An investigation was requested by the ICT Director into the provisioning of Mobile Phone Services for Students at the University of Canterbury.
Conduct a Survey of Students to gauge expectations and perceived value of Key ICT Services along with preferred Delivery options to their current/future Mobile Devices.
Investigate SMS Texting, Smart Phone Development, Mobile Browser and Web Site Development options and how the University can utilise these.
Investigate the Open Source Mobile Web Product provided by MIT along with its recent implementation at the University of Waikato.
Conduct Brainstorming Sessions.
Analyse and propose options discovered along with considerations with other ICTS initiatives.
A student receives an SMS Text Announcement regarding a seminar that is being presented by a visiting lecturer which is important to the Students field of research. Unfortunately the Student is unable to attend. The following day the Student is notified that he can visit m.canterbury.ac.nz to watch a video of the lecture on UCTV. He does this via his mobile phone in a period between his regular lectures, enabling him to join in with the discussion with his peers his next lecture.
The Proposal outlined in this investigation is aimed at providing a platform that can enable Students and the University of Canterbury to realise this vision for Mobile Devices.
An important component of this investigation was to compose and conduct a Survey determining Students expectations for Mobile Devices in a world class learning environment. Questions were constructed to determine:
What devices and device capabilities are Students currently using?
What are the priority mobile services our Students want from the University?
What are Students Mobile Device aspirations whilst studying at the University?
What would students preferred delivery options be for these services?
A copy of the Survey questions and analysis for this investigation can be found in Appendix A
The results of this survey have been used to prioritise the services and to highlight the preferred delivery mechanism. These results can be considered in conjunction with the Universities initiatives of providing services via all Interface Devices and User Interfaces.
Note Survey Results and Analysis to be completed
Facts and Figures are to be confirm and will be implemented and relevant updates made throughout this document. This is expected to be completed for the end of March
SMS Services Ranking
Web Services Ranking
Phone Features Ranking
To be completed – (Types of Phones, Browser Usage, Preferred Delivery, Expectations)
SMS Text Services
Note Survey to be completed – Facts and Figures to be included
SMS Texts are valued highly and still a preferred delivery option for pushed data and alerts.
This investigation looked at various options for the Push and Pull (SMS Request) of data via SMS. A Selection of utilities and Services were looked into including some prototyping and trialling. Details of the key findings are summarised below and further information is detailed in Appendix B.
A leading SMS Service provider specializing in bulk messaging services and SMS gateway connectivity.
Provides a free API which enables developers to send SMS Messages using its gateway with various connectivity options.
Integrates with Virto’s Web Part for sending SharePoint Alerts via SMS
Uses credit based accounting for sending messages. 1 credit will generally = 1 message, however, this is dependent on the network operators in the region.
Country ⁄ Network
Telecom New Zealand
Telstra New Zealand
Two Degrees Mobile Limited
Cost based on a volume purchase of 250,000 – 499,000 credits (March 2010)
eTXT provides limited functionality and service in comparison to Clickatell. It provides a basic solution to send a single message to a number of users.
Replies can be sent back to the PC or mobile which sent the message.
Messages can be sent to groups or individuals from Outlook, a web browser, or from a mobile.
Set up fee of $99
Monthly Access fee of $10 per account
10c per message sent to each Telecom Mobile
17c per message sent to other New Zealand network handsets
Twitter is an extremely popular social networking website (75,000,000 Registered Users - March 2010) which was design with a 140 character limit so tweets can be sent as mobile text messages. The Twitter service provides a REST API which allows developers full interaction with the site.
During the investigation the Twitter Service was utilised to forward Tweets (140 Char Text) to a Users mobile phone using the REST API.
Direct Message Tweets were sent using the API to the user following a particular user/group.
A proof of concept prototype showed that this service could be utilised so Twitter users could follow University Groups that send out user specific Direct Messages to each of its followers. The followers can individually configure their profiles to receive SMS text and/or Emails of the Tweets.
This service was free once the phone was registered and the user profile was configured.
Mobile Browsers and the Internet
Mobile phone browsers vary in capability and are designed with optimisation to display Web content effectively on small screens. This is coupled with the history of the fragmentation in the mobile device-channel, the low memory of mobile devices and low-bandwidth.
The University of Canterbury does not currently have a wireless portal e.g. m.canterbury.ac.nz where mobile users are directed to a Portal of Services that render to the potential of the device, and more recently, to more intelligent browsers that Users install on their devices instead of the native browser.
