Warehouse supply chain software is seeing a major shift in operating systems. Microsoft has announced it is ending its support of Windows CE and other mobile operating systems currently used in warehouses across the country. The company will break off its support in waves, beginning this year and ending by 2021.
While devices supporting these operating systems will not shut down automatically, they will be severely handicapped. Keeping software up-to-date helps prevent security breaches and optimizes performance — vital in a warehouse industry that must consistently meet ever-increasing consumer demand.
One major problem with Windows ending its support is that the security protocols on those systems will no longer be updated. Fuse Technology Group stated, without support, companies utilizing unsupported operating systems become an easier target for ransomware, malware and a host of other cybercrimes.
A 2017 report from Accenture showed cybersecurity breaches had increased by an average of 27 percent in the last year and are expected to keep climbing. Companies are being attacked approximately 130 times by year, leading to a surging cost in cyber insurance.
Upgrading to a newer supported OS is a priority—not just a recommendation. Warehouse supply chain managers working on old software will find their work plagued by breaches and their company's future thrown into serious doubt.
"Android-operated rugged handheld device adoption experienced a 15 percent increase between 2014 and early 2016."
Having established the importance of upgrading, companies have their choice of three operating systems, although one has emerged as a clear favorite. Apple, Microsoft and Google are each putting forth a new OS option specifically designed for the supply chain industry.
Microsoft's new OS is Windows 10 IoT. The company's website highlighted features like intelligent security, cloud integration and faster time to market. However, in an interview with DC Velocity, Mark Wheeler, director of supply chain solutions at Zebra Technologies, stated the OS wasn't seeing much interest from the warehouse sector.
Wheeler attributes slow adoption to a lack of vision from Microsoft. Organizations may be wary of Microsoft, worried that the provider might end support of Windows 10 IoT to promote another new OS.
An OS that is no longer supported can impact productivity and create security vulnerabilities.
Apple's iOS platform may also be used in the supply chain. Apple has long been a tech player known for its product quality and closed system approach. Unfortunately, its software is confined to non-rugged hardware like the iPhone and iPad, which may not be suited for use inside a warehouse. Apple is also reportedly the only supplier for these devices in the warehouse as outside retailers are not permitted to sell them for supply chain use.
TechTarget data showed Android-operated rugged handheld device adoption experienced an increase of roughly 15 percent between 2014 and early 2016. At the same time, other OSs remained relatively static and Microsoft legacy software predictably fell. Unlike Apple, Android is designed for easy adoption by third party providers, likely fueling its rise in use.
Regardless of OS chosen, companies may need to pay for new hardware that is compatible. This purchase may seem initially expensive but it is worth it. New tech is typically faster and better connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This will lead to productivity increases and may even enable companies to reduce the costs of labor.
If the budget is tight, a system like Android looks even more appealing. However, companies should remember that software being hardware agnostic does not mean it will perform at the same level on every piece of technology. Older equipment may be able to switch over to Android, but will still likely perform slower than new purchases.
Warehouses must be fast, accurate and safe. Companies that do not upgrade risk being left behind in all three segments. Recent Ivanti research indicated that over half of companies are planning to upgrade away from their legacy systems. Around that same percentage are also still in early stages of mobile implementation.
The modern warehouse is more complicated than the old one, filled with mobile devices that function in an ever-evolving OS landscape. Companies must make a decision with the future in mind.
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