From the parks department to the social welfare office – the municipal government of the southwest German city of Mannheim is reaping the benefits of digitization with iPhones and iPads.
Some ten years ago, the Mannheim city government began to enable mobile access to emails for BYOD smartphone owners. About five years ago the system administrators Peter Lissek and Senol Sengün started to implement mobile working with Windows Phone and Intunes. “Setting up the whole thing, however, required a lot of consulting and resulted in a lot of work,” recalls Peter Lissek. And it gradually became clear that aside from email, there were no useful productive apps for Windows Phone.
This was the reason why the team had to reorient itself. The decision was taken to drive mobility with iPhones and iPads. Cortado Mobile Solutions was contacted in 2016 – a colleague had seen the Berlin-based software company and its MDM solution at Germany’s key IT show – CEBIT. Several months of intensive tests with Cortado Server and two to three iPhones followed. By May 2016, the time had come – Cortado Server was initially put into live operation for 250 devices. With its MDM feature, Cortado Server securely manages the devices. The software is also used for Mobile Application Management (MAM), i.e., to distribute the required apps to city government employees.
We can control the devices 100 percent. The AppStore is switched off and we define which apps the employees are allowed to use. Facebook and WhatsApp cannot be used for example, said Peter Lissek.
Apps that have been specially developed or adapted for the Mannheim city administration are frequently used. Mannheim traffic wardens are equipped with an iPhone 6S+. If they see parking offences, they record them directly into an app specifically created for parking offences. The data is then transferred from the mobile device to the city administration’s system. With 4,000 parking tickets a day at peak times, the iPhones have long since made a full return on their investment, according to Peter Lissek. The old recording devices would have had to be replaced anyway due to battery issues. New devices would have been four times as big and twice as expensive. In this respect, the use of the iPhones is also economically sensible.
Another field of application for iPhones managed with the Cortado Server is for civil engineering department staff who document damage to roads and sidewalks. In the past, employees took a photo of the damage with a camera and marked the location of the damage on a piece of paper. Then, this information had to be entered into the system. Now the employees take photos with the iPhone and transmit them, together with the GPS data, directly to the city administration’s system.
The parks department, which examine trees in the city for possible diseases and pests are also equipped with iPhones. At present, the IT experts are still looking for a suitable app that can determine the pests directly on site. In kindergartens and schools, there are also iPhones to which public emergency warnings can be transmitted via Germany’s Katwarn and Nina systems. This allows school and kindergarten employees to react promptly to weather warnings for example and protect children from possible risks. These apps are also used by the city’s fire department.
The digitization efforts of the city administration have had particularly impressive effects, especially on print output. Whereas in the past hundreds of printed documentation pages were distributed for a single meeting, the documents are now only available in digital form. Among others, Mandatos, a special app for local government work, is used for this purpose. The documents are now read and edited on iPads and saved on the server – with comments if necessary.
“The decision “Less printouts – more digital documents” does not go down well with everyone,” reports Senol Sengün. “Some people have to get used to it.” However, employees in other departments have a very high level of acceptance. Senol Sengün continues “I estimate the acceptance at 99 percent – and even though the employees cannot install any apps on their own.”
According to the admin team, 330 devices are currently in use, with a gradual increase to an expected 1,000 iPhones and iPads. In addition to the mobile device and mobile application management features, Cortado Server’s file access feature is also in use in some standby services, e.g. for the fire department, road construction, city councils and facilities management.
Peter Lissek summarized by saying:
We’re very satisfied with Cortado Server, the solution is really easy to use. We didn’t need much training and got up to speed mostly by ourselves. And in case a problem should occur, we know there is support in our time zone, meaning there will be no delays.