Nuclear energy firm slashes its costs by switching to Blackberry

British Nuclear Fuel (BNFL) is moving its UK staff off laptops and mobile phones and onto Blackberry handheld devices.

British Nuclear Fuel (BNFL) is moving its UK staff off laptops and mobile phones and onto Blackberry handheld devices.

The nuclear power producer said it will save up to £60 per user by providing remote access to e-mail and safety-critical information through the 6820 and 6710 Blackberry devices.

BNFL IT director Steve Davies said the switch would cut the company's phone bills, as the Blackberry is able to pick up e-mail automatically. Remote laptop users previously had to dial into the corporate e-mail system to pick-up their messages.

Davies said he expects the savings to be about £30 per user a month, but he believes costs could be cut further by £60 per month if users rely on the Blackberry as their sole mobile device, to replace their handheld computer, mobile phone and laptop.

Standard, text-based e-mail is handled by RIM's Blackberry server, which takes incoming e-mail from BNFL's Lotus Domino server and transmits it to a user's Blackberry device.

BNFL is using a product called Metamessage from OnSet Technology to deal with e-mail attachments. The software strips out the text from Word and Acrobat attachments, allowing the text to be sent as a plain e-mail message to a user's Blackberry.

The software is also used to transmit e-mail documents to a local fax machine for printing.

The project got the go-ahead following a successful pilot in October 2002. Davies began introducing the devices to a second wave of staff at the start of this year. However, before the roll-out could take place, Davies needed to extend BNFL's existing five-year IT outsourcing contract with CSC to support the Blackberry devices. "We made a standard change to the contract," he said.

By the end of July, BNFL will be upgrading to the latest release of the Blackberry server. Unlike its predecessor, the new release will allow remote users to access websites from their handhelds. Davies said this would allow staff to access travel information, technical specifications and the press database on the company intranet.

Davies will be giving a presentation on the BNFL mobile e-mail system at the Mobile Workforce solutions conference tomorrow (18 June) in London.

Read more on Mobile hardware