Research in Motion is trying to strike a delicate balance. The company that built its business on enterprise-friendly mobile devices and solutions is aiming to meet the needs of CIOs and other IT leaders while at the same time generating the level of consumer buzz that's required these days to make any inroads into mobility.
At its BlackBerry World 2011 conference in Orlando, FL, which kicked off May 2, the company juxtaposed the gaming, music and entertainment options available on its new PlayBook tablet with the productivity and business analytics offerings being made available for the device by the likes of IBM and SAP.
It heralded tie-ins with Adobe, Microsoft, and Facebook, and even plans to open up its Playbook App Store to Android apps. At the same time, it emphasized BlackBerry Balance, which is designed to enable IT to effectively partition off enterprise-related data and applications on the device.
It remains to be seen whether RIM -- whose recently introduced Playbook tablet has to play catch-up to Apple's iPad and compete with a slew of other tablet contenders -- can pull this off.
Meanwhile, BlackBerry appears to be retaining its favor with enterprise decision-makers, especially in highly regulated sectors such as law enforcement, government and healthcare.
At an enterprise user session held on the eve of BlackBerry World, executives from organizations including Canada's Chatham Kent Police Service, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and the Pittsburgh, PA-based healthcare organization UPMC discussed their current and future plans for deployments of BlackBerry smartphones and the Playbook tablet.
Chatham-Kent Police Service (CKPS) is responsible for an area spanning 2,400 sq km -- one of the largest municipalities in southwestern Ontario, Canada. They use a two-factor authentication system, with a BlackBerry Smart Card Reader and SafeNet Smart Card technology. The solution passed extensive threat and risk assessments before receiving approval from the Ontario Police Technology Information Cooperative (OPTIC). Once they had a secure solution, BlackBerry smartphones were rolled out with a suite of applications including Niche-RMS (access to criminal record and transportation databases), MPATracking (dispatch monitoring of officers' locations), MPABeatBlog (daily briefing tool), and MPADictation (for officers to capture notes and data while on site).
According to CKPS Inspector Tim Mifflin, the organization had to meet stringent security regulations before its solution could be rolled out to officers in the field. "We had to prove that the concept was secure on mobile devices," he says. "In my mind it is probably one of the most secure methods of communicating data in the world."
Initially, the BlackBerry solution was rolled out to 150 members of the CKPS police force. "We're part of a larger cooperative of 39 departments, and they are rolling out BlackBerrys to police officers as we speak. In the future, Mifflin says he envisions Playbook replacing the in-vehicle computers that are currently in use. "I envision every frontline officer in Ontario having a Playbook and using it now much the way they use a [paper] notebook. Now, they have to go back to office and replicate what's in that notebook into a report. I envision [in the future] when the officer responds to a call they can enter information for their reports directly in real time."
Although vehicle are equipped with mobile data terminals, Miflfin says the data transfer rates are "really slow." He adds: "We expect BlackBerry to be a real-time device. If an officer is at a crime scene, they'll have this toolbox to log in and get everything done."
Efficiency and productivity are major goal, says Mifflin. "These tools we're introducing will help us. By deploying BlackBerrys and Playbooks in cars, I'm saving per vehicle over $8,000."
Mississippi Department of Transportation's (MDOT) Facility and Records Management (FRM) Division must maintain and repair building mechanical systems without disrupting daily operations. MDOT has deployed TRANE Alert Mobile System (TAMS), an application to alert maintenance personnel to mechanical or equipment failures.
Other applications include MDOT Room Temperatures to monitor/ control room temperatures, Parking Decals -- vehicle information, MDOT Directory Search -- employee contacts, MDOT Assets to track valuable inventory and MS Traffic Mobile for streaming traffic cameras and alerts.
Utilizing their BlackBerry solution TAMS, MDOT has improved safety for employees, and saved approximately $1.53 million annually in salaries and utility costs. Prior to the deployment, MDOT needed to have employees on shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, shifts have been cut back to eight hours per day on weekdays only.
"Our BlackBerry solution has literally revolutionized the way we do business," says Ruthann Vercher, Director of Facility and Records Management Division, Mississippi Department of Transportation. "With mobile access to detailed monitoring and alerts about mechanical systems, including the heating and cooling systems, we save time and money because we can access all the information we need without visiting the facility."
Next up, says Vercher, the organization is working with its IS team to develop an app that ties into facility security cameras. "We'll be able to view them on BlackBerrys, and it will alert us to any activity on any camera. If a building is closed, we'll be able to see who's there" without having to be on-site.
UPMC is a global health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with approximately 50,000 employees and 400 outpatient sites. UPMC deployed BlackBerry smartphones with SmartRoom technology to nurses, transporters and clinicians at UPMC Mercy, one of its 20 hospitals. The SmartRoom pulls data from the electronic medical records (EMRs) to display patient room assignments, tasks and vital patient information on screens at the nurses' station and on the BlackBerry smartphone.
In the hospital unit where the pilot took place, health care providers have improved call-response time (from 73.1 to 83.8 on the Press Ganey Score), reduced time looking for people or information (from from 6,205 to 2,077 steps in one shift), reduced the noise levels in and around patient rooms and increased the number of trips transporters make each shift (by an average of 10%).
UPMC CIO Bruce Haviland anticipates that Playbook can play a role in the organization's nursing operations. "Today, the nurse goes into a smartroom and interacts on a 20-inch HP touchscreen [workstataion]," he explains. "We envision nurses using Playbooks for completing orders and tasks at bedside, and hope that it will play into our workflow."
He adds that the real advantage for nurses is that they don't have to walk to and log into a stationary EMR, the patient, find the task; as it's pushed now to BB it will be pushed to playbook in the future.
Other news from BlackBerry World:
RIM Playbook Gets Video Chat, Facebook Apps
RIM Unveils BlackBerry Bold 9900, 9930 Smartphones With BlackBerry 7 OS
This article was originally published on 05-03-2011