Phoenix Technologies, a company better known for BIOS manufacturing, has decided to jump into the device management market. The company announced Phoenix FailSafe, which they have termed as a "command and control" system for laptop PCs. While their main focus has been on theft prevention, there are numerous hooks into the system that allow for features that are more like out of band management than they are simple asset recovery.
Phoenix's FailSafe system is akin to Absolute Software's LoJack for PCs. Information about the PC: IP and Wi-Fi connection information, GPS location information, etc is periodically sent to Phoenix's datacenter where the information is stored. In the event that a laptop is lost or stolen, a user can log into Phoenix's web management system and report the laptop is stolen, encrypt the PC, disable the PC (through a BIOS lockout) or disable the PC by overwriting the BIOS and basically bricking the device. One interesting feature is that Phoenix has is integration to embedded web cameras which are found in an increasing number of laptops. When a web camera is integrated into the laptop, Phoenix's FailSafe has the ability to record the image of the user at the keyboard, useful in prosecuting whoever stole your device. Just what data gets recorded and how often can be set via FailSafe's web management system.
When we briefed with Phoenix we were impressed by the possibilities that could exist in future revisions. For instance, the company says that they have the ability to periodically "wake" a laptop today and transmit recorded data either over an unsecured AP or Ethernet connection if available. However if the system is integrated with a 3G or WiMAX radio, Phoenix would have a more pervasive connectivity medium plus another source for location information. The company has stated that 3G integration is on its roadmap. Finally, because Phoenix's FailSafe is integrated into the BIOS, the company has the ability to turn FailSafe into a remote management system in addition to leveraging its asset tracking capabilities. How this will develop in future releases will be interesting to watch. Phoenix is currently working with several OEMs to release FailSafe to the public and integrate it into forthcoming laptops. OEMs will resell FailSafe as a branded subscription service.