By Joel Waithman
Last week, along with Nigel Maund, Walt Fischer and others from Webtech Wireless, I attended NAFA in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I’m sure it’s a fun place in the summer, but in April there wasn’t much to distract me from the trade show (except perhaps a visit to the roulette table).
While at the conference, I attended an excellent presentation called, “Breakthrough Technologies and Future Trends for Fleet Telematics”, which described how telematics is going to impact fleet management in the next few years. The format of the presentation was a panel of four telematics specialists (responsible for huge fleets such as ARI) and a moderator. They fielded about ten questions and spent about ten minutes answering each question, except for one: The big question on everyone’s mind was distracted driving. This topic consumed a whole hour of the presentation time with many people from both commercial and government fleets weighing in on different points. Questions included, “How can we solve it?”, “Are we invading the privacy of the driver?”, and “What applications are available?”
So, gambling may be a fine distraction in Atlantic City, but no one’s gambling on distracted driving. One commenter compared cell phone use while driving to gun ownership. After all, a vehicle is potentially as lethal to operate, so some form of regulation is needed to ensure people use it properly. But is it the responsibility of governments to enforce? Some government operators suggested that unions might resist (unless required to comply by government regulations) while others embraced the idea (particularly commercial operators who shoulder a great deal of responsibility regardless of whether cell phones are used for private or company purposes). Everyone was aware of the Coca-Cola settlement of last year that set a precedent across the board for companies to monitor their drivers’ cell phone habits more closely.
On a lighter note, this year AT&T set up a demo car on the trade show floor equipped to demonstrate the risks of distracted driving. To try it, we put on special goggles that simulated a driver’s view and then we were given a cell phone to type on while driving. The demo could measure our level of distraction using graphs that measured speed fluctuations as we texted. People who tried the simulation were surprised by how distracted they became.
These experiences reminded me how critical our Webtech Wireless MDTs with hands-free voice are to preventing distracted driving. Even our auditory alert warnings (such as on the Accelerometer) to warn of excess speed, braking, and other erratic driving behavior ensure safety by keeping drivers focused on driving rather than texting. There are many ways to be distracted nowadays, but it’s in no one’s interest to gamble on road safety.
Known as the “truck-decapitator”, a bridge in Durham, North Carolina found wider fame last fall when it was featured in an Atlantic Cities article on aging infrastructure. An accompanying video, “The Toughest Bridge in the World”, featured a montage of ill-fated trucks (set to music from the film Rocky) getting peeled like sardine cans as they career under the century-old railway bridge. To make matters worse, wilting commentary from amused readers specifically targeted the hapless truckers. There were also some helpful suggestions, but none thought to propose a GPS navigation system that could route truckers away from these kinds of dangerous roads.
Many small and independent trucking companies, in a misguided attempt to put cost savings ahead of other concerns, purchase off-the-shelf GPS navigation systems that don’t provide enough detail for truckers to avoid these disasters. They’re buying consumer GPS navigation systems designed primarily for cars where there is little concern about height clearances and other routing conditions needed by commercial truckers.
The situation is serious enough that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is now distributing visor cards to truck drivers warning them that consumer-oriented GPS navigation devices pose life-threatening risks to truck drivers. FMCSA also faulted trucking operators with ineffective driver training and therefore advised operators to get their drivers trained on industry-standard commercial grade GPS navigation systems.
In a complementary article in Overdrive (March 11, 2013), U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stated that trucks using inappropriate GPS systems, which don’t support routing around “low bridges, hazmat routes and other information relevant to truckers”, are the chief cause of bridge strikes.
Michael Scott, Software Engineer at Webtech Wireless says, “We have chosen to integrate our MDT 3100s with a truck-specific GPS navigation solution that supports the kind of truck routing the FMCSA wants truck drivers to use”. He’s referring with our partnership with ALK Technologies to enhance our Quadrant® In-Cab solution by adding ALK CoPilot® In-Cab navigation. Michael went on to point out that while we meet all the requirements the FMCSA recommended for “safe use of GPS navigation systems”, drivers still need to be alert to road signage. “No GPS navigation system absolves drivers from responsibility on safe routes”.
By selecting a GPS navigation system intended for use by professional truck and bus drivers, ensuring drivers are properly trained in its use, and remaining alert to changing conditions, you can expect to navigate safely to your destination.
