Snowy Hydro eyes smart glasses

Also exploring potential of BYOD, Chromebooks

Credit: Snowy Hydro

Credit: Snowy Hydro

Snowy Hydro is exploring potential uses of wearable devices in its business following a rollout of Centrify identity management software.

Snowy Hydro is a hydroelectric power plant in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. The company also owns three gas-fired peaking power stations located in NSW and Victoria.

At Mobile World Congress this years, Centrify announced support for wearable devices. Snowy Hydro PC and mobility asset management team leader, Martin Spencer, told Computerworld Australia that he “definitely” sees applications for wearables at Snowy Hydro in the future.

The company is already looking into head-mounted devices like Google Glass that could provide instructions to workers as they approach equipment in the plant, he said.

“If you’re a maintenance guy on the plant that doesn’t have much experience, you can walk up to [equipment] and [the glasses] will show you where parts are,” he said.

The hands-free nature of smart glasses is particularly attractive, he said. “You don’t have to hold a book or your phone ... to look at a manual.”

Credit: Snowy Hydro
Credit: Snowy Hydro

Snowy Hydro’s deployment of Centrify two years ago helped the company deliver Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphones to its 500 staff. The mobile devices replaced desk phones, said Spencer.

There are also 30-50 tablets in the business, which are mostly Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablets, with some Apple iPads as well.

In the future, Snowy Hydro could adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) plan that would let employees use whatever smartphone they want, said Spencer.

BYOD is “definitely something that’s on the top of my mind” and could be rolled out in the future using Centrify to manage the devices, he said.

“Some people just want iPhones. Basically, the only way that [we] can allow that is if they buy their own iPhone and then they are free to use their own one if they want to.”

Before Centrify, Snowy Hydro used mobile device management (MDM) software from Good Technologies to manage 150 mobile devices that were in the business at the time, Spencer said.

He estimated that 80 per cent of the older devices were iPhones and 20 per cent were Samsung.

A major benefit of Centrify was the ability to push out group policies with Wi-Fi, password and other settings, he said.

“Instead of having to learn a whole new system and add another complexity to the whole infrastructure, we can just use group policy. It was so easy because it was just an ADM file that they added in to manage the devices as if you were doing a PC.”

However, it was actually the arrival of a new CEO in July 2013 that first pushed Snowy Hydro to consider a new tool to manage its PCs and mobile devices, said Spencer.

The CEO wanted to bring a Mac into the business but the company at the time didn’t have any Apple devices. Spencer had to find a tool that could manage Macs in addition to the existing devices on the network. A Mac supplier recommended Centrify, he said.

Snowy Hydro ultimately chose Samsung smartphones for employees because the Android OS played nicely with Google Apps, said Spencer. Buying Samsung devices also saved money compared to an iPhone deployment, he said.

Credit: Snowy Hydro
Credit: Snowy Hydro

“The amount of stuff in there—we’ve only brushed the surface of it … We’re starting to push out more and more applications through the Centrify portal,” Spencer said.

One new app, Scheme Intelligence, provides a one-page overview of dam levels, the status of turbines, the amount of power being generated and other important stats, he said.

Another app that’s just been developed allows traders to place bids with the electricity regulatory body on their mobile phone, he said.

The company allows employees to install external apps on their devices, but monitors what is installed through Centrify, he said.

In the future, Snowy Hydro plans to use Centrify’s new App Gateway, which will let the company publish internal apps without a VPN, letting users access apps using a single sign-on on any of their devices, said Spencer.

One feature that Snowy Hydro has requested to Centrify is support for Google Chromebooks. Spencer said Chromebooks could be a cost-effective tool for the business, which already uses Google Apps and has been migrating much of its software to the cloud.

However, Centrify does not yet support single sign-on with a Chromebook. Because Snowy Hydro doesn’t want to have to give people their Google passwords, this limitation has stopped the company from a wide rollout of Chrome OS devices, he said.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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