Accordion Al - image by Ivy, age 10

Business in Vancouver

Canadian Freelance Union- CEP

Mobile phones paired with GPS helping companies harness new revenue streams

by  Alan Zisman (c) 2011 First published in Business in Vancouver March 8-14, 2011 issue #1115 High Tech Office column

With the ubiquity of mobile phones and GPS mapping and direction services, it’s easy to lose sight of other ways that businesses can use these technologies.

Last fall, Rogers offered western Canadian companies an opportunity to highlight innovative options for businesses.
Many combined GPS with a mobile connection to allow them to always know where their inventory, vehicles or employees are. David Katz, self-described as “le grand fromage” of Port Coquitlam’s Nero Global Tracking (www.neroglobal.com), for example, likes to tell this story about of one of his clients, Houston Landscaping.

On a Saturday morning, Houston’s Nero system reported that one of its excavators was no longer on site in North Vancouver. Verifying that the gate had been broken open and the machine was missing, Houston’s Jeremy Miller and his foreman hopped into Miller’s with his laptop and drove down Highway 1 tracking the stolen machine. On the phone to the RCMP, they continuously reported the excavator’s progress to Langley – within 50 minutes of the theft, the police were able to recover the excavator, which was returned to Miller later that day.

Nero Global Tracking is not alone in using these technologies for fleet tracking. Local product developer Cypress Solutions (www.cypress.bc.ca) for instance, combines satellite, cellular and Wi-Fi to help provide connectivity to remote oil rigs, log booms and more.

Fleet Lite (www.fleetlite.com) promises that its products (developed by Calgary-based Data Trail) and plans are “the easiest way to track your fleet.” Along with vehicle location monitoring it can provide information on driver behaviour and trip and fuel efficiency; devices can be easily moved from vehicle to vehicle. Real-time alerts and vehicle locations can be monitored using a BlackBerry mobile application.

Vancouver-based Tsunami Solutions offers a range of SafetyLine products (www.safetyline.ca) to help companies monitor lone worker safety. Working with mobile phones, BlackBerries and laptops, the system will automatically signal an alert, complete with location, if a worker misses a regularly scheduled check-in. (Workers can also manually buzz in an emergency.) Emergency monitoring systems for children and the elderly are offered by local company Amber Alert (www.amberalertgps.ca).

Though iPhone and Android smartphones seem to get the most press, RIM’s BlackBerry models remain the favourite of Canadian businesses. Calgary’s Kryos Velocity is a development platform aimed at businesses wanting to allow their BlackBerry users access to corporate network data.

Kryos promises that Velocity can be used to quickly develop mobile business apps even by developers with no background in BlackBerry development. Ernie Miller, technical director for Vancouver’s systems integrator Sierra Systems, agreed. He told me that the Velocity platform “enabled us to quickly prototype and develop tools for the BlackBerry platform.”

He reported that by using Velocity, Sierra’s developers were able to make use of the full range of BlackBerry features, including GPS, phone and SMS and MMS messaging. End users were consequently able to access their data wherever they happen to be when they need it.

According to Miller, typical business intelligence applications are designed to provide a wealth of data on large – or even multiple – screens. Designing for the small screens of mobile access forced Sierra to think critically about what the most important data each client needs to see is.

Sierra first used Velocity within the company to allow BlackBerry-toting employees to access the company’s back-end: network monitoring, SharePoint network data, shared contacts and more. An app was developed to give support staff members access to their databases and create a support ticket from their mobile device. Building on this experience, Sierra can now develop custom BlackBerry apps for clients.

Miller noted Android app development tools from Kryos are in the works.

Powered by NetNation- www.netnation.com

Search WWW Search www.zisman.ca