Hotspot on wheels

Xata Corporation ( released an integrated digital cellular and satellite communications platform. The combination of third-generation digital cellular and satellite networks creates a speed and coverage advantage while reducing wireless costs.

McLeod Software ( announced the release of LoadMaster Interactive Fuel Module to provide fuel card conveniences in real time between carriers and their drivers. Interactive Fuel offers immediate card activity and control for driver card maintenance as well as issuance of funds to drivers.

CSI Wireless Inc. (, a designer and manufacturer of wireless and GPS products, announced that its Fleet-Link asset-tracking product now is being shipped to application service providers, OEMs and other customers. Fleet-Link is a cellular-based, self-powered asset-tracking product to monitor and manage trailers.

TMW Systems and SkyBitz agreed that TMW will use SkyBitz’s Global Locating System (GLS) technology to power an advanced trailer-tracking module. TMW will use the SkyBitz tracking system to provide customers with enhanced operational efficiencies such as improved detention tracking.

Terion (, a provider of trailer fleet management systems, released the Trailer Dashboard, its latest enhancement to its FleetView 3 system. The system consists of a set of reports designed to provide the key operational metrics needed to better manage a trailer fleet.

Many motor carriers, particularly those in the less-than-truckload sector, require drivers to capture data outside the vehicle using handheld computers. Drivers capture signatures from consignees, scan bar codes on freight, and update various applications throughout the day. Many of these carriers also capture extensive data from their vehicles in real time – such as location and driver and vehicle performance – from onboard computers.

A real-time connection between the offices inside and outside the vehicle doesn’t require a company to have two separate wireless plans, however. The latest handhelds from Symbol and Intermec can be linked directly to a company’s enterprise system through a wide-area cellular network, but traditionally fleets that use both handheld and “black box” computers do not utilize this feature. A driver captures data and places his mobile devices in a cradle that is hardwired to the onboard computer. The data then is downloaded from the device and sent back to the office through a cellular or satellite network.

Now recent advancements in network technology allow fleets real-time connectivity between the home office and remote mobile and onboard devices – all with a single data plan. Nearly all handheld devices on the market today come with 802.11 cards integrated in the devices. With the right technology in place, mobile computers can use an 802.11 “hotspot,” also known as Wi-Fi, to connect to the onboard computer to send to and receive data from the enterprise system in real time.

@Road, a provider of mobile resource management solutions, recently introduced Mobile HotSpot, a Wi-Fi device that is integrated with @Road’s iLM Internet Location Manager – the “black box” device installed in vehicles. Mobile HotSpot utilizes a Linux operating system and has full router capability and security features, including firewall, access control fillers and security protocols. The connection point between mobile devices and a mobile hotspot goes back to the office through cellular networks such as Nextel, Verizon or AT&T.

Using the @Road Mobile HotSpot, field service personnel can access corporate networks, run applications, send and receive work orders and job status information, retrieve schematics or access e-mail – anywhere and anytime, the company says.

“It provides a natural gateway extension that allows drivers to connect back to the corporation in real time,” says Joyce Tam, senior manager for @Road’s product management team.

As an example of the transformational qualities of a mobile hotspot, Tam said that a telecommunications products and services provider, such as a cable company, could use Mobile HotSpot to turn field technicians into customer service representatives. When a technician is dispatched to service a customer that lost his cable signal, the technician can use a handheld computer to pull up the specific customer’s information from the database, such as repair history, and also enter information without having to go back to the truck and dump data. The technician also can close the ticket in real time and offer to turn on additional channels, such as HBO, on the spot.

Mobile HotSpot also makes it possible for companies to manage the mobile devices through a single Web-based application, Tam says. If a connection between the handheld and in-vehicle computer went down, for example, users can reset the IP address of the device or receive e-mail alerts if any devices are turned off or low on battery power.

@Road is not alone in thinking that mobile hotspots are set to grow. In October, PeopleNet released its next-generation G3 onboard computer that has a USB port. By inserting a Wi-Fi adapter, fleets could connect mobile devices to the computer, and to the office, through an 802.11 connection. The G3 system uses multi-mode cellular networks, including CDMA 1xRTT, where available, to reach data speeds up to 144 kilobytes per second. With this bandwidth, drivers easily could connect to the Internet on a PC or other device while away from the vehicle.

Mobile hotspots may help fleets reduce wireless costs and enable them to take full advantage of their drivers’ capabilities, both inside and outside of the vehicle.