Logan City Council relieves SOE stress with iPads

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Logan City Council relieves SOE stress with iPads
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The iPad project is not the council's first foray into mobile systems but it is the first that resolves some of the challenges that stalled earlier initiatives.

"The technology really hasn't been there," Barclay says of past projects.

"It's always been a case of the best we could do is for [officers] to take all the information into the field, try and update it in the field and then bring it back to the office."

One early challenge was having a field officer connect into a system that expected the officer to stay connected throughout the session - a particular challenge for food inspectors.

"They're in and out of fridges so they needed to be available both on and offline, because when you go into a restaurant fridge it's fully enclosed and you can't get online," Barclay says.

"If the end application behind the scenes wants to stay connected all the time and you have a drop out, the user has got to log back in and it becomes cumbersome."

Other past challenges involved dealing with latency, which forced users to "keep re-keying" data into the corporate systems.

"It just gets frustrating for them," Barclay says.

According to Barclay, the arrival of tablets and smartphones - and the ability to work on and offline - helped breathed new life into enterprise mobility projects.

"We saw the advent of the [tablet] devices - iPads were first out - and the large storage space you could have on them," he says.

"We started looking at how we could satisfy the needs of the officers in the field and the customer needs and try and do it as simply as possible."

The newer tablets were intuitive - something lacking in previous mobile systems - and importantly, they were also cost-effective.

"When you're buying an iPad and paying $20-30 a month for the data service, it's not a huge investment, whereas years ago to get the same service you were probably paying $10,000 to $20,000 a user a year and that's a big cost to recover," Barclay says.

"Our return-on-investment for this project is well and truly under 12 months," he says, although he declines to reveal exactly how much was spent.

Desktop relief

A potentially larger benefit to Logan City Council of encouraging iPad use is that it relieves pressure on the organisation's architecture strategy.

The council's desktop environment is Windows XP - and Barclay says that any future change to the standard operating environment (SOE) is going to be a "huge job".

He says that the increased use of iPads "helps us relieve the pressure behind-the-scenes".

"What I mean by that was the challenge of us - with the number of applications we run in council - changing our SOE desktop. [That is] a huge job for us," Barclay says.

"If we can start to move people out onto other platforms such as the Apple tablets and reduce our dependency on Office and things like that, in the future it's going to help us when we look at putting in new SOEs."

The iPad mobility project could eventually be applied to officers working in development assessments, animal and pest services, road infrastructure management and parks.

Executives are also being encouraged to adopt iPads as part of a bring-your-own (BYO) device program.

"They get reimbursed partially for [the iPad] and they can use it in the corporate environment but they own and they support [it] themselves," Barclay says.

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