Ex Libris has made an incremental step in expansion beyond the library technology arena, acquiring oMbeil, a company based in the United Kingdom known for campusM, a mobile and portal platform that enables institutions to provide a variety of services to students via a hosted, software-as-a-service platform optimized for mobile devices. This acquisition does not involve further consolidation in the library technology industry, but reflects the increase dominance of mobile access and the interest of Ex Libris in serving the broader campus environment.
oMbiel Corporate Background
oMbiel Limited was founded by Hugh Griffiths in the United Kingdom in March 2009 (Registration number 06833925) and is based in Wolverhampton, located northwest of Birmingham. Griffiths served as the company's Chief Executive Officer and had previously co-founded a systems integration firm that specialized in services-oriented architecture based on Oracle technologies. Following the development of campusM and its initial deployment in October 2009 at the University of Sheffield, oMbiel worked to establish itself as a major provider of mobile-based technologies to higher education in the UK, eventually gaining a presence in over a quarter of the universities in the country. The company has also seen adoption of its flagship products in other international regions, including two in the United States.
The products offered by oMbiel combine a multi-tenant software-as-a-service platform with lightweight responsiveweb interfaces based on HTML5 and native apps for the major mobile environments, Apple's iOS and Android. Responsive web interfaces provide a portal for the institution for all devices, including desktop and laptops. The emphasis oMbiel is the power of native apps and their ability to take full advantage of the capabilities of mobile devices, including push notifications, geolocation, access to the camera, and other features. The company has developed and deployed campusM as its strategic platform that follows a hybrid cloud architecture which taps data residing in business applications within an institution's infrastructure with a hosted scalable multi-tenant services.
One of the key concepts of the company involves providing tools for educational institutions to connect with students through all relevant devices and channels. oMbiel's campusM offers customized and branded apps and portals for its customer institutions. These apps include student-oriented features such as campus maps, directories, access to learning management systems, access to library online catalogs with self-service renewals and requests, distribution of campus news, alerts or other notifications, events, availability of PCs and printers, campus tours, and course and exam schedules. The platform also provides single sign-in, use reports and analytics, and an administrative console for administration and content management. In addition to the apps developed directly by oMbiel, the App Extension Kit enables institutions to create their own apps or perform integrations with other local systems, including those that target other audiences such as prospective students or alumni.
Selected Educational Institutions Adopting campusM
Some of the organizations in the UK using campusM and the library systems implemented include:
- London School of Economics and Political Science (Alma)
- Imperial College London (Alma)
- University of Sheffield (Alma)
- Lancaster University (Alma)
- Harper Adams University (Sierra)
- Liverpool John Moores University (Aleph)
- Keele University (Millennium)
- Royal Veterinary College (Symphony)
- University of Southampton (Symphony)
- University of Leeds (Sierra)
- University of Hull (Millennium)
- Bournemouth University (Alto)
- University of Winchester (Alto)
- University for the Creative Arts (Symphony)
The company has also expanded into other international regions:
- Copenhagen Business School (Aleph)
- University of Canberra (Millennium) in Australia,
- Central Queensland University (Virtua) in Australia,
- University of Cape Town in South Africa (Aleph),
- HEC Paris (research and education in management sciences) in France.
The company has also begun to enter the higher education arena in the In the United States. Queensborough Community College, a member of the City University of New York system and an existing Ex Libris customer using Aleph, implemented campusM in 2014, deployed as an app branded as QCC Connect.
Details of the Acquisition
oMbiel was privately owned by its founder and CEO Hugh Griffiths. Ex Libris, owed by Golden Gate Capital since December 2012, now gains full ownership of the company. Financial details have not been disclosed publicly. The business transition will bring no anticipated disruption for oMbiel's customers. Development and support will continue through the same personnel and facilities as before. Hugh Griffiths, founder and CEO of oMbiel Limited, has joined Ex Libris as its Vice President for Mobile Campus Solutions, reporting directly to CEO Matti Shem Tov as part of the company's senior executive team. Ex Libris will operate the former oMbiel company as a third product business unit, complementing the existing units focused on library products, each headed by a corporate vice president:
- Resource Management: Bar Veinstein
- Discovery and delivery: Shlomi Kringel,
- Mobile Campus Solutions: Hugh Griffiths
oMbiel is a much smaller company than Ex Libris. Although specific personnel counts are not available, oMbiel is estimated to be less than a tenth the size of Ex Libris which employs a total of 565 personnel. As Ex Libris acquires a set of key technologies and products consistent with its expanding scope of interest in higher education, oMbil's products will benefit from the large-scale personnel and technical resources of a large global company.
The acquisition of oMbiel extends the reach of Ex Libris beyond academic libraries, while retaining its focus on higher education. In the same way that academic libraries in recent years have made increasing efforts to be more fully integrated in the business and technical infrastructure of their campuses, Ex Libris has acquired a business with promising opportunities in a growing niche of educational technologies and also gained access to technologies that will benefit its library products. Although Ex Libris has offered mobile apps for its Primo discovery service, its emphasis has been on desktop interfaces.
The infusion of the mobile-first strategy into the company will benefit its products and services oriented to library users. The decision makers and implementers of campusM would generally be part of a campus-wide information technology division. Through this business unit, Ex Libris will gain increased involvement and awareness of campus IT personnel and procurement issues.
Multiple layers of technology synergies also apply between Ex Libris and oMbiel. Both companies emphasize the deployment of products via multi-tenant software as a service. Although Ex Libris continues to support several products based on server-oriented architecture, such as Aleph and Voyager, those created more recently, especially Alma and Primo Central, are based on multi-tenant platforms. Joining the expertise and resources of both organizations will offer mutual benefits.
Integration into campus-wide applications is crucial to all the products involved. Library-specific and campus-wide mobile services depend on institutional authentication services, require data from student management systems, and need to interact with learning management systems. Any technical development related to interoperability with campus systems can be highly leveraged. Possibilities include additional opportunities to increase the impact of the library's content and services via campus-wide mobile services. A review of the institutions listed as campusM customers reveals a high proportion with libraries currently using Ex Libris products. This substantial overlap reinforces the common interests of the two businesses. Conversely, it shows that campusM coexists with non-Ex Libris library products. Interoperability between the campus mobile platform and library systems will need to span those from multiple vendors. This acquisition provides leverage for the marketing of product lines. It provides to Ex Libris business opportunities beyond the library, including institutions that have opted for competing library technology vendors or products. Ex Libris library customer sites provide contacts and opportunities to pitch campusM at the institutional level.
Progress on Leganto List Management Solution
Ex Libris has recently introduced its new reading list management service, Leganto. This genre of reading list management tools was well established in the United Kingdom, but has not seen as much traction in the United States. These products provide instructors with an interface through which they can select, organize readings associated with a course or research project, making the easily accessible to students. This functionality operates through the learning management system rather than through the online catalog or discovery service of the library, even while the majority of the content items included on the reading lists are provided via the library. Ex Libris Leganto operates in the intersection between learning management system and the library's infrastructure. Libraries appreciate that instructors have easier ways to incorporate their materials in their course pages, but also benefit from statistics and analytics on how the collection items are used and data that informs the acquisition of needed materials.
In May 2015 Ex Libris announced that it will be collaborating with Instructure, the creator of the open source Canvas learning management system through its certified partnership program.
Leganto remains in the development phase, with five institutions collaborating as partners, including the University of Oklahoma, KU Leuven in Belgium, Kingston University and Imperial College in the United Kingdom, and the University of New South Wales in Australia. Ex Libris anticipates an initial version available for testing by these institutions in August 2015.