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OSU launches Web site for mobile devices

In July Ohio State launched a new mobile Web site that can tell you when the next COTA bus is coming and where the nearest library is, all from the palm of a student’s hand.

The site has been around for close to five years, but this summer the school launched a version that is designed to work with the latest advances in handheld devices, including iPhone and Blackberry technology.
“The mobile site is just an extension of the main Web site,” said Ted Hattemer, Director of New Media, University Communications. “It is optimized for the type of devices that students might be using to view that same content.”
However, it isn’t just a modification of OSU’s main site. There are many added features on the site that take advantage of the services on iPhones and Blackberrys.
Because many iPhones and Blackberrys have global positioning technology that pinpoints where users are located, the new site has a component that is called “What’s Close?”.
“We can offer certain specialized services like what’s the closest bus stop and when will the bus arrive at that bus stop, or what’s the closest vendor that takes BuckID,” Hattemer said.
The site continues to offer the services that have been available in the past, such as “find people,”  a campus map, and news and information.
“Students will have the opportunity to look someone up from the site and then e-mail them directly from their iPhone or smartphone, or actually clicking on the phone number and dialing that phone number,” Hattemer said.
Similarly, the site continues to have available ringtone and wallpaper downloads, but those too have been upgraded for smartphones.
Sales of iPhones have increased 500 percent over the last year, Hattemer said. Because they are becoming more and more affordable, he expects to see an increase of students with these devices.
James Walton, a systems manager within the Office of Information Technology, said in an e-mail that OIT estimates about 50 percent of upperclassmen at Ohio State have smartphones. He also said that while only about 5 percent of freshmen and sophomores have smartphones, they expect that number to steadily increase.
The site has been online with very few problems since its launch, but they haven’t seen nearly the traffic — and potential problems — that might arrive with classes starting this week.
Their main challenge now is working on getting Buckeyelink and the Student Center optimized for handheld devices.
“The next thing that we are going to be looking at is optimizing Buckeyelink and the Student Center so that you can do things like register for classes or check your grades,” Hattemer said.
They are working on perfecting the security so that students can conduct university business without worrying about having their personal information online without a security certificate, Hattemer said. 

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