Common Solutions to providing a wireless portal include:
Developing/Copying existing services or web content to a site utilising a primitive/low level form in the hope that it renders on all devices
Limiting support to a subset of devices
Using WURFL to convert content to the appropriate mark-up for the device
The need for users to access existing web sites, so that they have full functionality of their favourite sites has, more recently been addressed by some Mobile Browsers that are now competing in a market that is becoming comparable to the desktop/laptop Web Browser.
Mobile browsers are advancing rapidly along with the capabilities Smart Phone devices. Potentially this reduces the investment need required to render content for devices as users upgrade devices and/or install the latest Mobile Browsers.
Investigate the most popular browsers, their capabilities, recent developments and the options they provide and highlight the capabilities direction that they are taking.
Mobile Browsers – Third Party
Available for Windows, Nokia Symbian
Touch screen Support
Intelligently reformats Web pages
Run on less capable phones and offload rendering to a proxy server
Present Web sites as on a desktop browser
Popular examples are Opera Mini and Skyfire
May not provide end to end security
Web pages are compressed by up to 90% of their original size making browsing faster
Available for Android, Windows, Blackberry, Psion, Nokia Symbian and soon available on the iPhone.
Available for Windows, Nokia Symbian
Renders Flash 10, Ajax and Silverlight
Mobile Browsers - Native
Many of the native browsers are based on the WebKit layout engine. These include:
Nokia S40 and S60
WebKit is an Open-Source rendering engine with development included from Apple, Nokia, Google, RIM and Palm. Due to the nature of this engine there is a set of standard capabilities available throughout these devices
HTML 5 provides a range of key capabilities available to mobile devices. The native iPhone and iPad, Google Android, Nokia, and Palm browsers are based on the WebKit browser engine which is coupled with HTML 5 support. In addition to this, Opera is a leading developer of HTML 5. Features of HTML5 include offline support (AppCache and Database APIs) which presents a platform for building sophisticated mobile Web applications based on standards.
On the whole this represents a large percentage of the Smartphone market. Microsoft has hinted at its future support for HTML 5 in Internet Explorer 9 and further announcements are expected at Mix10
Silverlight’s target is to provide the ability to deploy the same content on multiple platforms. Silverlight has the ability to run full web applications. Recent developments and announcements include Silverlight capabilities such as:
Video streaming on the iPhone
Support on Windows Mobile and Nokia S60 Devices
Support on Skyfire
Silverlight already has a range of capabilities across the main desktop browsers and platforms, and indications are this is expanding and opening up into the competition within the Mobile Device and Browser market.
Mobile Development - Native Applications
There is a lot of activity and big business around mobile native applications across Smart Phones and their respective application stores. These applications give users and developers the potential to leverage off the full capabilities of the device, including the features such as GPS and the Touch screen. The benefits of this are that the application will be presented and function as designed, on the flip side they will be device specific.
Investigate and trail some of the environments required to develop popular native applications
Language: Objective C2
Environment: XCode or Coda
Develop on a iPhone Simulator
Develop using an MVC pattern
For further details see Appendix B
These assumptions made here is for the setup cost for an environment for a developer to develop iPhone applications within the ICTS Solution Delivery within its current operating environment.
SDK - Free
Mac running Mac OS X Leopard or later – (from $2000)
Developer Program $99 or Enterprise Program $299 which provide the following
Pre-release versions of iPhone SDK
GM versions of iPhone SDK
iPhone Dev Centre Resources
Testing on iPhone and iPod touch
Code-level technical support
Apple Developer Forums Beta
Ad Hoc Distribution
Along with this is the potential cost in training although there are some good resources available. The investigation included a look at the potential learning curve to a .NET C# developer with understanding of MVC and would rate this as an Easy Learning Experience
These assumptions made here is for the setup cost for an environment for a developer to develop Windows Mobile applications within the ICTS Solution Delivery within its current operating environment.
.NET Compact Framework 2.0 SP 1 - Free
PC already available
Visual Studio IDE available
The investigation included the setup of a Windows Mobile development environment along with the development of a simple windows mobile application. Due to the nature and experience of .NET this would be rated as an Easy Transition with no training requirements.
At time of writing Microsoft has announced its Windows Mobile 7 platform along with its development using the Silverlight Platform. This looks like a significant change in direction for Microsoft in the mobile phone market.
MIT Mobile Web
MIT have created the Web Mobile Platform an Open Source Project
Designed to meet physical and technical constraints across the a spectrum of mobile devices
Uses device segmentation to not provide lowest common denominator user experience
3 Segments are targeted for:
Designed to meet physical and technical constraints across the whole spectrum of mobile devices
Open Source Technology using PHP, MySQL, SOAP, RSS, XHTML and CSS
Uses WURFL to determine device capabilities
Uses a HTML template for each of the 3 segments, each with its own CSS style sheet and images
3Down – Status of services such as internet, email and telephone.
