In this interview series with Austin Convention Center Database Administrator Jeff Moore, we are uncovering decision criteria for Apple iPad adoption and Mobile-first application development.
Part 2 of this interview covers Mr. Moore’s views on the consideration of operations, exhibitor and attendee mobile applications, security concerns driving FileMaker infrastructure and how cloud application storage can act as a receiver of data sourced from FileMaker databases.
Joshua: Are you looking at any other business applications, e.g. ACC staff, exhibitors or event attendees?
Jeff: We have under consideration a list of projects that we will develop for other purposes around the facility.
For example, we have 50 meeting rooms and during a course of a busy event, one meeting room might undergo two or three different configuration changes throughout the day. A configuration is made up of a number of tables and chairs, sizes and layout.
Currently, all of those changes are done on paper. Someone will receive a stack of papers telling you how the room needs to be configured. They make hand written notes on it. None of that ever gets back to the source (exhibitor or operations).
So what we want to do is make a FileMaker and FileMaker Go application for a room configuration and deploy that on an iPad with bi-directional synchronization. This eliminates paperwork and enables us to learn things about a room that may positively or negatively affect service, etc.
Joshua: Digital images and security are inextricably linked, the newly released iPad is expected to have an improved camera, both video and still, any thoughts on a mobile application?
Jeff: Another option we are considering involves our security division. They use an incident management application that we created in FileMaker.
Using examples only, let’s say we have a couple of security personnel that walk the facility. If they see something, they’ll get on their radio and call operations team member back at their desk in Control. Control will open up an incident ticket.
The security personnel will use a digital camera to take photograph of the “incident”, e.g. vandalism. And then they’ll continue along with their rounds. At some point they’ll be back at their desk and synchronize photographs. Then they can attach the photograph to the incident report.
What we want to do is to create an iPad app for them using FileMaker Go. They’ll be able to take the iPad around with them and open up an incident immediately, which eliminates a need to call someone in control to do it for them. Then, they’ll be able to take a picture using the camera on the iPad. Using the iPad photo and application integration options, the photo can be shared with FileMaker Go incident report system.
The upside with this integration is how it affects other security workflow. We have thought about adding a section that deals with “security rounds.”
ACC operations could preconfigure rounds. A round is a checkpoint used by the security personnel to indicate facility coverage. Our security division personnel get an iPad with integrated camera and an application that allows them to stay focused on security – not paperwork and workflows. It’s quite valuable because as they walk around they secure all the things that need secure by tapping them – at a moment’s notice they can capture photos or video as they go.
There’s at least one or two more where we’re thinking of using iPads and FileMaker Go in our department, so not just event services.
Joshua: Can you comment on security and multi-tenancy with respect to internal employee access, exhibitor access and access by attendees of exhibition and ACC?
Jeff: Well we’re pretty careful about what we share. We have these mobile apps being hosted on an external wireless network. There’s a server on the external wireless network. And that has a pared down set of data used only for the applications that we plan to push to iPad.
While it is internal data it is NOT sensitive data. However, everything is secured and we require passwords to get to various levels of the application.
So we have been concerned, but too concerned about the current application data. Because we make sure that what is out there is a subset of the original data. Moreover, whatever information a would-be-hacker got a hold of is not that critical. For example, someone could find out an exhibitor here-or-there had ordered a power plug for their booth.
Joshua: So the current system doesn’t support bi-directional access, e.g. update data in the field and share it with operations?
Jeff: Yes and no, so another thing that we have done with the external server is deployed a web based order form. Prior to the external server services an exhibitor would receive a paper packet in the mail. They would print that off, hand write it in, and either fax it or mail it back.
Today, exhibitors can go in and submit utility orders and exhibit service orders online. So from our website, austinconventioncenter.com, they can go to exhibitor services and fill out those forms. It is a web enabled application that is part of an overall FileMaker application.
We are using what FileMaker calls instant web publishing tool. So we are able to design the screens and functionality in FileMaker. And then we just deploy it as an instant web publishing application. FileMaker builds the pages used by the browsers. As you can see online, we have a form working – right now!
We have talked about the use of creating some a mobile application that will allow exhibitors to come on site and using credentials log into the system and see their order. From there, they can verify their order and make requests for new services.
There are a lot of other things involved with exhibitor services ordering and interaction. But that is one of the interactive applications we are considering.
In this blog, Mr. Moore hinted at the infrastructure used to get data from his internal system to the external system – one way synchronization. In the next blog entry with Mr. Moore, he’ll explain his views on using Apple iPad with VPNs, further information on security and multi-tenant cloud storage, exhibitor services workflow and why FTP is not the right solution for application file, synch and share.