Mobility solutions to drive competitive advantage

Mobility solutions to drive competitive advantage

CIOs discuss how investing in mobility helps give their business an edge

Gavin Gusling, General Manager IT at Grenda Corporation talks to Linda Kennedy

Gavin Gusling, General Manager IT at Grenda Corporation talks to Linda Kennedy

Grenda Corp CIO, Gavin Gusling

Assess the needs of the business

We have two solutions in the mobility space that we use. One is part of our commercial offering: The ability to put mobile devices into a chartered bus. We can then provide access to their private WAN via a connection to the Telstra network by having a private access point in the bus, giving kids the ability to link to the school network while travelling. We don’t have the issues with privacy and security — that’s the responsibility of the school — and the school gets the benefit of seeing what the kids are doing on the bus. But more importantly, the kids get an opportunity to do their homework and, if their school policy allows it, to go on Facebook or use the internet for other things. It is another value add that we have as part of our charter.

We also have the ability to track children when they get on and off the bus. A couple of schools have a barcode for students to scan when they get on a bus, so we know exactly which child got onto the bus and when he or she got off it. We then run a report showing which children were on a bus. It makes the whole management process a whole lot easier, covers a duty-of care issue, and it also helps parents who are worried about where their kids are.

The other project is more of an internal process: Our road co-ordinators are looking at where Grenda’s buses are going to be, and they have direct access into the SharePoint environment through a virtual private network using a Motorola Atrix smartphone and a keyboard. Then if they need to do any editing or form creation they can log into Citrix and have a full desktop anywhere with phone access. For us, having them out on the road is more productive than having them staying in the office and printing out schedules.

We’ve been fairly clear about not introducing mobility solutions into the business unless there is a reason for doing so. We’ve had mobile access, including BlackBerry and iPhone access, for a while, but it was only when a particular business process came to light that we realised we had a requirement that we could fix. The phone and keyboard were around $1500 and we save about half a person thanks to the project, so an ROI on the project is really easy to achieve.

Foxtel CIO, Robyn Elliott

Connect to your customers

Our main mobility service is our Foxtel TV guide smartphone app. This app gives consumers a TV guide for 14 days and the ability to record television shows using the app back to their Foxtel iQ device at home. Our customers can be anywhere at any time and be able to easily record their favourite TV shows if they’ve already forgotten to do so. We first launched this as an iPhone app back in 2009, and we now have an iPad, Android and Windows Phone 7 version of it.

The customers loved it when we first launched it because it provided them with another opportunity to access their content, as well as a chance to view the shows they want, when they want them. It has been one of our most popular projects and it was all based on a free app that has really taken off for us.

We provided a free guide to everything that was on Foxtel to our customers — all the channels, including the free to air ones — and customers really appreciated that, and have been able to pick and choose their TV viewing ever since.

We’ve added some features to the app since then. While it used to be only a 14-day guide and a record function, we’ve added a favourites list so that people can personalise a list of channels they like and focus on those. The app also has a reminder alert to let users know that their favourite television show is coming up 15 minutes before it begins, as well as a suggestion function that allows viewers to look at shows that have been recommended for them to watch. It helps people find new shows rather than only watching shows that they already view on a regular basis.

We have an ongoing development program, and a list of new features that are coming out shortly. It is based on customer feedback and what we think our audience will like, and it is Sounding board certainly more along the lines of getting things tailored to what the customer wants and what his or her individual needs are. When they were first launched, the apps were mainly used by people in taxis or at airports, but now people are using them in front of their television. We also have Foxtel on mobile devices through Telstra, and we actually have viewing on mobile devices themselves, so the audience will be able to watch regular Foxtel channels. That is an area of growth for us, and it is about bringing the viewing experience to the audience across devices.

We have interactive applications on our main broadcast service, and we build apps that go into our broadcast so that people can vote about a topic on Sky News, and pick and choose between streams of music on the music channels. Mobility for us is about putting the control into the hands of consumers, and letting them do what they want to do with their viewing.

Mobile apps also give our audience easy access to the social media side of things. Whether it be chatting on a forum about Australia’s Next Top Model, while watching the show, or some other form of Web 2.0 interaction based on the TV they are watching. We recently had a teenage-targeted show air, and as well as releasing the series we progressively provided access to music playlists that aired in the show and even things like graphic novels that were quite popular. It gives you that real interactivity and connection with your audience.

Watching television is quite a different experience to what it used to be, and a lot of people are now on their mobile or tablet device while watching a show to interact with their friends online. It’s moving very fast and it’s about connecting with consumers in a more interactive way.

Victoria University director ITS, Phil County

Innovating through mobility

Our university’s strategies are very much about delivering teaching and learning outcomes in the community and industry, as well as within the campus itself. So our mission and objectives are about more than just online delivery. We want to be able to deliver educational outcomes anywhere, anytime — and that means leveraging mobility.

This is more than one project — more a program of initiatives. One initiative we’re focused on is the concept of learning spaces. This is not a lecture theatre; it is breaking away from the traditional concept of a physical space where learning occurs bounded by walls. The new ‘Learning Spaces of the Future’ creates distributed physical and virtual spaces throughout communities, both on and off campus, where learning activities can take place. These activities might be standalone, in one space, or collaborative across multiple ‘locations’. It is a flexible and creative distributed learning environment; these learning spaces might be more of a social space rather than a workspace.

A critical component of this approach is the importance of video pedagogies for teaching and learning outcomes and how this can be embedded through such innovative learning spaces, which also includes extension to mobile devices.

We’ve undertaken several program pilots with various mobile devices including iPads. One program involved our education students. In the past these students traditionally attended formal lectures within university campuses followed by a period of practical experience as a ‘student teacher’ placed at a school. An alternative approach is to remove some of this separation of theoretical and practical training.

At our university many of these students are now undertaking some of their theoretical studies within actual schools as ‘pre-service teachers’ — practising what they are taught. In a way it reflects more of an apprentice model. Such practical learning opportunities may occur at several points during their course of study rather than a single block, often in their second and third years.

Of course this introduces more than a few challenges to their lecturers. Imagine if you’re the lecturer with your students in multiple school locations. Students also would like to engage with each other even though they aren’t in the same physical location. It is very, very mobile and our pilots have demonstrated the value of devices such as the iPad in supporting the development of new course delivery modes, especially with enhanced collaborative tools.

Students are also able to access learning content wherever they are, record observational or learning data, and engage in synchronous mentoring or with peer groups. Other similar pilot initiatives, such as with our nursing students, have been successful over the last 12 months with alternative devices such as Androids or laptops. This enhanced mobility is also being tightly integrated into the university’s unified communications framework so students can participate with each other, or their lecturers, via several different streams.

The university is currently looking at the curriculum model and our future e-learning environments, in addition to the Learning Space of the Future. Mobility and some form of distributed learning spaces will most likely be a key component of future teaching and learning strategies.

Many of our students will have access to courses or units of study in places that are most suited to their own individual needs. For example, within their existing workplace, home or community centres.

Teaching and learning objectives using e-learning modes, including mobility and distributed learning spaces, will challenge the creativity of both educators (e.g. content and delivery) and technologists, but ultimately it can achieve very positive outcomes of importance to this university’s mission: Empowering our students, through their communities, to achieve goals that can transform their lives.

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