Apart from long hours on your feet and a lot of glad handing, tradeshows can also be opportunities to attend great presentations on topics that you might not otherwise have access to. This spring, Webtech Wireless will be in attendance at a record number of trade shows. From April 07 to 10, 2013, we’ll be out in force at the APWA (American Public Works Association) Snow Show in Charlotte, North Carolina. This show features a number of great presentations describing cutting edge GPS/AVL technologies. Here are the highlights.
On Sunday, April 7, 2013 from 1 to 2 PM in room 203 A, Benjamin Hershey, Director for Meridian Enviro. Tech. in Grand Forks, North Dakota will describe some new uses for AVL technologies within the maintenance, ITS, and road weather service provider areas, and how to adapt existing equipment to provide new traveler information to improve snowplow operator safety.
Later that afternoon (Sunday, April 7, 2013) from 3:30 to 4:30 PM in room 208 B, Kevin Hensley, Stormwater Supervisor for the City of West Des Moines describes how AVL systems have advanced since the early days of track and trace use only. “Since the start of our program we have evolved into more of a multifaceted system which is used for everything from inventory control to contractor monitoring”, he states. He will also describe how to create an environment where employees understand the benefits of this technology and explore new technology and not be afraid to take some risks
On Monday, April 8, 2013 from 11 to 12 PM in room 203 A, Mike Kennedy, Director of Eng. Operations for the City of Minneapolis describes how to create a snow and ice control performance tracking program that doesn’t rely on AVL. The City of Minneapolis, Department of Public Works began development of a snow plow tracking and performance monitoring program over the winter of 2012-2013 Automatic Vehicle Location technology. He describes how to use iPads and GIS Online mapping technology to monitor route progress cost-effectively and report snow and ice control information graphically.
Later that afternoon (Monday, April 8, 2013) from 2 to 2.50 PM in room 203 A, Michael Williams, Snow & Ice Program Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Highways describes how to determine your needs for an MDSS-type weather service and AVL program.
As mentioned in last week’s blog post, Mississauga Brings Winter Smarts to APWA, on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 from 8 to 8.50 AM in room 203 A, Bob Levesque, Works Operations for the City of Mississauga will describe the success they’ve had with their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution since implementing it in 2010. He’ll show you how to evaluate a GPS/AVL solution to improve your fleet operations and reduce your liability risk, manage contractors, and anticipate common pitfalls in choosing and deploying a GPS/AVL solution.
Springtime is time for trade shows and we’re taking it on the road. From April 07 to 10, 2013, come to booth 712 at the APWA Snow Show in at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina and talk to us about our government and Public Works centric GPS/AVL solutions. Hope to see you there.
As a pioneer in automated GPS location-based technology at Webtech Wireless we design our own hardware and software solutions. This provides us with the necessary control to build and deliver the solutions our customers rely on. In order to ensure our products are secure, reliable, and robust enough to outlast diverse road conditions and meet industry standards for heavy-duty vehicle applications, the key to our success, (we have delivered hundreds of thousands of Locators that process millions of transactions a day), comes down to one thing—TESTING.
We hire the best network operations and engineers available in the industry and it’s on their shoulders to ensure our GPS fleet tracking solutions keep working around the clock every day of the year. I dropped into our testing area to find out more about why it is that Webtech Wireless is indeed an end-to-end solution for fleet GPS tracking.
Sarkis Teghararian, Manager of Hardware Engineering provided me with an excellent overview of the facility while Kevin Lockwood, Hardware Engineer, continued testing Locators in the background, occasionally adding valuable commentary to my questions.
As we entered the work area Sarkis explained, “We develop and test all our products and increasingly we test third-party products as well. Depending on the needs, complexity, and phase of the project, testing is done either in-house or outsourced to other testing labs” Testing equipment is arranged in a series of stations, each dominated by some device I would later learn has a specific testing role to play. Before I could learn more about all these cool testing stations (and about the intriguing command module-like chamber in the corner), I first needed a quick lesson in quality assurance.
Depending on the needs, there are different types of testing. For example, derivative testing verifies only changes to a product, pre-qualification testing ensures a prototype will stand up to its design specifications, and regression testing validates new features including their impact on pre-existing components (i.e., it tests that new features don’t compromise the old ones).