Stellar – Course Details and Announcements
Shuttle Schedules (Loaded from bus schedule data file)
This has been the most popular and useful item for students
See http://m.waikato.ac.nz/home/ Support
Robust and little additional support required
A feedback form is provided when errors occur or students can provide details of issues such as pages not rendering well
Developers keep an eye on the Open Source site for updates
Cookies are saved to the mobile device after a login process. These are persisted for a period of 3 hours. This was implemented by Waikato and is used only for the ‘Non Public’ information
Feeds do not go direct to JadeSMS but use an Interface Database which is populated in a similar manner as the UCInteface Database
Currently have a list of requirements queued up that are being implemented along with other business as usual operations.
Note Survey Results and Analysis to be completed – The following proposal could be subject to change.
SMS Text Services
Provide a Basic Service to deliver high level, non user specific announcements.
Provide a Push/Pull service that provides user specific messages and alerts that are user configured and accounted for.
Provide a service that uses a popular social network to provide alerts and details.
Mobile Web Portal
Do nothing. Allow Browser and Device Technology to catch up and the University of Canterbury web site and web applications to evolve.
Implement MIT Mobile Web services where available and if appropriate.
Develop an initiative using standards that will provide a Mobile Web Portal environment for the Smartphone’s of today and the future.
Native Smart Apps
Develop Lightweight front end user Applications connecting real time to University services for the most popular mobile devices, utilising individual device capabilities and distribute them via a Mobile Portal
Develop full native applications for the most popular mobile devices and distribute them via App Stores and potentially generate revenue for the University.
SMS Text Services
SMS is still valued highly and is available on all mobile devices
SMS Push can reduce high usage periods and notify users in a timely manner
Clickatell provides a very competitive priced service with message traceability and a fully featured API which can be build upon.
eTXT (Telecom) is relatively expensive in comparison to other services and provides a limited set of functionality.
Twitter provides a cheap, user configurable service which could also establish a presence for the University on a popular social networking site. During the investigation this service was not found to be 100% reliable due to service restrictions mainly due to the number of users connected. This option could be considered for non-critical services.
Mobile Devices in general
Historically a wide range of devices and capabilities. However due to new browser capabilities, standards and the demand for devices it is important and possible to look forward and provide applications and services more strategically.
Many recent developments and announcements enable decisions to make a sound mobile strategy for the future.
University of Canterbury is playing catch up
Wi-Fi capabilities of Students mobile devices
Telephone Network Speeds, Services and Charges
Mobile Web Portal
Tools, sites, and applications are currently fragmented. A Mobile Web Portal would provide a one stop gateway.
Currently the University has no mobile presence or mobile home page.
Development would be directed towards browser capabilities meaning that the same components, and the services they are built on, are likely to be used for mobile device and desktop browsers and would use less of a code base meaning reduced ongoing support costs
SharePoint and UCLive can be utilised to use Mobile Device Views and capabilities.
Potentially Mobile Web applications will take over Mobile native apps with capabilities of new mobile browsers, standards such as HTML5 and the Silverlight framework
There is no difference in how you build Silverlight applications across Web and mobile devices encouraging and enabling re-use.
HTML5 and WebKit provide standards and disconnected capabilities which are available on a majority of Smartphone’s and, by installing specific browsers all the major Smart Phones.
Connectivity requires higher resource usage (e.g. Network and battery)
The University provides a 2GB daily wireless quota to all students.
Web browser capabilities on Smartphone’s is robust and a lot of the mobile native apps could be achieved as web applications as well
More reliant on Wi-Fi capabilities of devices and Telephone Network Speeds, Services and Charges
Native Smart Apps
There is a lot hype and popularity currently with native applications and app stores meaning that there is demand for these applications.
Based on the skill sets of developers it is relatively simple to develop and deploy Smart Apps for the most popular platforms and devices.
Provides an opportunity to make revenue in a similar way as WaikatoLink, the commercial arm of the University of Waikato.
There may be reasons to develop multi-platform apps include client-specific needs, specific platform feature requirements, User Experience such as Look and Feel, disconnection and limitations of network bandwidth or availability
Leverage off specific platform features to provide applications and devices for research requirements.
Can utilise asynchronous background services to refresh and sync data on the local device to provide improved performance and data availability for the user experience.
In making this proposal the author has used the considerations above and taken the following approach:
Catch up with other Universities in establishing a Mobile Presence.
