Commissioned by West End Studios, I led the iOS Development of a feature-rich conference meeting application for Novartis Global. The app enabled delegates to view their personalised conference diary and network with other 450 delegates and speakers.

I built the messaging system for the iPod app using Apple’s Push Notification technology and a custom local/server cache syncing solution. Although initially the messaging feature was a low priority for the app, it ultimately rolled out into multiple features: Private Messaging, Help Desk Chat, and Ask the Presenter a Question.

450 iPods await collection!

Another great feature of the app were the maps. Google Maps wasn’t a viable option as we wanted delegates to be able to access the maps even when offline and not on site. I developed a PDF rendering solution for this which also enabled delegates to find locations of any event in their diary.

The app enabled Novartis to host a ‘paperless conference’. No print outs were distributed throughout the sessions, plenaries or exhibitions. Instead all events were accessible through the iPod app and delegates could access any event documents directly and ‘send to my email’. Both a cost saving in terms of printing and a green solution.

A substantial effort was made during the development to ensure that the app would run most features offline. With 400+ iPods simultaneously attempting to connect to the wi-fi you tend to run into problems delivering a reliable wireless network. Our app regularly synced with the server and then locally cached all data and images (using Apple’s CoreData framework). The guys at West End implemented a streaming media server to deliver conference movies directly to the iPods throughout the event. However, we had a fallback option whereby even the movies would get cached and run locally if requested by the CMS. This was ideal for help videos for example. The flip-side of data caching is of course the security implications. So we implemented a feature into the CMS that would trigger the iPod to instantly clear the local cache and log the user out of the device remotely.

I was at the conference and able to see the software in action. The feedback was incredibly positive. Even the less technically enthusiastic and more sceptical delegates were won over by the end of the three days.

Martin de Planta, head of Global Learning @ Novartis kindly added this recommendation to my LinkedIn profile:

Nick led the development of an innovative, cost effective and dynamic meeting app. A consummate professional he was able to take a concept and turn into a reality where significantly bigger, household names and highly regarded institutions were not! Do not under-estimate the capabilities of this man. World class was how our most senior executives described his work.