In addition, I needed to know that there are two distinct phases of testing:
When testing gets to the manufacturing QA phase (ensuring manufactured quality) it’s tested differently. With the design already verified, testing becomes more granular, “but” insists Kevin peering up for one of the WT 5130 Locators, “each and every unit is tested”. Because each unit must be tested individually, testing is to a large extent automated. “Some components are manufactured in China”, continues Kevin, “and some locally, so we test to ensure all are manufacturers are building according to specifications.”
A key component of Webtech Wireless’ offerings is end-to-end solutions, but what does that mean for quality assurance? The answer is system testing. Units aren’t just tested by themselves, but also as they relate to a custom-designed solution for a specific client. So, a Locator that’s tested for compliance with manufacturing specifications is also tested with Webtech Wireless software and then again with an EOBR (electronic onboard recorder) such as the MDT 3100 to ensure they work in concert.
Sarkis refers to it wryly as the “Time Machine”, but it’s no joke—on closer inspection, I see that it is in fact branded officially as the GTEM ETS Time Machine. Before my imagination can run too wild, Sarkis brings me back patiently explaining that this machine tests the long-term effects of radiation from GPS and cellular transmissions. During the design phase, for example, a new Locator is placed into the time machine, which tests that its design is solid. The machine is able to speed up the exposure rates and thus reduces both the time it takes to test, and also the cost of testing. Among other criteria, the Locator is tested against its radio frequency rates, how well its circuitry responds, and how well it is able to communicate wirelessly with the base station.
Quality Assurance is about “continuous improvement”, asserts Sarkis who cites the development of a new audio/acoustic booth to the roster as well as empirical testing to increase the precision of testing. In the future, we also plan to increase the testing of third-party integrations and products. All of this so that we can deliver the incredible reliability that our customers expect of us in a GPS/AVL solution that customers trust to make decisions with every minute of every day.
–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless
Chuck Lane is a solution engineer with Webtech Wireless who lives in central Florida. He contributes blog posts focusing on technical solutions in the field. Below he describes one solution we’ve developed to help Tampa Electric improve its safety and productivity of work crews.
When we approached Tampa Electric in 2011 about the need for a GPS fleet tracking system, we found the words “safety” and “productivity” were of utmost importance. Tampa Electric was interested in how the system would help them to operate more safely and increase overall productivity of their vehicle fleet relating to customer service. As the two companies sorted through the business requirements and what possible Webtech Wireless features may be of interest to Tampa Electric, the issue of the need for a Co-Location report came up.
A Co-Location report shows how much time a supervisor spends supervising a service crew. Tampa Electric was convinced that a supervisor’s time should be spent in the field supervising work crews rather than in the office. Tampa Electric maintains that this will increase the safety of the crew as well as productivity.
Safety – Much of the work Tampa Electric crews do is dangerous work. There is the persistent risk of workers getting injured or kill through falls from hydro poles or electrocution. Having the supervisor on site reduces these risks. Tampa Electric wanted to know where its supervisors were. As with GPS-based speeding data, behavior changes if people know they’re “being watched”. Visibility increases compliance.
Productivity – Tampa Electric uses its fleet GPS tracking in a number of ways to improve productivity. For example, knowing when vehicles enter and exit geofence areas ensures drivers and supervisors are arriving for shifts on time and not leaving early.
A number of issues needed to be overcome in order to get the report to work properly. The situation where a vehicle is parked on or near a parking lot boundary (night time off duty area) had to be compensated for due to the fact that GPS “jump” readings sometimes occur. The fact that the lead and supervisor vehicles could move at any time creating the need for the creation of new geofence boundaries and calculations was also a concern that must be accommodated.
Several design sessions were held and Tampa Electric input was captured. A rollout of GPS/AVL units to the Tampa Electric fleet was started with the expectation that the Co-Location report would be available in the near future. A report release was made available several months later. The design and functioning of the report went through several changes, particularly overcoming the challenge of overcoming parking lot boundaries mentioned above as well as remedying GPS data, which required some trial and error adjustments. When these were addressed by Webtech Wireless engineers, the new report was released.
At this point it is probably good to point out how the report works and some of the challenges that had to be overcome in order to get the report to produce good information:
A worksite is defined by the location of a “lead vehicle”. The lead vehicle must be stopped (ignition off or idle) for more than five minutes before a worksite is created (configurable). Worksites extend a configurable radius from the lead vehicle (default: 200 feet).
