Jun 11 2013

Communities Go Mobile on Multiple Fronts

From public Wi-Fi to tablets, governments say mobile technologies deliver marked efficiencies and service to citizens.

Public Wi-Fi has had its ups and downs, but in the city of Staunton, Va., a young mother can now stream her son’s little league baseball game in the Shenandoah Valley via tablet to his grandparents.

“It’s really gratifying that we can deliver this service and actually have government improve people’s lives,” says Kurt Plowman, chief technology officer for Staunton.

It’s been a long haul for the city, Plowman says. Staunton first experimented with Wi-Fi in 2002 at the public library. But at the time, many community Wi-Fi projects were failing to materialize, and Staunton didn’t want to pursue a project of that scale. The city faced a financial crisis in 2008, so money was scarce for investing in infrastructure.

Last year, finally, the city installed 35 linear miles of fiber and deployed 30 Enterasys access points. Twelve of them are located in the 214-acre Gypsy Hill Park, which hosts ballgames, concerts and a farmer’s market. The remaining APs were deployed in city buildings.

“Deploying the fiber and added APs put us in a position to support BYOD,” Plowman says. “I got a separate Internet connection just for public Internet access. People come and do genealogy research and can have access whenever they need it.”

Chris Silva, an industry analyst for the Altimeter Group, says today organizations are often more focused on what they can do with mobile technology, rather than which platform they’re using. He says Staunton’s experience with rolling out public Wi-Fi to improve service to local residents and tourists is a case in point.


The percentage of executives and IT managers who say better communications and knowledge sharing are the primary benefits of mobile technology

SOURCE: “Business Technology Innovation: Six Key Trends in Optimizing IT for Competitive Advantage” (Ventana Research, December 2012)

“What’s stood out to me the past several months is that we’re moving away from caring about the device and are focused more on experiences and services,” Silva says. “People want to access the information that’s critical to them, regardless of screen or location.”

The Convenience of iPads

Technology has also come to Cornelius, N.C., a lakeside town along Lake Norman in Mecklenburg County.

About two years ago, the town commissioners started using Apple iPad devices to reduce the printing and distribution of paper agendas. Larry Davis, IT manager, says Cornelius used to print 18 1.5-inch-thick binders before each commissioners meeting.

“Now all of that has gone away because we do it electronically,” Davis says, adding that over the past couple of years, the department heads and the town manager also use iPad devices to complete daily tasks.

“It’s really great when people travel,” says Davis. “Instead of lugging along a heavy notebook, they can just throw the iPad in their bag. And once we install VDI with VMware View, the staff will be able to bring up their desktop wherever they go.”

Davis says plans are in the works to install iPads in the town’s police cars and firetrucks. “Before any rollout, we’ll do a proof of concept to test it out,” he notes.

6 Mobile Data Management Trends

As mobility permeates the enterprise, the following trends are shaping deployments, according to Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager of data sharing for Citrix

1. VPNs are disappearing. It’s clumsy and inconvenient for users to connect via VPN, especially when more organizations store their data in the cloud.

2. Active Directory integration is tops. Lipson says organizations use an average of 30 software as a service apps, which are most commonly integrated with Active Directory Federation Services.

3. Physical tokens will go away. Client certificate authentication will replace traditional two-factor authentication as mobile device management software makers increasingly provide these certificates. Many organizations also use text messages for the second factor of authentication.

4. Autologin takes hold. Most enterprises realize that it’s unreasonable to ask users to enter their credentials at every login of their smartphones or tablets. Four-digit PINs are acceptable to users and offer some added security when autologin is enabled.

5. On-premises storage survives. Organizations see this as a way to maintain security, compliance and convenience. They also have a considerable amount of legacy storage that needs to be accessed via mobile devices.

6. IT groups debate the “open-in” question. The IT team must decide whether to let apps open data in other apps and strike a balance between security and convenience.

<p><span style="color: black; font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: small;">Natalia Silych, ThinkStock</span></p>

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