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UB mobile

UB Mobile 2.0

By DAVID J. HILL

Published May 24, 2013

UB is going mobile…again.

The newly revamped UB Mobile website officially launched a week before the start of the spring semester. Serving as the launch pad for all things UB mobile, the site offers users access to a world of UB information and services—right from their smartphone or tablet.

With the launch of the site, UB mobile applications now are available as native apps for both Apple iOS and Android devices, such as the iPhone or Droid, as well as in the browser of any Web-enabled device, like the iPad or Kindle Fire. The new UB Mobile site supplants the earlier “beta” version of the UB Mobile iOS app, offering improvements to user interface and functionality.

University leaders point out it was imperative that UB upgrade its mobile presence. Here’s why:

  • Seventy percent of UB students own a smartphone, and e-reader and tablet usage continues to rise.
  • Gartner Research projects that this year mobile phones will overtake personal computers as the most common device to access the Web.
  • Two-thirds of Americans access the Internet every day on their smartphone, according to a May 2012 Google report that studied mobile device usage across the globe.

“Communications today is increasingly digital, which is why University Communications is leading a university-wide effort to strengthen our digital communications,” says Joe Brennan, associate vice president for university communications. UBIT has been a key partner in facilitating this digital transformation, Brennan adds.

“Mobile computing is perhaps the most rapidly growing area in information technology today, and not surprisingly represents an important and growing focus of Computing and Information Technology, as this release of UB Mobile demonstrates,” says Tom Furlani, UB’s interim associate vice president for information technology.

When users visit the UB Mobile site, they can select right from the top of the screen whether they want to download the UB Mobile application for Android or Apple iOS devices, or go to the mobile Web app.

The advantages touch every constituency at UB. For example, current students, faculty and staff have the ability to search interactive maps, look up campus dining information, see where the nearest shuttle is, search for people and departments, and more.

Today’s prospective students demand fingertip access to university information from their mobile device. Higher education consulting firm Noel-Levitz reported in September 2012 that 52 percent of prospective students used a mobile device to view a college or university website. But only 39 percent of four-year, public universities in the U.S. have a mobile-optimized website.

UB Mobile is a platform for creating Web content in a single place and seamlessly distributing it to a mobile website and native apps. The platform is unique in that it leverages the UB Content Management System (UBCMS), making it easy to create, modify and publish content on the UB Mobile site.

Making a mobile website, however, doesn’t get you into the app markets, like Apple's AppStore or Google Play. For this, UB Mobile uses PhoneGap, an open source framework that allows the use of common Web technologies, like HTML, JavaScript and CSS, to quickly build cross-platform apps. PhoneGap Build, PhoneGap’s assembly factory in the cloud, writes the specific code needed by whichever mobile device platforms are being supported (Android, iOS, etc.).

This eliminates the need for Web personnel to build or maintain separate native apps for each mobile platform.

In short, while PhoneGap manages the transformation from mobile site to native app, UBCMS makes it possible to create the mobile site in the first place.

And there’s more to come, including exciting changes down the line for student and faculty services, such as HUB, and the mobilization of all UBCMS websites, Furlani says, adding, “UB Mobile is only the first phase of our commitment to mobile computing. Additional applications will be added to UB Mobile.”