones who rely on mobile technologies to stay connected and productive. Over three-quarters of the global workforce is deskless!

That’s why we recommend organizations of all sizes do these three things to help keep devices in workers’ hands and make them easy to recover when accidentally misplaced:

1. Create a record of daily device ownership/usage and location. (This is especially important if you have a fleet of shared devices and workers grab a different device each shift.)

2. Provide team members the insights they need to be able to manage and identify devices that are at risk of being lost.

3. Invest in a tool that makes it easy for anyone in your organization to locate any number of missing devices, regardless of where they may be – even if they’re powered off.

Though there are other ways to locate devices, the easiest, accurate, and most effective in my experience – if you’re a Zebra customer – is to use the Device Tracker tool. This tool is particularly valuable as the volume of devices used – and misplaced – in the workplace grows. Locating missing devices can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Was a device left behind in the break room? Or by the promotional display in the sporting goods department? Or in Row J in the warehouse?

These are all questions easily answered by Device Tracker, especially the new cloud-based version we just rolled out. It can help you locate up to 100,000 Wi-Fi connected devices at up to 5,000 sites!  

All you have to do is…

1. subscribe to the Device Tracker service for the number of devices you own.

2. configure the backend for your environment.

3. download the Device Tracker Client application onto your organization’s devices via your enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution or StageNow, Zebra’s Mobility DNA complimentary staging tool. You don’t even need the user to do anything on the phone or with the app during deployment.

Our team takes care of the rest. You don’t have to purchase or maintain any infrastructure with the cloud-based Device Tracker iteration. Nor will you have to deploy or manage certificates. Our goal by moving this tool to the cloud was to reduce your device management overhead costs as much as possible. We also wanted to reduce your overall resource burden. So, our Managed Services team will fully deploy, monitor and maintain the cloud server for you to ensure uptime, and you can request as much technical support as needed day to day.

Taking Track and Recover to the Next Level – and the Device’s Precise Location

Organizations with large device fleets will definitely benefit from the expanded coverage of the new cloud-based Device Tracker tool. But, if you’re a smaller business with just a few devices used in a single shop, you might be wondering, “what’s in it for me?” Do I need to spend money on something like this?

Let’s just put it this way: if a single worker’s mobile device goes down – or missing – for just a few minutes, productivity can be dramatically reduced and customers impacted. Even short recovery delays can compound and create longer fulfillment delays. And mistakes can occur when that worker must revert to manual processes, even temporarily. The problem is, 10% of all company-owned devices go missing each year according to our customers – not just one. On top of that, the typical “find my device” tool is limited to geographical locationing, whereas Device Tracker will locate your device within a couple feet even if the battery dies and the device powers off.  

You can always see the status of every tracked device at a glance from within the Device Tracker app on your mobile device. This includes details such as the name of each device and the access point to which it is connected, the remaining battery charge level, the time of the last check-in, along with many other useful data points associated with that device. You’ll know right away if it’s in the general vicinity of the “Hardware Department” or “Customer Service Desk” – or if it wandered to another site. (It happens!)

If a device is reported missing and it’s connected to your Wi-Fi, you or an associate will be able to quickly see where it was last located and head straight there to retrieve it. In fact, you’ll be able to use a real-time proximity indicator on your own Zebra mobile device to see whether you are moving farther or closer to the device as you get within range. (It’s a little bit like the game Marco Polo, except you’ll win a lot faster because you’ll have a Geiger Counter-style tool to tell you when you’re warm!). If you can’t see the device – which could be on a high shelf, behind a larger item, or in a box – you can remotely trigger the device’s alarm at full volume to pinpoint its exact location.

Of course, I’m always asked, “what happens if the device is powered down for some reason?” And it’s a great question. If there is a secondary Bluetooth® Low Energy radio built into the device or battery, you should still be able to find it because a beacon will still be broadcasted to Device Tracker.

So, if you’ve been looking for a better way to track and recover your company-owned Zebra devices, I’m happy to say you just found it!

A Final Thought

In my opinion, the best way to use Device Tracker is as a loss prevention tool. It will enable you to take corrective action before the battery discharges completely and the device location is no longer visible. You can also have employees scan a barcode on their badges when checking out and in devices to increase accountability. And since you can see how many devices are in service at the start of every shift, you can ensure all devices are returned at the end of every shift – and know who to track down if they’re not.

Just remember, if you want to maximize your mobility tools and keep your workers’ productivity levels up, it’s just as important to track device performance as it is to track device location. There are several tools available to streamline device monitoring, especially if that’s something you’re managing in house. You can learn more about them, as well as best practices for device management, in these blog posts:

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David Degrassi
David Degrassi is currently a Product Manager at Zebra where he is responsible for Zebra’s Enterprise Mobile Computing Software Solutions. David has more than 17 years of experience within the mobile industry and has managed Zebra’s Mobility DNA software, including StageNow mobile configuration tool and EMM Toolkit. David currently manages Device Tracker and Enterprise Home as well a host of other valuable utilities such as Device Central and Battery Manager.
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