Sunday, December 2, 2012

Guided Access - Can It Aid in Device Management? – Part 1

Crystal Bridges opened to the public on November 11, 2011. Through our first year we have been using two kinds of Apple consumer products (iPod Touches and iPad) for different purposes, but both are set-up for public use. Instead of jailbreaking them to gain more control, the Museum made the decision to use the devices as they came from the manufacturer and only employ configuration profiles.

We have three areas in our museum called Reflection Areas that are set-up with comfortable seating and collections of art, architecture, and nature books. Each of these areas also has two iPads running iBooks, the iOS ebook reader. The ebooks installed are a mix of internally-produced books about the museum and its collection and public domain books on art and nature. In order to help secure them and control access, the iPads are in enclosures that cover the home button.

Despite the enclosures, on several occasions guests have used the sleep button to turn the devices off in order to exit the iBooks app. The Museum's main objection to a user leaving the iBooks app is that some of our guests are unfamiliar with iPads, but are anxious to try them. Since no other content is installed on the iPads, and users sometimes don't know how
to get back into iBooks, they find the experience rather disappointing.  Thus our response was to put signs near the iPads asking users, for the enjoyment of all guests, to please leave the iPads set-up as we had them, and informing guests that public computers are available in the library should they need one.

This simple measure helped to eliminate over half the incidents with our iPads, but not all of them, so we continued searching for other solutions.

With the introduction of Guided Access in the release of iOS 6, we thought we had a great solution for our iPads in the Reflection Areas. Guided Access mode allows device owners (such as administrators, teachers, or parents) to limit users to a single app, and it provides the ability to block some controls and features within that app.

Guided Access has succeeded at keeping users from accidentally leaving the iBooks app, so we no longer have instances of people getting “lost” in the device. A few enterprising users have still found ways to get out of the app, but that is rare enough to not be a significant problem. It is important to note that to dis-engage Guide Access the Home button has to be triple-clicked and a code entered, or you have to shut down the device by holding the Home button and the sleep button. However, we have covered our Home button, so it remains a frustrating mystery how guests are still getting out.

Another issue we've faced with iBooks on the iPads is users sometimes deleting books and renaming the different bookshelves, giving them creative (and sometimes offensive) names.  Fortunately, Guided Access provides a feature that allows administrator to circle areas on the screen that they want to disable, such as the Edit button in iBooks. This allows us to prevent users from editing the bookshelves.

The problem we found with disabling parts of the app is that doing so disables the selected area of the display regardless of which screen is visible in the app. For example, in iBooks the Edit button and the Bookmark button appear in the same location on different app screens, so that turning off the Edit button also turns off the Bookmark button that appears on the screen after a book is opened. Likewise, when you disable the Collections button on the bookshelf screen, it also disables the Table of Contents and Share buttons in the book view and greys out a section of the text.

The other issue with disabling screen areas is that you have to setup the disabled areas separately for both the landscape and portrait orientations.  Whether or not this is an issue depends on the type of case your device is in. Since our cases allow users to rotate the iPads, we have to configure Guided Access twice per device. It isn't a serious problem, but it is a significant inconvenience.

As it stands now the combination of a simple sign and Guided Access has cut down 90% of our misuse activity. This means staff spend less time monitoring and resetting the devices. It also means that the devices are more accessible to all our guests and not just those who are familiar with iPads.

Next time I’ll discuss how Guided Access fared when we implemented it on the iPod touches that act as our audio guides.