Special Geofences can be created to ensure that the lead vehicles do not create worksites when parked in company depots or other common locations. The worksite is a dynamic landmark, meaning it does not appear on the map, is not visible in Landmark reports, and is deleted when the lead vehicle moves on.
The report is grouped by supervisor vehicle. For each supervisor, the information is grouped by lead vehicle and by day. Information includes time range, lead truck location by address, total time in range of lead vehicle, number of visits, and percentage of time in range of lead vehicle.
|Daily totals for each supervisor are easy to view!|
Although there were challenges, Tampa Electric stood by the solution as report modifications were made to produce a report that was reliable and could be distributed to Tampa Electric supervisors with confidence of accurate results.
Currently, Tampa Electric is using this report and distributing among supervisors for review. The original goals of increased safety and productivity have been met. The Tampa Electric supervisors are aware that their actual time in contact with their work crews is now being measured.
You need to have some forbearance for municipalities that raced to keep up with demand for web-based communication systems suitable to desktop computers only to watch their constituents abandon fixed computers in favor of mobile devices, particularly smartphones. While the trend toward increased mobile device usage by constituents is only speeding up, the core theme (beyond the flip flops in technology) continues to be toward citizen-driven real-time communications.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
Municipalities are now embracing new technologies (such as smartphone apps) not just to keep up with their constituents, but as a means to making their services readily available and scalable to people’s diverse needs. For example, municipalities must respond to a pro-active population that takes for granted the ability to see details about snow plow route completion, traffic congestion, parking restrictions and emergency situation alerts. Constituents want to live in intelligent communities. But what makes a community intelligent?
Martin Duggan, vice president of market strategy at IBM, recently described in The Atlantic how public-sector departments must depart from the old service-delivery models and become more collaborative with their constituents. He stresses that “Today there is a shift toward citizen-centered services…” which in effect is saying communication has left push mode (government) and entered pull mode (citizen) as never before.
In Drawing Intelligence from Data, I described how business owners are becoming overwhelmed with the amount of data that’s now being collected—93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data. While constituents demand information at ever-increasing rates—and in real-time—organizations and businesses must make sense of it all.
One of our customers, Ville de Québec, sought to make sense of it all by tying the data it gathered from its snow plows using Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution to how it communicated with its constituents. It had large amounts of information it could use to inform constituents via an interactive web map and provide real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. For this, and other intelligent initiatives, Ville de Québec was nominated as an intelligent community.
What’s next for communities with data on their hands? Could past seasons of weather data be layered to forecast upcoming budgets for salt requirements on city roads? What are municipalities doing to become intelligent communities with business intelligence?
While Webtech Wireless’ Customer Care supports two main communication tracks (email and a Customer Care website), it’s the latter track that is winning over our customers. The reason? The Customer Care website is designed expressly with the customer in mind.
“From the point of view of the Technical Support Team, it doesn’t matter if customers email or use the Customer Care website”, says Andrew Hwang, Technical Support Lead, “because we have our own internal process that ensures we track customers however they contact us. But to our customers, the Customer Care website gives them much more visibility into the status of their technical requests than sending us an email.”
And that’s the beauty of the Customer Care website. Customers have extensive visibility, or as Andrew puts it, “they know where they stand”.
Having a single place for communication is ideal for trucking fleets that may not have extensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to integrate internal and external information across their organization. In plain language, that means it is better than relying on email, and as everybody knows, email gets lost, is tied to individual users, and if not continuously culled, becomes overwhelming.
Customers who have technical issues can log in, create a new ticket, search and view the status of tickets (even for tickets submitted by other employees at the same company), view the history of closed tickets, and even attach documents (such as PDF and Excel files) to tickets.
Just as Webtech Wireless excels at providing visibility to fleet management—from finding trucks on the road to business intelligence drawn from data gathered by GPS fleet tracking—customers can expect the same level of visibility when getting technical support.
If you’re not already signed up with the Customer Care Website, what’s stopping you? Visit http://www.webtechwireless.com/en/contact/ and sign up today!
The air is colder, holiday themed songs are playing on the radio and images of St. Nick are everywhere. Yes, it is that time of year. With the holidays just around the corner, it really is time to think how we can enjoy the festivities while saving a few bucks. So stop looking under the driver’s seat, office desk or couch for a few extra pennies and try a few simple techniques to save a few dollars during the holidays and after!