Leverage off and support the latest ICTS initiatives, the latest technologies available and build for the future.
Take the lead and present the University of Canterbury as a world class learning environment.
The proposal is to take the following initiatives:
Implement an SMS Text Service.
Establish an SMS Text Service which would be available and beneficial to all Students and Staff even with the most basic Mobile Device by:
Building on top of the Clickatell Service to deliver SMS Text capability.
Providing Components/SharePoint Web Part for User Sign up and Self management of alerts.
Investigating /Integrating Alerts with SharePoint Alerts using Virto SharePoint Alerts Customizer Web Part
Integrating with RAS (Resource Accounting System) for allocations and charging of the txt services
Implementing the Services as Valued and Prioritised by Students
Reduce the load on ICT Services through a timely Push of data.
Immediate alerts on significant and user defined events.
Reminders and Notifications of deadlines reducing late submissions and late charges.
Account Notifications and Balance Warnings reducing Service Desk calls and minimising risk to students who are reaching limits.
Provides a service to all Students who have any type of mobile phone.
Catch up and leverage off existing MIT framework.
Establish a Wireless Portal by implementing the quick wins from the MIT Mobile Web and get a mobile presence and portal in place by:
Implementing MIT Mobile Web
Implementing the quick win Services to seed a mobile portal for additional services as prioritised from the Student Survey
Give the University of Canterbury Mobile Presence and increase visibility and publicity.
Collate Student Tools into one location/portal from a fragmented Web Site which is cumbersome on some mobile browsers.
Leverage off an Open Source product which has had many hours invested.
Open up options to utilise future initiatives of the Open Source product.
Re-Architect existing services.
Implement new services using a Services Oriented Architecture over all these initiatives and in line and other ICTS initiatives. Develop and re-write the Services that are used for this and for future initiatives by:
Writing/Rewriting/Reusing ‘traditional’ Web Services to WCF
Securing with Certificates and Single Sign On initiatives
Decoupling data access and business logic from data presentation ensuring a clean separation between the data model and the user interface (MVC and REST)
Moves towards and Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture and Security Model
Future proof services that can be consumed native applications, browser applications, SharePoint Web Parts, System Services or by applications students develop
Consolidated code base across all solutions and business logic
Develop all new components for browser capability, not hardware category
Give the widest audience over multiple browsers and devices. Create and add new components for the Wireless Portal by:
Writing/Rewriting/Reusing new portal components segmented by browser capability.
Building UI components solely for data presentation.
Building UI components designed for SharePoint/Student Portal Web Parts so they can be utilised via desktop as well as mobile devices.
Building components using WebKit and HTML5 standards.
Higher coverage of devices from one set of code.
Greater chance of re-use between Mobile Portal and Desktop Portal.
Closes the gap of what can be expected and provided by a Native Application on a single device and what can be provided on nearly all leading Smartphone’s.
Provide the best user experience.
Target the latest browsers and standards of today and the future. Develop components that will present the University of Canterbury as a Leader by:
Leveraging off standards such as WebKit and HTML5 providing an optimal user experience and capabilities of the ‘browser majority’.
Targeting browser capabilities and technologies such as Silverlight for optimal user experience that users of native applications expect and utilise.
Promote the visibility and capabilities of the University of Canterbury.
Provide easy to use access to valuable resources across any device.
Note - Native Applications
The consideration for developing native applications for the most popular devices was not seen as being of significant benefit to providing the services which would also be attainable through a Mobile Portal. However, the ability to provide applications for research purposes, including disconnected applications, applications utilising specific device capabilities and the potential to sell applications to a large market of users should definitely still be considered on a case by case basis. If there is any potential in this area, this investigation has provided a level detail of development environments, options and capabilities. In addition to this, by implementing the proposal as above, the resulting Service Orientated Architecture could be used as a base for the initiative to develop Native Applications on top of these services providing specific device capability using the MVC pattern.
Appendix A – Survey and Results
Survey Results and Analysis to be completed
(Draft also available here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FXWLLZS)
Appendix B – Outputs, References and Resources
A Wiki was used during this investigation to capture details of communications, student survey, brainstorming, research notes and references and details of Prototypes and Code Samples.
Waikato University lets students’ fingers do the walking Mobile web environment lets students view info, maps and timetables from their mobile phones. http://pcworld.co.nz/pcworld/pcw.nsf/feature/F706A061A2C1CD25CC2576A4007F36FE
iPhone Apps boom creates opportunities for WaikatoLink http://www.waikato.ac.nz/news/archive.shtml?article=985