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Building dedicated apps for Central Bedfordshire Council

When Central Bedfordshire Council built a new library and leisure centre complex in Dunstable, they wanted to use the new building as a flagship location to attract non-traditional users to the library service. By offering non-members free access to iPads and WiFi, they hoped to increase foot traffic and boost signups. But in order to meet GDPR requirements, they needed a custom iOS solution to manage user data. Enter the Jigsaw24 dev team…


Liz Sunter

“We were asking ourselves, ‘how can we attract more people in their twenties and thirties, and how can we attract people who aren’t already members?’” explained Shaun Machan, Project Manager (FFE) for the new Dunstable Centre. A key part of the design of the new library was a ‘Genius Bar’: sleek, modern-looking counter with several iPads mounted along its length, which were connected to an open WiFi network. The Genius Bar was going to be prominently positioned and visible from outside the building, and Shaun and the team hoped its presence would drive up footfall – one of the library’s key performance metrics – and encourage non-members to explore the facilities.

However, because iPad is primarily designed to be a personal device, its operating system and browser naturally retain a lot of user data – great if you’re using the same apps day in, day out at work, but not ideal in an environment where devices are public and shared.

“We wanted to avoid any GDPR issues, but we didn’t want a situation like we have with our Windows network, where all our suppliers have to be audited and there are lots of time-consuming checks to make sure data’s protected, because the ethos of the project is ‘come in, use the devices, it’s easy’,” said Shaun.


"The drive to increase membership has

worked really well in our newly-opened

library – in the first three or four weeks we

were already seeing more people join up."


Searching for an off the shelf solution

We already supplied other council departments with Apple devices and their device management solution, Jamf, so we were the library service’s first port of call when it came to solving the security puzzle. The project presented two main challenges. Firstly, the library staff needed to be able to start, end and track timed sessions on each iPad; secondly, all user data needed to be wiped from the device once a session timed out or was ended manually.

Apple’s Kiosk Mode would have locked users into a single app and stopped them exploring the full range of the library’s services, so that was a non-starter. The council’s existing device management solution was capable of wiping the devices at the end of each day, but couldn’t perform a wipe after a timed session. Our in-house app development team realised they could bridge the gap by building a series of dedicated apps and a custom web browser, which combined to deliver session management solution Kiosk24.



Enabling secure, anonymous sessions with Kiosk24

When an iPad is not in use, Kiosk24 locks it into a login app. To access any other applications or features, users must go to the library’s customer service desk, where a staff-facing version of the app allows customer service assistants to generate a random six-digit login code, and decide on specifics like how long the user has access for. After entering their code on the iPad, the user has full access to all the iPad’s services.

“Developing the app was an iterative process,” said Shaun. “We did a lot of testing, and every time we came up against a problem or thought ‘this isn’t going to work’, the developers would come to us with solutions. Between the functionality of the app and making sure our users could use it without help, we presented Jigsaw24 with quite a lot of problems, and they came up with very good solutions to circumvent them.”

One major problem was the fact that Safari, iPad’s default web browser, is designed to retain user data between sessions. Using the council’s Jamf Pro management software, we were able to remove Safari and replace it with a custom browser of our own design, which wipes the user’s cache, cookies, passwords they’ve entered and any other personal data once their session times out.


"We presented Jigsaw24 with quite a lot of problems, and they came up with very good solutions to circumvent them."


Turning over a new leaf

The new Dunstable Centre opened on 3rd June, with the Genius Bar in place and ready to go. “The drive to increase membership has worked really well in our newly-opened library – in the first three or four weeks we were already seeing more people join up,” said Shaun. We continue to work with the library staff to optimise the app based on feedback from users and staff, be that trialling different interface designs to make the iPads more intuitive, or giving staff a way to capture anonymised data about users.

“We’d like to have more non-personal information about our users to see if we’re hitting our target audience,” said Shaun. “We’re looking at adding things like age categories and a tickbox to show whether a user is a member or non-member, as well as making sure all the labels and instructions are as clear as they can be.”

Library staff – who had to cope with the Kiosk24 solution rollout in the same week that they adjusted to a new premises, projection system, RFID scanning system and network – have taken to the app straight away. “There’s been a lot to learn and get used to, but some of our staff have really good ideas about different games and competitions they can run on the iPads to get different audiences involved,” Shaun told us.

“The iPad is a gateway device that allows us to change the perception of public libraries, because non-users perceptions are out of kilter with what we actually do. With iPad and Kiosk24, they can see all the other things we have to offer, and hopefully keep using our service. We want to use the Dunstable Library design as a template for our future libraries.”

Looking for a kiosk app?

Our Kiosk24 solution can create secure, timed sessions for any number of users, and is fully customisable from its UI to its security requirements. We can deliver:

• A branded UI designed for your organisation.

• Customer and staff-facing version of the app.

• Customised options for session creation, termination and security.

• Integration with your existing Jamf deployment.

• All the hardware you need to develop your kiosk.


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