New C Spire Passport Platform Allows Seamless Connectivity 

Will increase safety and save time

Sometimes listening to what customers need and pulling out all the stops to make sure they get it can pay big dividends. That is the case with the newest offering of C Spire Business, Passport. 

Jonathan Askins

“C Spire prides itself in providing incredible customer service,” said Jonathan Askins, C Spire Business national account director. “How do we make sure the customer is happy? How do we make sure the customer is getting what is needed? Our new C Spire Passport product evolved from work with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). We were meeting their needs and bent over backwards, going the extra mile, providing them with a solution they are very happy with. So, we felt like this could evolve into a solution that we provided to a lot of customers out there. We worked in partnership with Cisco because it is our largest partner and has a large national footprint. We took all we learned in Alabama and Mississippi and provided a solution that is broader than transportation and something we can provide to a nationwide group of customers.”

When used to seamlessly connect roadway locations, data centers and cloud resources, C Spire Passport can restore vital resources during times of crisis like natural disasters or accidents that block traffic by connecting devices to Intelligent Transportation Systems. It can save time, money and even lives when it facilitates communication and the ability of emergency service vehicles to get where they are needed quickly. It can also have economic benefits by reducing the amount of time wasted due to traffic congestion.

The platform rollout is especially timely in Mississippi as MDOT begins work on eight major capacity projects funded by $620 million in supplemental appropriations. The projects are designed to increase safety, alleviate congestion and advance the state’s economy.

“C Spire Passport is a new paradigm that simplifies and automates the deployment and management of complex technology solutions,”  said Askins. “It is a remote self-service platform that allows C Spire customers to push the deployment and management of Cisco devices out to the end user or a non-specialized user in the field.”

Normally an engineer in the field installs a router and then reports back to central headquarters that it is installed and now needs to be provisioned. Depending on where the project is in the queue, it may take a day or two, or even a week, before that router is finally provisioned. 

“With C Spire Passport’s automation and self-service, it is a point and click portal that allows a field technician on the ground to provision network devices complete with security and authentication,” said Askins, who was recently hired away from the State of Arkansas where he was the state’s chief technology officer and director of Arkansas’ Department of Transformation and Shared Services, Division of Information Systems. “They can deploy these SD-WAN routers, set them up, provision them and manage them on a day-to-day basis after that.” 

The platform combines the power of Cisco Identity Service Engine and Catalyst SD-WAN Manager through an easy-to-use web portal. It also allows field technicians to remotely view, manage and securely deploy network devices from any location. In addition, the technology alleviates time constraints, resource availability and budget limitations for strategic IT teams by removing core personnel from edge deployment workflows.

Jeremy Sanders

Jeremy Sanders, emerging technologies director for C Spire, said the idea for this new offering from C Spire started out when he was working with ALDOT field personnel deploying communication equipment to allow real time traffic re-routing to alleviate congestion problems up and down Interstate 65 in Alabama. 

“So, we worked with them on a project in Clanton, Ala., to allow them to switch lights when there was an accident on the interstate from its traffic management center,” said Sanders. “The lights were programmed to flow as much traffic as possible through the bypass. Normally you couldn’t put several thousand extra vehicles through downtown very easily. But it is much faster when traffic lights are synchronized. Normally the deployment of those kinds of solutions is very labor intensive and manual. But we are able to automate deployment of that networking gear.”

Using C Spire’s technology in Mobile, Ala., civil engineers there have been able to deploy 300 new traffic lights at existing intersections that had no previous connectivity.

“That was a learning ground for us regarding the types of problems present in the transportation space,” said Sanders. “So, in Mississippi we are working to offer a solution where we took our learning from Alabama and packaged it to be deployed on similar projects as a cloud-based solution.”

There is a huge bottleneck in IT. Sanders said some of the key benefits from the C Spire Passport standpoint is that they are taking a highly complex, specialized process and pushing through automation a solution that a non-specialized person can actually deploy. 

“It is as simple as pulling out your phone, linking to a self-service portal and finding the device,” said Sanders. 

So far C Spire Passport has been very focused on transportation. But C Spire Passport could be used for many different types of customers, especially for customers with a large, complex network and few strategic resources in the field. C Spire sees particular potential benefits for emergency management. For example, after a hurricane, when cell towers and phone lines are down, C Spire Passport would allow the ability to quickly stand-up a network so various agencies could communicate for vital services like search and rescue and recovery efforts. 

Robust cyber security is built into the system.

“Secure communication is critical anytime you are setting up a network given the fact that cyberattacks are not going away,” said Askins. “The ability to stand up something that is secure is essential to enable communications that the first responders or recovery groups are going to be using. That is critical when you are talking about emergency and rapid response. Anything that allows groups in the field to be able to deploy network communications faster will save time, be more secure, and potentially save lives.”

C Spire, which is based in Ridgeland, is a diversified telecommunications and technology company that has three divisions. In addition to C Spire Business, that focuses on commercial enterprise and government technology solutions, the other lines of business are C Spire Wireless and C Spire Fiber. In addition to its C Spire Passport, C Spire Business offers organization specific services including data center space, managed service, hosting, equipment sales and professional services. 

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