CityU Graduates Into Global Player with APIs

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Tomwang112

What if the campus experience can be recreated and customized for each student and staff?

It was the vision that drove City University of Hong Kong (CityU) to look for a better way to unify its disparate university systems, the way its staff and students access information, and stay relevant to their evolving needs.

The leading Hong Kong university saw its answer lay in the use of APIs built on MuleSoft's Anypoint Platform. It simplified the campus experience for all its more than 26,000 students and 4,000 academic staff in its five colleges and schools while allowing it to create new ones at ease.

Learning competition

CityU’s move to make the campus experience agile and responsive with digital comes as it faces intense competition from global tertiary institutions. 

“To compete with other world-renowned universities, CityU sought to create new digital experiences that reflected the rapidly changing world for students, faculty, and staff – using MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform as the foundation for this effort,” says Adams Chan, director of computing services, CityU.

“MuleSoft’s API-led approach allows us to connect our legacy systems and quickly integrate new technologies to create a unified campus experience. With MuleSoft, we’re able to establish a solid foundation of APIs that enable CityU to take on many smart campus initiatives,” he adds.

Space wars

One of the significant benefits of the new API-based system is centralizing the way its physical facilities are used.

CityU has, over the years, organically grown the number of systems to manage its various spaces, ranging across classrooms, communal meeting rooms, specialized teaching venues, laboratories, and even the car park. For the user, it meant no more hassle of signing in and out of several different systems.

APIs allowed the university to easily publish more content, news, and events on its website and mobile app.

While this was still manageable, CityU was facing a space crisis as it made strategic developments in the fields of veterinary medicine, energy and environment, life science, and data science.

The dire need for space left CityU with two choices. The first one of expanding campus areas would take time and be extremely costly. So, it decided to take the second choice of rethinking how the various systems were designed and simplifying master data management.

A side benefit of the API-based integration was that it allowed the university to easily publish more content, news, and events on its website and mobile app through APIs.

Campus rebooted

Another benefit was faster time-to-market. The layered API framework and agile DevOps process allowed the IT team to use a microservices architecture to speed up development, testing, and deployment processes.

For example, the CityU mobile app was re-developed entirely in 12 months after six years of its first release. A third version is now in the pipeline, with the development cycle shortened to four months.

The faster time-to-market and increased frequency of refreshes because of APIs increased user numbers. 

“With MuleSoft, we can develop new applications in one-third of the time. And now, with more APIs available, the time-to-market for any new apps and initiatives has improved vastly,” says Chan.

The faster time-to-market and increased frequency of refreshes increased the app’s number of users. There are 30,000 active users today.

APIs and the microservices architecture laid the groundwork for CityU’s Smart Campus ambition.

It can now integrate with edge devices and IoT sensors to drive operational efficiencies in day-to-day processes. This includes determining campus crowdedness, releasing and extending room reservations based on occupancy sensors, and collecting room usage reports without the need for personnel to physically check the rooms.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Tomwang112