blog If you work in the media relations team for a major Australian technology vendor, you’ll know that Delimiter is usually only after one thing and one thing only: Local customer wins and case studies. As a site, Delimiter focuses quite squarely on examples of Australian deployments of new technology, when it comes to the enterprise IT sector.
The reason for this is simple: There are literally tens of thousands of enterprise IT products and services out there, and hundreds of decently sized vendors selling them. It would be impossible to cover them all, and meaningless to try reviewing them.
Consequently, with Delimiter, one of the site’s major focuses is to cover actual deployments of new technology, rather than the products themselves, and to specifically focus on Australian deployments of those technologies. By providing insight into what technologies Australian organisations are deploying, and how, we hope to be of some assistance to readers who work inside those organisations. Knowing what the neighbours are up to is always useful.
Over the past several years, one of the holes in our coverage has been corporate deployment of Android devices.
It is quite apparent that the way Australian enterprises have been using smartphone and other mobile devices has changed markedly over the past few years. If we go back only a few years, it was common to see enterprises dominated by brands such as BlackBerry (on the handset end), and Lenovo, Dell and HP on the laptop end.
The entrance of Apple’s iPhone into the market changed much of this. We’ve seen tonnes of iPhone deployments in Australia, with most of them replacing existing BlackBerry fleets to some extent. And, courtesy of Microsoft’s comprehensive enterprise software stack, we’ve also seen quite a few deployments of Windows Phone 7/8 over the past several years, usually linked to hardware from Nokia. At the same time, we’ve seen many examples of corporate iPad deployments as Apple’s tablet took off in mainstream adoption.
What we haven’t seen as many examples of is corporate Android deployments. Although Google’s baby has become the most popular mobile operating system in the consumer market, and although Android devices are popular on the Bring Your Own Device style of plans which quite a few corporates have implemented, what we haven’t seen many examples of are actual fleet-wide deployments of Android as a standard platform.
To help remedy this situation, today we present three decently sized deployments of Android in the Australian market on Samsung’s hardware, which Samsung has dug up from its archives over the past several years after a little prompting :)
I want to warn readers ahead of time that, obviously, as these case studies were supplied by Samsung, they don’t contain any hard criticism; they are a bit fluffy and light. Read them in the spirit they’ve been supplied: As examples of Android enterprise deployments in Australia as supplied by a vendor, but without insight into any problems which may have been suffered throughout deployment. They’re interesting, but light.
The first case study (download the PDF here) involves Scientific Pest Management (SPM), a mid-sized player in the local pest industry with around 85 staff in 18 different locations around the country. The company’s business model involves employing many field technicians who need to inspect control devices (such as fly trap units, rodent bait stations and aerosol dispensers) in the field as well as recording associated data.
Historically, the firm conducted this data collecting on paper, with the technicians then delivering it back to the office for manual tallying and data input.
This issue came to a head in 2012 when the company bid for a tender to provide pest solutions to Brisbane Markets, Queensland’s only central market for fresh fruit and vegetables. The Brisbane Markets site (77 hectares) was known to be extremely challenging from a pest management perspective, with over 1,400 rodent stations to check each month. In order to win the contract, SPM needed a computerised system, both to read barcodes and collect the required data.
The solution involved a system devised by Brisbane-based IT services company Entwined Solutions, which developed an electronic firms system which allowed data to be automatically fed back into a central platform. Entwined chose Samsung’s Galaxy Note II smartphone to host the forms, based on its larger screen size, camera and ability to use the included S Pen stylus to annotate images. The Note II units can also be equipped with barcode readers. The success of the platform later led to SPM winning a follow-up contract for electricity meter reading on the site.
We considered other devices but they just didn’t provide the screen size and flexibility that the Samsung device offered. we see us transitioning to Samsung across our whole business in the future,” said SPM managing director Chris Jones.
The second case study (download the PDF here) involved Central Highlands Water, a regional water corporation operating in Ballarat and surrounding areas in Victoria. The group has some 190 staff and provides water and waste water services to 130,000 people in an area of around 9.275 square kilometres.
Like SPM, Central Highlands Water has a field staff (about 100 employees) who need to do inspections and gather readings across the region. And also like SPM, the group’s previous system was based on paper.
The solution was an engagement with Thomas Duryea Consulting, which implemented a Citrix back-end solution to deliver applications to a horde of Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, connected to a 3G mobile broadband network and using Sherlock software to lock the devices into a limited “kiosk mode”. Data is fed back into Central Highlands Water’s head office in real-time.
““The efficiencies and turn-around times gained from Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets working seamlessly with the Citrix solution in the back-end have been phenomenal,” said the group’s chief information officer Rod Apostol. “Instead of a week or two, data can now be turned around in hours. We have stopped the duplication of effort that the old paper-based system required and we have better visibility as to what is happening in the field in almost real-time.”
