Networking giant Cisco announced plans this week for an expansion of its Jasper Internet of Things service that will include a new capability that will allow enterprises to more easily connect and manage their employees' mobile devices. The expansion includes the launch of a new platform called Control Center for Mobile Enterprise.

The company is marketing the new platform primarily as a way for enterprises to lower their telecom costs and ensure those costs are consistent and predictable by providing real-time visibility into the amount of data employees are using on their devices.

No More Surprise Charges

One of the biggest challenges for companies trying to keep their mobile costs down is the unpredictable nature of usage charges. Companies frequently don't learn that their employees have exceeded their data plans until 30 to 60 days later, according to Cisco. And that lag between data use and reporting can make it difficult to manage connection costs.

Cisco said that the Control Center for Mobile Enterprise will allow managers to see, in real time, exactly how much data an employee is currently consuming on a device, and how much the company is being charged for that data by the carrier. By providing that usage data faster and more transparently, Cisco said it will be easier for companies to control their employees’ data usage and prevent overage charges before they're incurred.

Rather than reviewing months' worth of past invoices to figure out how to avoid service charges, enterprises can use the Control Center to create and enforce roaming policies that can detect when employees are about to go over their allotted minutes and automatically upgrade them to the next service tier. The platform can also be used to detect when a SIM card has been removed from a device and block it to prevent fraudulent use.

Simpler Management

But reducing overage charges is not the only selling point Cisco is using to market its new enterprise mobility management platform. The company is also pitching it as a way for companies to reduce inefficiencies in managing mobile devices by automating many of the more labor-intensive requirements.

For example, basic tasks such as adding new features, suspending subscriptions, swapping SIM cards, and upgrading devices can be labor-intensive and require the cooperation of multiple IT personnel. Cisco said the Control Center can reduce much of the work that goes into these tasks, allowing a smaller IT department to manage the devices of larger groups with only a few clicks.

"In the next two years, business smartphones will grow to over 1 billion subscribers globally," said Jeff Orr, research director at ABI Research, in a Cisco statement. "There is an immediate market need for solutions that help enterprises automate device connectivity, usage accounting, and service management, to curtail unnecessary mobility expenses."

Cisco said it plans to first launch the platform in Canada through a partnership with Telus, a Canadian telecom company. The company plans to partner with additional service providers in other countries as it expands into other markets.