DataJAR interview: Aaron Freimark – from Enterprise iOS to GroundControl

Mark TsuchihashiDeployment

Here at dataJAR we like to keep you up to date with the latest developments in Apple Device Management and the technologies that could make a difference to your world.

Which is why our Director & Founder James Ridsdale was delighted to interview Aaron Freimark, CTO & Founder of GroundControl. Aaron set up Xsanity and, the latter being one of the world’s most respected blogs/sites/communities for administrators of iPads and iPhones.

It’s a major coup for us to have secured this interview, featuring two heavy weights of the Apple Device Management world talking all things Apple Device Management and GroundControl. 

Introducing Aaron Freimark


“I started out wanting to be a graphic designer,” reveals Aaron, “and I think being creative is really important in technical fields. It makes guys like us good problem solvers.”

“I’ve been involved with Apple and Enterprise – at that intersection – for my entire career, about 25 years”, continues Aaron. During this time he helped businesses, governments and education establishments solve their Apple challenges and headaches. “I was their ‘Apple guy,’” he smiles.

His experiences led him to create Xsanity and then Enterprise iOS, the go-to place for information for iPad management and debate. Both sites were born through the need to create and share best practice for complex and new Apple technologies.

Aaron’s latest offering is GroundControl – a solution that makes iOS deployment and supervision swift and simple whilst resolving shared-use devices challenges.

Enterprise iOS – a Community is born

Enterprise iOS was born in 2010, when the iPhone was just beginning to be adopted and used within business.

“Mobile Device Management was new and there was a lot of confusion about MDM,” says Aaron. “So I started a comparison of MDM vendors. To date, Enterprise iOS has had 600,000 visits and there are 100 MDM providers listed on its MDM comparison wiki pages.”

iOS – the early challenges

In the early days, Aaron and his team worked via the website, helping community members overcome their challenges with iPhone and iPads. 

Businesses wanted to adopt mobile devices but there were many questions. “They were asking what they should be doing in regards to acceptable user policies and how they should work with BYOD infrastructure,” recalls Aaron. “And then other real world questions like: should they always lock down devices, or they should keep them open?” 

It was an interesting and exciting technology space to be working in. The challenges were fresh and new and hadn’t been encountered before.

The origins of GroundControl


“I’ve always been interested in shared devices and corporate-owned devices,” says Aaron, and there were two early and key iPad projects that really stood out for him.

“There was for a cable TV company who were going to be distributing 4000 iPads to their repair-tech employees. Employees were encouraged to personalise their devices, purchase apps and make the devices their own. And the result was that breakage reports were less than 1% over the first year (as compared to 10% in normal-ware scenarios). And that’s because, I think, the company had allowed them to put their kids’ photos on them, to personalise them. It was really remarkable, by any measure, how successful it was.” 

“The second project was putting iPads in airport terminals and waiting rooms. That started out as 150 iPads in one terminal, and that grew to be a few hundred, then a 1000 in another airport in Minneapolis, and on from there… It was fun and challenging.”

“No one really knew how to do public devices like that,” he continues. “The only company doing anything similar was Apple at their Apple stores, but they had an army of staff to refresh devices regularly.” The airport iPads needed to be completely locked down and kept in a good state for public use with minimum touch from IT. “They’d sit there for months being used by countless people a day,” says Aaron, “and we created a really robust solution.”

The airport project got a lot of exposure and requests came pouring in from other businesses wanting to learn how to do the same thing. And that was when Aaron and his team decided to “bottle-up our iOS deployment knowledge” and make it available to others as GroundControl.

So, what is GroundControl?


“GroundControl is, in essence, a way to make iOS deployment very simple,” explains Aaron. “Anyone can set up an iOS device just by tapping through the dozen or so set-up assistant screens. But what if you have 10, 100, 1000 or even 10,000 or more devices?” he asks. “Then it gets tiring very quickly. It doesn’t make any sense and is a tremendous amount of work.”

GroundControl enables you to reduce the number of steps. “Because anything you can shave off projects of this scale will save you thousands of dollars,” explains Aaron. “And if you can shave off even more steps – or all of them? Well, that’s even better. And that’s where GroundControl comes in.” 

“What about existing solutions like Apple Configurator and Device Enrolment Procedure?” asks James.

“Yes, they can do similar things for certain types of user and market,” replies Aaron, “and those groups should certainly use them – I encourage them to. But GroundControl is a great solution for shared use devices where there is no specific end user, with devices being set up centrally rather than by end users or local IT. In large companies and institutions, the person designing the workflow is often different from the person using/managing the devices locally, so GroundControl uses a different model. The end user doesn’t have to be involved in configuration or deployment – they don’t have to do a thing. They receive a finished product very easily and quickly, that works, is consistent and is ready to go.”

“Excellent stuff!” replies James.

DataJAR – GroundControl’s UK Partner

“We’re certainly seeing a lot of the same issues in the UK with shared-use,’ adds James, “not least where people aren’t specialists in deployment. For example, in schools or universities where workflows are often designed by central IT, but the people plugging in the devices don’t have skills around deploying and managing iPads. They just want to be able to plug them in and be ready to teach.”

DataJAR are proud to be GroundControl’s Premiere UK Partner, helping education and business customers to overcome their shared use, supervision and deployment challenges. 

GroundControl is cloud-based and can be used on a Mac or PC, maximising access and minimising the cost for any additional hardware to host and manage the solution.

If you’d like to know more about GroundControl, see a demo or evaluate the solution, please get in touch.

James Ridsdale was talking to Aaron Freimark on 22nd January 2016