The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, in which organizations save on buying individual devices for each employee by allowing employees to use their own smartphones and tablets for work purposes, continues expanding across industries. It will only be a matter of time before personal devices become widespread in food facilities.
“The last number I saw was around 20 percent of food manufacturers using mobile tools on the production floor,” says Reid Paquin, food and beverage industry analyst for GE Digital. “However, that number is rising.”
Paquin says that although the risk posed by BYOD-mandated devices in food facilities is relatively low compared to other contaminating factors, he stresses lower risk does not at all mean “no danger at all.”
“The biggest risk that stands out is the fact that personal devices are rarely cleaned and can serve as reservoirs for microorganisms and germs,” he says. “While the device itself may not come in direct contact with a processing line, it could come in contact with a worker’s hands or equipment, which can transfer contaminates.”
Systemic solutions to prevent contamination from smartphones and tablets are beginning to enter the market.
The CleanSlate UV Sanitizer is a box that can sanitize a smartphone in under a minute using UV light. The device was originally designed by Toronto-based company Limestone Labs for use in hospitals, but is now being marketed to the food industry as well.
While high-tech solutions for BYOD contamination problems may be around the corner, Paquin stresses that, in the meantime, individuals can still make a big difference through proper hand sanitization.
“If I had to guess, I would say less than half take enough precaution with mobile electronic devices,” he says, “which I think can be attributed to a lack of awareness. The food processing industry should look towards a sector like healthcare and adopt the lessons they have learned when it comes to sanitation and control of personal devices.”