Device Ban Part I
Checking in Laptops Carry Risk of Losing Devices, Sensitive Data
The electronic device ban came into effect today, impacting air travel from some countries to the U.S. and the U.K. Passengers from the countries hit by the ban are barred from bringing devices such as laptops and iPads on board and will need to put them in any baggage that is checked in.
If the device restrictions encompass all countries, just as the liquids ban enforced in 2006 did, the implications may be far-reaching and have a bearing on the corporate bottomline of all airlines. A distinct possibility is businesses getting their focus back on minimising travel and tapping virtual, video-based meetings.
Those travelling on business will NOT want to check laptops and iPads in as they deprive them of the leeway to carry out any business work during their flights.
Laptops Contain Sensitive Business Data – Threat of Missing Baggage
There is also the risk of losing the devices as the spectre of missing baggage is not uncommon on flights.
I had once landed myself in such a scenario when I was on a flight from New York to London. But then the missing baggage contained only inexpensive personal belongings (such as clothing) as I still had my laptop with me intact, so there was no disruption to my work schedule. Even during a recent business travel to Washington DC, a colleague was caught in a similar situation.
A more serious issue is that laptops contain sensitive business information and any loss of the equipment could potentially lead to a compromise on corporate data security. A lesser risk is damage to the equipment in a checked-in baggage, a possibility that cannot be ruled out.
How Emirates is Dealing with this!
To mitigate this, some airlines such as Emirates have offered to pack the devices into boxes that will be returned to the passengers on arrival at their destination. This translates to extra burden and costs to passengers.
But travellers who fly through multiple legs do not have this privilege and will need to check the devices in at their first point of boarding.
Triggering Explosions Through Devices
The ban has arisen from apprehensions that tech-savvy terror outfits could trigger explosions through bombs expertly concealed within electronic devices.
A few years ago, at the Singapore airport it was not enough to just take the laptop out of the bag for scanning, it had to be powered on for security personnel’s examination. I detested it, but luckily the practice was abandoned later.
TelePresence and Videoconferencing
So, if the partial ban stays and if it extends to all countries, how will businesses brace up for it?
I guess virtual meetings will become the norm. When TelePresence, the innovation that is the closest alternative to being on site, was introduced a decade or so ago that was a boon for businesses who could save on travel costs. Even universities started conducting virtual classes without the need to fly experts to different locations.
So, will the ban be a blessing in disguise for companies? Possibly to some extent!
In my next post on the topic, I will discuss factors that will keep face-to-face communications alive.
G Joslin Vethakumar