Mobile phones paired with GPS helping companies harness new revenue
by Alan Zisman (c) 2011
published in Business in Vancouver March 8-14, 2011 issue #1115 High
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
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
for example, likes to tell this story about of one of his clients,
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
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
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.