Q&A With David Booth, IT Branch Manager and Chief Information Officer, City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
David Booth, IT Branch Manager & CIO, City of Edmonton The city of Edmonton, with its festival flair and 1,300,000 residents across a diverse metro area, has earned its moniker “Gateway to the North.” Canada’s fifth-largest municipality and Alberta’s second-largest city, Edmonton has reinvented itself with forward-thinking policies and technologies that support seamless collaboration. We asked David Booth, the CIO and Information Technology Branch Manager of Edmonton, to share his insights, challenges, and forecasts for a globally connected workplace.
AV Technology: How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?
David Booth: At the City of Edmonton, the most obvious way is through our program called the OneCity Workplace. This vision articulates how voice, video and data come together encouraging collaboration like never before and completely independent of location. This means people with access to an Internet connection can have video chats, work simultaneously on documents and presentations, and have “face-to-face” meetings.
Of course, it is more than that too. It is a move to a paperless environment, but when printing is a must, it includes printing from any printer anywhere — safely and securely. It is about having a single number where you can be reached for all devices: PC, tablet, smartphone, desk phone (if you still have one) and a single voicemail that can be read or listened to from your email, which you can also access from any smart device.
What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?
David Booth: Some big steps forward have been made in support of field workers. For example, inspectors are now able to enter their information from an inspection site and workers are able to enter time from the field. With technologies such as Google Hangouts, video from a smart device to a desktop PC now works seamlessly, and combined with Google Chromebox, has allowed for truly virtual meetings, saving both time and money.
The next big step for us will be an “application portal” enabling access to many disparate back-end systems through a single interface, again from anywhere.
What types of new tech or products do you want to learn more about?
David Booth: I think the next big area is “wearables.” This technology has so much potential, including safety applications, something very important at the City of Edmonton. For example, wearable technology can help ensure seamless communication between ground workers and a heavy vehicle driver. These work situations are inherently dangerous, and wearables could provide the driver the exact location of those workers around his vehicle, greatly enhancing safety.
What AV/IT do you hope to buy in the near future?
David Booth: For the City of Edmonton, there are huge eServices opportunities delivering products and services—as well as new products and services—to the citizens of Edmonton in very cost-effective and efficient ways. For example, a City of Edmonton Smart Card (which could be your Smart Watch or any smart device) that could be used for transit fares, access to community recreation centers, or even to pay for parking. The City is working towards this right now.
Where are tech manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?
David Booth: In my view, tech manufacturers see the world in terms of business and consumers. It is not hard to look at an organization and to see how they target their products and services. I believe this is fundamentally flawed, given the same people going to work everyday are the same people using the consumer products.
The next convergence is between work-centric and personal-centric, but not because we want people working 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Rather, an individual learns a set of skills and becomes very productive on some personal smart devices. Businesses should be able to leverage that to have instantly productive employees — not to mention happier, more comfortable employees because they didn’t have to learn something new and different to get their job done.
I see this as a huge opportunity.
What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration? What are your collaboration strategies?
David Booth: As both a personal consumer and business consumer, I get very frustrated by proprietary systems that won’t talk to each other. Between various “more leading edge” and more traditional, there are so many examples of how they will not work together, forcing consumers and businesses to make silly choices that impact effectiveness and efficiency, ultimately costing a lot of money for “workarounds.” Ironically, that money would be spent on additional AV/IT, so, at the end of day, these organizations are not only hurting the consumer, but themselves as well.