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CD 1045 - 52pp Text 21/8/08 12:16 Page 26
Powering your Nomadic Workforce
with Mobile Technologies
Alastair Broom, Managing Director, PODFather/Valley Technology
With browser-based internet web ruggedised handhelds, it makes it cheap
applications becoming the standard for and easy to trial a new system without
interacting with customers, the availability having to commit to expensive equipment
of web technologies on mobile phones, purchases or leases. Cameras on the
personal data assistants and ruggedised devices mean photographs of damages
handheld computers mean business can be taken and attached to the job data
benefits by easily pushing operating providing an accurate record of what has
information out to the people in the field
occurred, and happier customers due to
who need it most. With the advent of
less disagreements over what got
cheap fixed data connection lines, like
damaged, by whom and when. Signature
ADSL or cable broadband, it became
capture is possible because the phones.
cheap and easy to hook up company
PDAs and heldhelds have touch screens
depots to the corporate information
with a pen interface for tapping buttons
system. At least, all depots were working
and writing on. Built-in GPS modules for
from the one operations system. But it
tracking are becoming more prevalent,
didn't solve the problem of drivers out on
with a fallback to GSM triangulation which
the road!
gives good enough resolution for most
Drivers still had to come to the depot at applications. If you want to know where a
the start of a shift to pick up phone or handheld was when it took a
collection/drop-off worksheets, and stop picture or captured a signature, we can.
by at the end of the shift to leave the pile And “mashups” with existing sat-nav
of hand-scribbled paper with the software on the device are easy.
administration staff, assuming that the
Barcode scanners tend to be built in to
paper hadn't blown away, got lost under
ruggedised devices, though for trialling
the passenger seat, ended up in a
an application on a handheld, USB
puddle, or been used as a wrapper for
barcode wand or scanner are cheaply
lunch. If there were any last-minute
available. Alternatively, a picture can be
changes throughout the day, then the
With mobile phones, PDA's and taken of the barcode with the device
driver had no paperwork to back up
ruggedised handhelds all, in essence, camera, and local software “scan” the
whatever he was asked to do, leading to
being small computers with internet photograph to pull out the encoding from
confusion for the driver and Depot, and
access over GPRS and 3G, we have all the barcode.
poorer service to the customer.
the tools right now that we need to push
All of this we can do right now.
Companies lost income through lost
information out to the permanently
paperwork. No POD = no invoice = lost
Looking to the future, mobile phone
“nomadic” workforce, right at the outer
income. Sound familiar? Given that the
companies are busy building the
edges of the business. We can allow
drivers are the representatives of your
infrastructure to take us past 3G, and
them to interact directly with the same
courier business, and likely the only
faster downloads (sometimes referred to
operations data as the depots and head
people from your company that your
as being “mobile broadband”) from High
customers will meet at their premises on
Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA)
a regular basis, it makes sense to give
In the simplest case, this can be giving
is just around the corner, followed by
the drivers as much information as they
drivers access to a company website
High Speed Uplink Access (HSUPA)
need to complete their tasks, to provide a
(suitably firewalled and secure, of course)
which will allow mobile users to upload
coherent, better service to the customers.
from the browser on their phone. They
data from their mobiles faster. But right
can check jobs to do, perhaps key in
now, you can have all of your employees,
information about jobs done. But what if
right out to the edge of your business,
the driver goes out of mobile coverage?
updating and sharing information from
Software development kits are available the one operations system providing
for all the major phone/PDA platforms improved service to your customers.
allowing bespoke applications with local
Alastair Broom is Managing Director of
database storage to be written, meaning
Valley Technology Ltd, whose pay-as-you-
that the driver can continue to work even
go Proof-of-Delivery software service, The
when out of mobile network coverage.
PODFather, is aimed at mobile business
The handheld downloads and uploads
workforces. Implemented on Open
jobs when it is in coverage, and the driver
Source platforms, with open Application
can continue to use the application when
Programming Interfaces, Valley
out of coverage.
Technology is a leader in providing
Because commodity mobile phones and Software as a Service to business.
PDAs can run the same software as
26 Courier Direct FIRST FOR NEWS & VIEWS
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