More Fleets Are Calling On Smartphones

GPS-enabled cell phones are allowing drivers to do more--for a lot less.


Another Windows-based application uses GPS to track a drivers' position and then, through the web, provide local fuel prices, weather information, where to get food and more. "All because the device knows where you are," says Higgins.

Another advantage that Smartphones also provide to users is the ability to transmit GPS data back to the home office through at least four different networks, including WWAN and WLAN.

"If I want to transmit GPS data, I'm going to have to be able to transmit it on someone's network," says Appian's Stevenson. "That's the way it works."

Having the availability of different network options provides least-cost routing options for getting data across networks. It also provides the security of having built-in redundancy should one of the networks go down.

"Whether the data is blue tooth, infrared or WIFI, we can take it and transmit it across the network so they can get real time information," says Sprint's Higgins.

Other Applications

Telogis is an Irvine, CA-based company that provides telematics, GPS, automatic vehicle location and location-based services and software. The company offers a software application called Ontrack Workforce which runs on higher end smartphones. Ontrack is an out-of-the-box application that addresses all the compliance pieces that are federally mandated for drivers to meet, such as hours of service reporting to the DOT.

The software also allows for the collection and dissemination of vehicle saftey inspections by drivers, via their smartphones, as they walk around the vehicle and check the brake lights and tire pressure.

"OnTrack also supports truck navigation solutions," says Newth Morris, president of Geobase at Telogis. "An example would be adding bridge height and weight restrictions that the driver can receive over his phone, as well as eliminating left hand turns for routes--any kind of fleet centric navigation type functions can be sent out to them in this fashion."

Telogis can also graft its software to look like the existing processes that a customer has, for example, creating electronic forms that look exactly like the paper forms a company uses. "As long as they have the device out there and it's powerful enough, it makes sense being able to have the ability to do electronic forms."

Morris also believes that the more companies can utilize smartphone technology to move process that were traditionally done by voice over to the mobile application side, the more organized they will become and the cheaper it will be to run their operations. Dispatching, for example, can be streamlined utilizing GPS and mobile applications.

"Say a job comes across the board in the dispatching office--a store needs a box of onions. The dispatcher can use the technology to find the closest driver and get a message to him to deliver a box to the store immediately, if he has the product onboard that is." In this way, customer satisfaction can also be increased.

So too can user satisfaction. One of Appian's customers has been having a major issue with latency on billing and resolving orders that have been shipped short or damaged. Stevenson says this threw the whole payment process into cycles where $2,000 payments were being held up for $50 worth of damaged items. The entire issue has been solved through the customer providing its drivers with smartphones that include a special invoicing application.

"They have the ability, by having an application running on a Windows enabled smartphone, to scroll through the purchase order, take an item off the invoice and re-adjust it. The customer signs it and then the back office can bill the invoice at the end of day."

There's no lengthy reconciliation process thanks to the application on the phone and Appian's customer has actually increased its cash flow process.

"Fortunately the hardware platform on today's smartphone has all of the pieces you need to put together a number of field service apps," says Telogis' Morris. "And now that the software is just beginning to catch up, we're starting to see the true capabilities of the devices."

This means more work can be pushed out to the driver while he's making deliveries, thereby eliminating paperwork for companies that cannot afford higher-end handheld units.

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