By Biju Nair, President & CEO, HYLA
The holiday season is upon us, and that means many of us will be purchasing new smartphones and other electronics for our friends, family, and even for business use. As we go down the path of phone replacement or new purchases, we need to also think about the proper disposal, trade-in, and securing of our replaced smartphones and the content that sits on the device, while making sure that we manage reclaiming residual monetary value of our old device. First thing we need to do is make sure we are protecting our personal and business data before we even begin the process of selling back, trading in, or recycling our smartphone devices.
Securing the Device
Consumers have a general fear and need to protect their pictures, contacts, and personal content, and this is even more important when the device is being used for business purposes and maybe there is confidential content and information that needs to be properly wiped and secured. Most people will ask their carrier, retailer, or buyback vendor the steps to take to properly wipe the device and some will even delete content themselves. Here at HYLA Mobile, since we work with many of the top carriers and retailers for device trade-in programs, we have a contractual obligation to make sure all devices are certified to be data cleared and this means all data is completely wiped. Even in cases where the device does not power on or the data port is broken, we will first send the device to a secure repair facility to be repaired, so we can complete the wiping of all personal and business data before that device leaves our warehouse back to the carrier or elsewhere. We have been doing this for more than 6.5 years and have had zero data breaches, of which we are very proud of. This is supported through specialized technology that certifies the data wipe and automates the process.
There is no specific standard or certification that a consumer or business can look for when evaluating buyback vendors, but every reputable vendor has the obligation to wipe the smartphone properly or they risk jeopardizing their own and their customers reputation. There have been isolated instances of this not taking place or data being sold by other vendors out there in the marketplace. Because HYLA has obligations to the carriers or retailers it partners with, we have very strict standards for data privacy and data clearing and internally maintain the highest security standards and adhere to client’s expectations and obligations. We insure this by implementing random audits and also continue to automate processes to allow for proper checks and balances. Also, we review a daily report on processed devices. For example, we may process 30K phones in a particular day, and have to make sure that all 30K are either completely data cleared or are accounted for in repair and recycle. This same careful attention to our internal data wiping and security is performed the same whether that device is used for business or personal purposes
Warranty, Repair & Insurance
Another area of concern for businesses, is making sure that employees have zero down-time when it comes to insuring and repairing smartphones used in the workplace. Typically all devices that come back to HYLA’s warehouse will have a set amount to be processed and sent back to the carrier or retailer as they have first priority of the inventory. If they need them for warranty and insurance obligations then they forecast that monthly and let HYLA know of how many devices are needed by make/model. The carriers, along with HYLA, are involved in the proper planning for the number of devices to fulfill insurance and warranty, including repurposed and secondary devices. The fulfillment fluctuates monthly and it can be anywhere from 10% of devices collected up to 30-40%, depending on holidays, winter, summer season, etc. In the summer for example, you will see a spike in insurance and repair usage due to phones being dropped in the water while on vacation or doing more outdoor activities. HYLA will send collected devices to the Refurbish vendor of choice for that carrier or retailer. They are then repaired, prepared and rekitted/boxed to send back to the stores or carrier offices. The goal is to focus on speed to market, getting those refurbished devices back into the hands of consumers.
The Holiday Rush
The holidays can be a time to get rid of that digital dust and get a new device, replace older ones, and recycle devices to benefit those in need. This holiday season we expect to be fairly similar to 2015 in terms of buying volume and could be slightly higher. There are a few things we do to prepare for the flood of incoming used devices. We first make sure systems can handle the volume and our servers are handling loads properly. We conduct load testing in mid-year to prepare for new device launches and perform testing during busy holiday periods. We also use a monitoring system, that provide automated alerts when servers fail or stores have issues with trade-ins not working. We also ramp up in staff, where we sometimes triple our total staff in the months of September through January to manage increase in device grading, processing, disposing, wiping, handling, and sell back to emerging markets. For us the sooner the device is properly processed and leaves our factory warehouse, the faster the capital can be returned to our clients, the carriers or retailers.
As this is the season of giving, there are a number of ways you can donate your unused smartphone devices. There are many programs that collect the devices, and will in return use the proceeds for selling those devices back into the secondary markets, for those in need including Veterans of War, people in emerging countries, schools, and other places. Facebook has a Smart Restart program where they will accept smartphones as donations or trade them in. These devices are then sold for proceeds where money is used to provide to connectivity in emerging markets. Together with HYLA Mobile, Facebook and Medic Mobile have teamed up in delivering healthcare to the hardest-to-reach communities by getting more phones to frontline health workers. Emerging Markets are often in need of technology and receiving donated smartphones can be life-changing. HYLA prepares the devices for use overseas, and also makes sure the SKU number for that device has the spectral frequencies to be used overseas (for example LTE).