BARCELONA - IBM's exclusive global partnership with Apple to build mobile apps for enterprises running on iPads and iPhones was first announced in mid-2014. By last December, the companies reached a milestone when 100 apps had been created.
This week at Mobile World Congress, three CIOs and a mobile solutions manager described for reporters how they plan to use several of the new apps to replace paper forms, improve service call response times and generally improve productivity for their companies. The customers work for companies in banking, telecommunications, air travel and power generation, and are based in Poland, Egypt, Sweden and Germany
The value of working with Apple-IBM, they said, is bringing IBM's knowledge of back-end systems and cloud computing to bear on applications running on the iOS platform, with its focus on simple design. End users, such as field technicians, can be enticed to replace ordinary inspection tasks done on paper checklists with a tablet app with check-off lists and graphical forms because they are using a device seen as fun and even cool to use, the IT leaders said.
IBM has posted a list of its MobileFirst for iOS Apps on its Web site.
"Using the iPad mini in the field motivated people. At first, they played Youtube on it" to gain greater familiarity, said Andreas Lamken, the CIO for RWE Generation, a mining and power generation company based in Essen, Germany. He spoke in an interview.
The company is using a new app called Asset Care to assist field technicians as they inspect and maintain enormous excavator machinery -- two football fields in size -- used to mine coal on the surface. The app runs on an iPad mini that is covered with a ruggedized case. It allows technicians to drill down into schematic drawings and to order replacement parts, among other tasks.
SAS, the Scandinavian airline based in Stockholm, Sweden, is about to launch an app called Passenger Plus on iPad tablets. The app will help flight crews quickly log in securely with a password to find their personalized flight assignments and get an easy-to-read display of critical information about whether a flight has missing bags and how many are missing, for example.
The biggest advantage of Passenger Plus for SAS flight crews is that it will replace reams of paper and long lists that flight attendants and others would often have had to search through to find needed information, said Ashraf Hoseini, manager of mobile solutions for SAS Flight Operations.
SAS went to Cupertino, Calif., to work with Apple and IBM designers and developers on customizing the app. It helped that SAS was able to bring end users, such as a pilot and cabin crew, to that phase of the design process. "We added functions... and links to procedures and a dashboard to make it more informative and we did that without losing the lean and clean look of the app because of the Apple and IBM design team," she said.
SAS initially rolled out iPads to pilots in 2011, with their flight plans stored on the devices. "It's worked great," she said in an interview.
At telecom provider Etisalat Misr, based in Cairo, Egypt, the Expert Tech app will help support technicians as they travel to store locations to troubleshoot network problems and help with sales. Technicians get work orders on their iPads, with analytics used to prioritize jobs, and can call up equipment manuals. They can even collaborate via video with other experts in the field, if needed.
Khalid AlMansouri, CIO at Etisalat Misr, said the company is experiencing hyper growth and needs to introduce efficient processes. "We have to enable innovation and bring new technology and ideas to sustain us and to enable a new revenue stream," he said. "Mobility and innovation and working anywhere and anytime is the key."
Using the app will reduce service costs by up to 15%, the company predicted.
Alior Bank, based in Warsaw, Poland, has provided the Trusted Advice app on iPads to bank officials who meet with customers to discuss ways to invest funds.
In addition, IBM announced this week that three more apps will soon be deployed by the bank to help new clients sign up for services and to help advisors and branch mangers and sales managers. Alior is also purchasing 1,300 new Apple iPhones, iPads and MacBooks to run the apps.
Part of value of the Trusted Advice app is that it allows bankers to meet face-to-face to offer real-time information on investment products, said CIO Tomasz Motyl. The iPad containing the information can be handed to a customer who can touch graphs and manipulate data.
The efficiency of the app has allowed bankers to increase the number of customer meetings they can have in a week, he said. Customers can even sign agreements on the iPad digitally.
Swift going to the cloud
At its press event with the CIOs at MWC, IBM also announced it has become the first cloud provider to allow developers to build apps in native Swift code.
Apple open-sourced its Swift programming language last year, and IBM released a Swift Sandbox to let developers explore server-side programming in Swift. More than 100,000 developers globally have used the sandbox and more than 500,000 Swift programs have been tested there, IBM said.