“The attorneys in California have become one of our sales channels,” explains Gary Greenbaum, CEO of Syntonic. An increasing number of calls to the Seattle-based firm, he says, open with: “Our lawyers told us to call you.”
The spike in enquiries comes as a result of a 2014 lawsuit from an employee of a food delivery service over the business related use of his personal mobile. The California Court of Appeal ruled that the employer had to pay a “reasonable percentage of their cellphone bills”.
Actions in other states and rulings covering data usage seem likely, sending CIOs who have launched bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes in search of a solution.
Syntonic, which listed on the ASX today, believes it has the answer – an app which allows companies to accurately separate the mobile data used for business from that used by personal apps.
Splitting business from pleasure
“You’re looking at your mobile data bill and it shows data and time but it doesn’t show you what you actually used it for. Were you using Dropbox for business or playing on Facebook? It can’t differentiate,” explains CMO, Ben Rotholtz. For businesses with BYOD strategies in place, Rotholtz says, “there’s a lot of guessing going on. And it’s kind of scary territory if you're IT.”
Syntonic DataFlex splits an employee’s phone into a ‘business side and a personal side’. An employee downloads the app and signs in with their company credentials. This brings up a company branded library of apps approved for business use. Once an employee signs in, the data used by using sanctioned apps is recorded so it can be reimbursed through integration with their company’s expense management system.
“This way the user knows that the data is being taken care of,” says CIO and Syntonic co-founder Rahul Agarwal. “They don’t have to worry about whether I’m using my personal plan or whether I’m going to be reimbursed or not. They know it’s being paid for by the company. I don’t have to worry about it.”
On the company side, an analytics dashboard gives CIOs insight into the usage of each sanctioned app by employee, department, company or date. Different departments can be assigned different apps and data caps or geographic restrictions can be set.
Reimbursement future divided
There are only a handful of competitors in the split-billing space – like Good Technology’s Good Work for Data and OpenPeak’s Toggle – and none have emerged as market leader. Yet.
Greenbaum believes Syntonic’s solution is superior, promising data cost savings of up to 50 per cent and productivity boosts of up to 10 per cent. There are also savings to be made in the administration cost of making expense claims, as well as better software license management.
Despite the threat of lawsuits, demand for split-billing solutions could go either way. There has only been one related legal action in the US, and none in countries like Australia or the UK where BYOD is popular.
A 2015 Gartner survey of six countries found that more than 80 per cent of workers who use a personal device for work do not receive reimbursement for mobile or internet access services. A report from May this year found the average amount paid to employees for personal device use had fallen by about 25 per cent since April 2014.
Some predict reimbursements will disappear completely.
Nevertheless, BYOD is big. More than 70 per cent of workers indicate that they use a personal device for work, according to Gartner, representing a huge opportunity for viable solutions.
Syntonic is currently piloting deployments in the US and plans to tap into US, UK and China markets and ‘absolutely’ Australia. The company hopes to set up office on these shores later this year.
It’s consumer-focused offering FreeWay by Syntonic – an app for companies to offer sponsored data to users to play games, access specific content or use apps overseas – is being targeted at the Southeast Asian market.
“We believe 2016 is the year of sponsored data,” added Greenbaum. “and Southeast Asia and Latin America are emerging as the world’s largest and most active prepaid data markets, where consumers have demonstrated an enormous appetite for accessing mobile content and apps.
“Both [enterprise and consumer markets] are very, very big. Just capturing a very small percentage of it makes us a very successful company.”