As it happens, the finalists in the Mobile, Wireless and Telecommunications Solutions category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards fall neatly into each niche: Kiwibank, and its Mobile Banking; Canning and Associates Limited, with its WIZWireless rural/remote ISP solution; and Spinning Planet, with its global media convergence telephony and internet access implementation.
All three solutions display clever thinking in quickly and efficiently solving problems and meeting user demands. These three companies can literally reach customers other enterprises cannot, thanks to Kiwi ingenuity. This will be a difficult category to judge...
Kiwibank customers are communications-savvy and used to getting information wherever they are at any time. It followed then that Kiwibank would offer financial information in the same manner, to customers’ mobile phones.
Richard Johnston, Kiwibank’s manager of electronic delivery, explains the solution it arrived at consists of a Java 2 Micro Edition client tailored for different mobile phones. This speaks to a Java server using standards-based Secure Sockets Layer certificate authentication and encryption of communication, with Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) web services running over it.Requirements for the service included a service-oriented architecture with decoupled components that could be deployed across multiple Kiwibank locations. Care was taken by Kiwibank’s technology partner, Fronde, to ensure easy integration with middleware and existing systems, and to avoid duplication of core banking functions already in place.
However, developing a highly secure Java client for mobile phones that works consistently across devices was a challenge, according to Johnston. Not all phones support the right Java version or the necessary security protocols, so Kiwibank assists customers during the registration process for the service, and added tests to make sure the device in question is compatible.
The project was a success. It increased brand value for Kiwibank, as well as producing a high level of media interest. Customers also rated Mobile Banking highly, as being easy to install and to use. Johnston says there has been a high level of uptake of the service.
Fast and reliable internet connections are a must for any Kiwi business nowadays, so that’s what Canning and Associates of Masterton sought to provide with its WIZWireless — but in rural and remote areas like the Wairarapa where broadband options are far and few between.As the product name implies, Canning settled on a wireless solution, featuring Trango radios using public spectrum and a series of repeater masts with line of sight between them for transmission, according to project manager Scott Bensemann.
Bensemann’s team used solar panels and batteries to make the remote transmission towers independent of power. Creating 375 watts of power, the solar panels and 460Ah batteries ensure the towers run for weeks without any sun, and allows WIZWireless to operate when other services go down due to power outages in rural areas says Bensemann.
The result is true broadband at 4Mbit/s delivered to 160 customers over the past two years. One or two new customers a week are acquired, says Bensemann, and the service can be upgraded to speeds of up to 50Mbit/s.
Growth pangs caused by rapidly increasing client numbers forced small web design and internet services company Spinning Planet, which is in Palmerston North, to stop and think about how to do support better. Doing so via email and toll-free number was “costly, time-consuming and inefficient”, for both Spinning Planet and its clients.To address the issues, CIO Brynn Neilson says Spinning Planet embarked on an open source voyage and built an internet-based telephone switchboard with open-source PBX system Asterisk and IP-based trunks throughout New Zealand to Australia, the UK and the US.
Better communication was the key, but also improved customer relations management systems, according to Neilson. Building a VoIP system with advanced telephony and mobile features saves Spinning Planet thousands of dollars while making it painless for clients worldwide to reach the company.
A tailored CRM system was put into place and converged with the communications parts, enabling the Spinning Planet team to have a far more personal relationship with customers. This seamless integration of communications and business processes is unique, says Neilson, and it has allowed Spinning Planet to cut down on support time while growing staff and revenue turnover three-fold. The success of the media convergence project should continue with further features being added, such as more VoIP trunks internationally and enhancements to Spinning Planet’s time-card system, according to Neilson.