Air Watch expands in Georgia, highlights successful tablet pilot program in Pierce County, Washington


Pierce County, Washington faced the same issues many counties now face, they are looking for ways to upgrade their technology, provide in-field support, and manage bring your own device plans – all with uncertain funding. County officials started an initial pilot to introduce tablet computers to public workers who spend their days away from desktop PCs. The pilot program amounted to some 200 tablets, but county officials lacked a device management program. CivSource spoke with Kevin Mattsen, the systems engineer for Pierce County, about how they launched the pilot, and their partnership with Air Watch to expand the mobile device plan in the future.

“Our original pilot had no real management, we were using an internal tool that was cumbersome and lacked key features,” Mattsen says. “We realized quickly we needed to find something that would handle security and device management. We started by going through the Gartner research on vendors in this field and came to Air Watch.”

Air Watch, based in Georgia is a leader in mobile application, device, and content management. Mattsen explains that the county needed to be able to track the devices, ensure security compliance, and be able to control what types of applications were downloaded. In terms of mobile phones the county, like many others, is an all Blackberry shop. However, moving into tablet computing meant bringing on a new operating system, and new security concerns. “iOS (iPad) is the only tablet that is ready for business, and it was a new system for us,” he says.

Washington State is a rapidly growing state, but also one with significant budget concerns. Pierce County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, and demand for public services is also growing. But, with consistent budget shortfalls, financing for plans to provide technology that will keep pace with these demands is often uncertain, and the small pilot program size can make it challenging to sign up for typically larger enterprise technology plans. According to Mattsen, Air Watch was a logical choice because the way plans are set up, the county could basically pay for what it needed as it needed. “It breaks out to about $4 per month, per device,” Mattsen says.

By working with Air Watch, the county was able to launch the pilot and deploy all of the devices within 60 days. Using the Air Watch mobile device management technology, Mattsen and other county officials could see and control the devices remotely allowing them to be locked or wiped from the main office if something happened to a device in the field. The service also provides a secure VPN connection, giving public workers access to their files from the device.

Now that the pilot has been successful, Mattsen says the county has plans to expand their device support, potentially including smartphones and custom applications that will be available on the Internal Application Catalog on the Air Watch service.

It addition to new contracts like that with Pierce County, the company recently announced a plan to expand its present headquarters facility in metro Atlanta, creating 800 jobs over the next two years and investing more than $4 million in new equipment. The company currently employs 650 people at its headquarters. Hiring has already begun, and the company’s expansion is scheduled for completion in 2015.

“We’ve grown to twice the size of our nearest competitor and expect to double our size this year by combining innovative mobile technology and exceptional talent with the state’s economic development resources,” said chairman of AirWatch, Alan Dabbiere. “AirWatch and other software companies are playing a critical role in attracting new businesses to the region and solidifying Atlanta as a leading technology player.”