An idyllic image of the mobile workplace of tomorrow is an individual happily typing away on a laptop lounging on a tropical beach or mountain retreat. But in reality will this be liberating for a remote employee or just spoil a good holiday? More importantly, would it work to benefit the organisation? Such dilemmas are becoming more commonplace as smart mobile devices proliferate, leaving enterprises to grapple with how best to use newfound data mobility to boost productivity and profits. Ubiquitous computing is inevitable and the launch of more high-speed wireless technologies continues, according to market researcher IDC. Providing a robust infrastructure of wireless hot spots will increasingly be seen as a competitive necessity for regions or cities. 'Tourists and commercial visitors will not just check the weather and hotels, but the availability of wireless hot spots,' said Avneesh Saxena, vice-president of computing systems research at IDC. Moreover, competitive pressures in the globalised economy will push companies to secure costs savings where they can. High-priced commercial real estate is one factor that is leading people to work remotely. Although offices will not be abandoned overnight, the blurring of lines between corporate and home time is presenting new challenges. Chief among them for ?IT managers is security, particularly when 30 to 40 per cent of the information found on smartphones is corporate, according to IDC. Part of the problem is when this mobility is introduced via the back door, as workers bring their latest gizmos into the office, rather than as a result of a specific company policy. Because more than half of all computers sold in Singapore and Hong Kong in the first quarter were laptops and 90 per cent had Wi-fi access, this phenomenon looks likely to continue. One solution is to restrict employees to corporate networks and prohibit the use of foreign devices. This can mean certain public Web access is denied, such as Hotmail accounts, to increase data security. The catch is the resulting trade-off between security and cost versus the lost flexibility. According to Davina Yeo, director of telecommunications services research at IDC, IT managers have given up trying to standardise all employees on one device. 'It's just not going to happen as individuals are reluctant to switch networks due to family or friends,' she said. Some hope may have been placed with multifunctional 3G phones. But so far operators have been focusing largely on consumers and few companies use the technology capabilities in a commercial setting. Most of the running in the business space has been provided by the BlackBerry mobile e-mail device. It may be a niche product but it has attained almost cult status for the indispensable executive. Norman Lo, regional vice-president of Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, said it was security and not the device's smart looks that was the key to adoption. 'It is mission-critical and No1 on customers' and our agenda.' Unfortunately, it seems few in Hong Kong can look forward to exotic remote working soon. IDC's survey of local businesses revealed 64 per cent of respondents had no plans to provide mobile e-mail in the next two years. Leaving aside cost and technology considerations, cultural obstacles are also likely to be at play. The David Brents among line managers are likely to find it hard to trust subordinates to work out of eyeshot. And it is worth remembering that such 'any time, anywhere' connectivity can be a double-edged sword if your breakfast ends up being interrupted by an urgent e-mail from the office.