The rollout has had wider implications for Central Highlands Water’s business, in that it is now able to look proactively at trends and make quicker decisions about transferring water from one reservoir to another or treating potential water quality issues before there was an alert. Staff have also welcomed the new platform. “The response from staff has been tremendous,” said Apostol. “They are stopping management in the hall with thoughts and new ideas about how to use applications and further drive efficiencies.”
The last case study (download the PDF here) involves Silver Chain Group, a large not-for-profit health and community care organisations, which provides a large range of services to assist people in their homes; focusing on helping its clients achieve their own independence for as long as possible. The group has over 3,000 staff and 400 volunteers, assisting more than 87,000 people each year.
As with the other two examples, Silver Chain’s records were paper-based and located in each client’s home, meaning that staff could not get access to them without actually visiting the client.
“We were looking to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of visits – to help make it easy for staff to be prepared and informed about a client’s health or aware of some potential risks (staff safety) or client preferences before a visit, potentially increasing the available hours of care and decreasing the amount of time spent behind the wheel of a car or in an office,” said Lee Davis, Chief Information Officer at Silver Chain Group.
In order to resolve the situation, Silver Chain established EOS Technologies as a social enterprise to develop and implement ComCare, an enterprise healthcare solution with a mobile application designed for direct care staff. The group ended up standardising on Samsung’s devices for its rollout.
“Flexibility was key for us, as the devices needed to be used by both staff in the field, conducting a range of services, and clients who may not be familiar with the technology,” said Davis. Silver Chain Group deployed a range of Samsung mobile devices, including over 2,000 Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4, Note and Note II smartphones, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, 10.1 and Tab 10.1 tablet devices to direct care staff and clients.
“The Samsung Tab 10.1 was suitable where a large screen was necessary to view information and utilise new communication methods, such as video conferencing,” said Davis. “Other staff simply required a compact way to access their appointment schedule and basic client information for which the Samsung smartphones were helpful. There are also staff who enjoy the option to use the Galaxy Note devices’ S-Pen to access and input information.”
The devices are used for multiple purposes, including secure mobile access to clients’ healthcare records, as well as communications in remote areas (including the delivery of telehealth information from medical devices such as pulse oximeters, blood-glucose monitors, weighing scales and thermometers (with data transmitted via Bluetooth-enabled Samsung devices over mobile networks. Data from the devices is transmitted back to base where it is monitored by nurses, who respond when they receive “out of bounds” data.
Videoconferencing with the devices has also been a hit. Nurses can connect with remote clients for medication prompts or insulin administration or to ssist clients with some medication requirements without the need to visit the client.
Silver Chain Group has also witnessed an “unexpected social benefit” arise from the implementation of the Samsung devices. The group has learned of some Aged Care clients virtually connecting to distant family and friends and clients asking to keep the device. “Since implementing the mobility solution we have heard of clients becoming comfortable with the devices and we welcome personal use in their homes. We’ve received great feedback about the readability of the large screens, and the ability for clients to video conference family, helping them to keep in touch more often,” said Davis.
There appear to be two common threads between the three case studies. Firstly, Android is being used as a mobile platform to soak up data which was previously being collected by hand on paper in the field and then manually (manually!) input into enterprise applications back at each organisation’s premises. Typically 3G mobile broadband is being used to provide the connection.
Secondly, in each case, it appears that once the devices were deployed, staff at each organisation started to find extra uses for them, including uses that could potentially help the organisation’s wider business. We’re not just talking about technical outcomes here — but also business outcomes, stemming from the quicker and more accurate collection of data, or extra abilities inherent to the devices and the Android platform.
These threads can also be found in similar case studies of iOS and Windows deployments — they’re not unique to Android or Samsung.
Unique to these case studies is that the enterprises appear to be preferring in some cases to deploy Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone and tablet line, because of the S-Pen stylus which comes with these models. This has also been a factor in the deployments of Windows 8 tablets in some Australian educational institutions, but not in iOS deployments, due to the lack of in-built stylus functionality in Apple’s iOS devices. Larger screen size also appears to have been a factor in some of these cases.
In general what these case studies also appear to show is that the Android platform does not appear to have been an impediment to enterprise adoption of Samsung’s hardware. Microsoft and Apple like to talk up the wider platform advantages of their rival mobile ecosystems. But in these cases at least, it appears that the actual operating system has been negated as a significant factor in the deployment, with the users tending to focus on the hardware advantages of the Samsung devices rather than software advantages.
I’m always looking for more material like this. If anyone else out there knows of other deployments of Android (or any other new and interesting technology, for that matter) in corporate environments, please feel free to get in touch. I’m always listening ;) In the meantime, I hope these three case studies are illuminating or at least interesting. Android is a solid platform. Australian enterprise deployments of the platform deserve to get more air time. Let’s hope we can find a few more.