Using a Sprint Nextel i355 phone to operate a mobile freight delivery application, Benton Express now is able to plan routes, track drivers and capture important shipment details.
In January 2006, a driver for Benton Express made a delivery in Atlanta. Months later, the customer called the less-than-truckload carrier. His shipment – a section of an airplane wing worth $185,000 – was missing.
Benton Express management began asking questions, but no one had answers. The driver was no longer with the Atlanta-based company, and neither was his dispatcher.
It turned out that the company had all the answers in a database. When making the delivery, the driver used an application on his Nextel GPS phone. This application, a freight delivery system from Cheetah Software, captured when and where the shipment had changed possession and who signed for it – a guy named Fred.
“I knew exactly where the guy was standing when he signed for it,” says Mark Headrick, director of information technology for Benton Express.
A Benton manager then drove to the spot and entered the nearest building. “I’m looking for an airplane wing,” the manager said.
“I’ve got it,” Fred replied. “But I don’t know what to do with it.”
“Things work in mysterious ways,” Headrick says.
When selecting a new freight delivery system, executives of Benton Express chose to put mobile computing in the hands of its drivers. Its GPS handset and mobile application is one of many fast-growing solutions that companies are using for mobile resource management. MRM solutions help companies assign jobs to remote resources – equipment, drivers and workers – and capture the status of those resources in real time.
In 2006, more than 400,000 workers used GPS handheld devices for MRM applications, according to C.J. Driscoll and Associates. This number will double during 2007, predicts Clem Driscoll, president of the research and consulting firm that specializes in commercial markets for GPS-based products and services.
Technology and cost trends are driving this explosive growth. While GPS has been available for many years, pricing for hardware and software has dropped substantially, and GPS now is widely available even in cell phone handsets. Meanwhile, wireless networks have become much more competitive in pricing, services and user flexibility.
Nextel is the dominant player in the MRM market for GPS handhelds. Through its partnership with hardware manufacturer Motorola, the company has about 80 percent of the market, Driscoll says. GPS handhelds include more devices than just phones, however; much more durable and robust mobile computing platforms from manufacturers Intermec and Motorola – which acquired Symbol Technologies in January 2007 – are also in wide use.
Numerous software companies specialize in MRM applications for GPS handheld devices, including Xora, AirClic, @Road, Cheetah Software, KonaWare, Navtrack and ActSoft. Some also provide MRM solutions for fleets that prefer to use a computing platform fixed to the vehicle and connected to the vehicle’s ECM.
The major wireless networks also are playing a big factor in the fast-paced growth of handheld applications. Verizon now offers MRM solutions through various third-party software partners. Cingular plans to enter the MRM market in the second quarter of 2007, Driscoll says. And since Sprint acquired Nextel in 2003, Sprint Nextel is offering MRM solutions through Sprint’s CDMA network.
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