Thursday, 3 October 2013

London Meeting - trial updates

Last week we had a MobiCloud Consortium meeting in London, organised by Costain and kindly hosted by Bentley at their office in Gracechurch Street. The event took place over the Thursday and Friday and included the Breakfast Meeting on Friday morning for those new to the MobiCloud project and a visit to Costain's site at Tower Bridge in the afternoon.

We turned up on Thursday morning to find the occupants of the Gracechurch Street office standing in the street outside and two fire engines in attendance. Fortunately it was a false alarm! While the building was being evacuated the more dedicated members of the consortium began the meeting on the pavement while those less hardy (or sensible) souls relocated to a pub across the road.
Outside Bentley's offices in London
Once we were allowed into the building the meeting started in earnest. The MobiCloud project has been making rapid progress and there were trial updates from Costain, Nettropolis, EsperantoXL and Appear.


Costain has launched the first version of their MobiCloud Site Diary app and has been testing it in the field. Mark Collier of Costain gave an overview and demonstration of the app and how it is being used to save time and to improve the quality of recording events on site. 

Costain Site Diary

Mark Collier from Costain
Initially Costain has chosen to trial the app on iPad’s and it was interesting to hear how different sites had different device preferences. While the iPad works well in many situations, some sites expressed a preference for smaller devices like the iPad Mini or Google Nexus, which are easier to carry around (they happen to fit in the pockets of the standard protective clothing worn on site). Some also preferred Android to iOS. 

The cross-platform support and device agnostic nature MobiCloud means that Costain will be able to experiment with these variations as the trial progresses. 

City Transit

Nettropolis reported progress on the development of their City Transit solution for use by the Karlsruhe Transport Authority in Germany. This is the authority that has made a name for itself world wide with the “Karlsruhe model”. This is where the same vehicle that runs as a fast light train in the region becomes a tram as it enters the city.

Karlsruhe Tram / Light train
Manu Auch from Nettropolis
The app described by Manu Auch from Nettropolis will be used to help the authorities coordinate their extensive mobile workforce and for recording or alerting them to incidents that occur on the network. The first version is due to be released in November this year.

Field Service

Vladimir from EsperantoXL described the Flex@lly app they are developing for their client Tence in the Netherlands. Tence are an employment agency that provide flexible workers to companies and employ thousands of people. They are part of the international group Vebego.

User consultation at Tence

Vladimir Bataev from EsperantoXL
MobiCloud uses the Agile development model and Vladimir described how they were using very fast iterations and a close involvement with end-users to develop the application. They were carrying out checks with 1 or 2 users daily and holding weekly validation sessions. He commented that users never knew what they wanted but always knew what they did not want when they saw it!

Tence is an interesting case for user adoption since the flexible workers will be using the app on their own personal mobiles. It therefore has to work well on low-end devices that will be predominately Android smart phones. EsperantoXL aim to complete development of the first version of the solution by the end of the year.


Swedish rail operator T├ągkompaniet (TKAB) have been trailing a MobiCloud solution developed by Appear since the end of May this year. Xavier from Appear gave an update on its use to date. The app called Kompis 2.0 is designed to replace an older mobile system running on obsolete hardware that had low user acceptance and satisfaction.

Xavier Aubry from Appear
The new app is currently being used on both Andriod and iOS devices and will soon be made available on Windows Phone as well. The device ecosystem at TKAB is complex, BYOD is allowed but there are also enterprise owned devices in use as well.

The app gives access to timetables and operational information as well as the companies internal directory and is also used for fault and status reporting. It makes extensive use of context to simplify the user interface. It is currently being used by 350 mobile workers, mainly train drivers, plus 15 back-office workers who are traffic controllers or IT administrators and who access the system via a web application rather than a mobile device.

Appear have learned a number of useful lessons from the TKAB deployment which have been applied to other trials. One of these is that you cannot always rely on the suppliers of the back-end systems with which the app integrates to tell you when they make breaking changes!

New applications for TKAB are under discussion, including the migration of an external "ticket control" application into Kompis 2.0.

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