Mobile solutions have come a long way, yet this diverse, exciting sector remains a confusing market. Mobility was once scorned as pie-in-the-sky but now resellers who don't keep up with mobility in the business IT environment may never really fly.
In the following case studies, ARN examines a range of successful implementations which suggest the potential scope of this rapidly expanding market.
Storming the heights
Mining company, Compass Resources, needed to ensure mobile productivity in a lightning-prone area near the Northern Territory town of Batchelor. It hired reseller, Territory Technology Solutions (TTS), to build a wireless network from the ground up in the Rum Jungle, some 100km south of Darwin.
TTS selected Netgear hardware as core to its installation of an integrated WAN at Compass' Brown's Oxide Project (BOP), scheduled to start production late last year. The WAN covers the entire 1.3 million tonne per annum copper, cobalt and nickel mine and can be monitored remotely from Sydney and Darwin.
TTS managing director, Michael Feldbauer, said the BOP site was undeveloped - Telstra had laid a fibre optic backbone to the site in January 2007, enabling work to go ahead.
The network needed to be robust and resistant to damage by lightning while capable of around-the-clock remote management and monitoring.
TTS deployed wireless IP communications over the site to support ongoing technological upgrades including wireless environmental sensors, vehicle tracking systems and mineral processing systems. Dust, heat and humidity are ever-present threats in the 24-houra-day plant.
"We had to make sure the products we chose were well-supported in Australia and would provide robust connection between all the mining machines, crushing machines and so on," Feldbauer said.
TTS created blanket coverage with Netgear access points (APs) across the mine site, while Compass' demountable offices were linked by 15 Netgear Gigabit switches delivering local Power over Ethernet (PoE) via fibre. Netgear switches run VoIP across a network that includes IBM servers and workstations, Lenovo laptops, Avaya phones, Cisco routers, WatchGuard security appliances, and a SonicWall online backup solution.
According to Netgear, Gigabit switches ensure fast data transfer, linking with the Telstra fibre backbone via Cisco routers. Non-conductive fibre optic material between buildings also helps isolate infrastructure in case of lightning. PoE ports also run surveillance cameras and APs. Through the switch, a network manager can monitor and manage PoE device performance, easing network maintenance and lowering downtime.
TTS provided a consultant capable of arriving on site within two hours of a network outage. Compass had also retained its own inventory of mission-critical infrastructure on site, Feldbauer said.
Moving into frame
Sydney-based The Frame Group has been involved in an increasing number of mobility deployments, including for major publisher, Fairfax. Application solutions manager, David Cummins, said Fairfax wanted to extend its search tools to help its corporate customers get information quickly and easily wherever they happened to be. The Frame Group provided a solution that used all of the tools they had put in place based around its enterprise search platform, with integration through their subscription engine.
The integrator's Java-based, cross-platform setup aimed to deliver information using a built-in browser. A pilot program first extended the platform onto customer mobile devices - in this case, Blackberries harnessing a single Web application.
"It didn't mean a huge amount of architecture on their site, just a single Blackberry client," Cummins said. With Blackberries, corporate customers are no longer bound to their seat or office; they can travel, even overseas, without missing out on important news relevant to their businesses. However, the platform extension doesn't support real-time updates for email or the like. "The emails are sent out regularly, on a daily, hourly or three times a day basis," Cummins said.
He said "persistence" search meant terms searched for in one action can automatically "persist" into new searches. A public relations operative who might be monitoring what has been written about a company could, for example, set up an alert to the name of the company.
Presence technology means users get information optimised for the device they are using at the time, as opposed to in the usual, PC-focused AFR.com format. "It knows you're using a mobile device and will display the appropriate content [for that device] to you," Cummins said.
The Frame Group is exploring options for introducing GPS and building in advertising links integrated with the publisher's subscription management system. This should enable Fairfax to target certain offers to premium subscribers, for instance. For other clients, The Frame Group has incorporated mobile CRM via Blackberry.
"[For Fairfax], we spent a lot of time working with the enterprise search engine. To roll out this platform was a minimal investment for Fairfax, as opposed to a massive mobile platform that some other vendors might require you to have. And for users, it's completely seamless - they get it and click on a link," Cummins said.