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New iPhone benefits app reflects the highs and lows of mobility, and offers a caveat for HR

by Scott Wallask

December 1, 2010

By Scott Wallask, SAP Experts

A new, HR-related product I learned about today symbolically offers a nice summary of the advantages of mobile technology, along with its pitfalls.

This week, Buck Consultants, a Xerox company, launched Benefits Genie. The Apple iPhone application allows users to store various healthcare information on their devices, such as doctor appointments, insurance deductibles, medications, and communications with caregivers.

In today’s on-the-go environment, it’s certainly practical to let people access their medical information from anywhere at any time. And as smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices slowly crawl into all aspects of our personal and professional lives, applications of every hue will come forth.

While the features of the Benefits Genie app sound wonderful, the new technology also reiterates a sizable risk with going mobile: It’s relatively easy for someone to steal your personal health in formation or even your identity from your mobile device, compared to accessing the information from a desktop computer.

For example, a You Tube video about Benefits Genie mentions the ability to load a virtual insurance card onto your smartphone. Imagine a hooligan who grabs your smartphone on the train and is then able to find your insurance policy number and perhaps the last four digits of your social security number. That thief may now have enough information to get past security checks with an insurance carrier.

To protect privacy, Benefits Genie requires users to enter a personal identification number, according to Buck Consultants. But a diligent rogue can eventually overcome even the best safeguards.

Similar risks also hold true for enterprises that allow employees access to company information via mobile devices. Mobility in the workplace is a trend that is just beginning to bloom, and for SAP ERP HCM professionals, that opens the door to a whole new area of HR training and education.

Follow Scott on Twitter @HR_expert

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