If you are a fleet owner, you know that the cost of running an operation is rising drastically. Monitoring driver behavior, optimizing fleet performance and trailer tracking are just a few things that can leave a bit more money in your pocket.
As a fleet owner, finding ways to run your operations efficiently while using your resources effectively saves you money. Most drivers aren’t aware that harsh breaking, sharp turns and speeding account for most fuel wastage. Identifying poor driver behavior with reporting tools in Quadrant Manager will help you pro-actively train your drivers to reduce fuel consumption.
Drivers spend a significant amount of time waiting for dispatch to manually send driver instructions for their next pickup or delivery. All that wasted time turns into dollars and adds to the cost of running a fleet. Webtech Wireless’ Job Management solution allows dispatch release instructions automatically, getting drivers off their phone (saving talking time and talking minutes) and sending them to their next destination quicker.
Equipment that isn’t monitored is at the mercy of trespassers and kleptomaniacs. The Quadrant Trailer Tracking solution can detect unauthorized movements and show you where your trailers are in real-time.
Multi-zone temperature monitoring is a small solution that reaps huge benefits. Did you know that 40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted? And of that 20% is wasted through spoilage during distribution? Prevent food wastage and save dollars by getting real-time alerts when temperatures go above or below a set threshold.
Whether you are in a large building or a basement suite, office space and equipment costs money, a lot of money. Being pro-active and cautious can easily help you reduce overhead and see savings.
Turn the computer off. That’s it. Turning off the computer at the end of the day is the easiest thing you and your staff can do save money and energy. If you work off of a power strip, don’t forget to turn that off as well. According to a 2009 survey, a company with 10,000 desktop computers (powered up but not being used) will waste $260,000 in energy a single year. It is simple, easy and a great step to going green in the office.
Think twice before you print that document in color on a single side of paper. Printing one or two sheets is not expensive, but when you are going through boxes and boxes of paper, printing becomes a pricey line item. Set your printer’s defaults to economy, black and white and double sided and watch your ink and paper consumption go down. Awesome way to save a few bucks, and you probably save a few trees too.
Competition is steep and the market is competitive. A great strategy to save money is to keep true to your vendors. Long lasting relationships with various suppliers and vendors result in multiple benefits including great customer service, bulk order discounts and promotions for loyal customers.
December brings along a lot of happy moments, holiday parties, Christmas trees, great food, desserts galore and a couple of extra inches around the hips. However, every January you pay the price—those jeans feel a bit snug and have burned a little whole in the pocket. Here are a few easy tips to help you save during the holiday season!
If you are like me, the sight of beautiful wrapping getting torn off a present and then immediately getting dumped into the recycling bin makes you cringe. I am all for great packaging (I’m in marketing after all—and a graphic designer) but trust me, you can achieve the same visual appeal in other ways. How about using brown paper bags? Or a few pages from a magazine or the comic section of the newspaper? Re-using things that you already have around the house is a great way to get rid of junk and save money.
If you are part of a large extended family like me, buying presents for everyone can increase the digits on your credit card bill. Why not try Secret Santa? It allows you to focus on getting something special for that one person and also adds the extra fun of who has whom.
Hit the malls early, I mean really early. By shopping early you are able to compare prices, avoid impulse buys and get quality gifts without settling for whatever is left at the store.
With summer winding down and kids going back to school, most people are thinking beyond holidays. At Webtech Wireless, we’re ramping up for a busy season of fleet management trade shows and conventions, and that means we’re spending lots of time in airports getting to and from these events.
Airports tend to embrace new technologies quickly, especially when the technologies can be shown to reduce cost and improve security. Webtech Wireless has airport security perimeter ground vehicle solutions at several major airports in the United States, including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Massport (Boston), and O’Hare International in Chicago. Here’s what we’re doing in Chicago.
The City of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is owned and operated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation. As a Webtech Wireless customer since 2003, we provide solutions to many of the City’s 2,500 vehicles (including vehicles in its various public works departments). Our airport solution is used to transmit critical location data from designated City of Chicago vehicles every ten seconds alerting the City of runway incursions and security breaches. We also provide automated vehicle location services (AVL) for its snow removal equipment.
As it is not operationally practical to maintain two-way radio communications between every vehicles and airport operations, GPS/AVL technology helps the City track its vehicles. Also, as the speed limit within the airport security perimeter at O’Hare is 30 miles per hour, our vehicle reports help City fleet managers ensure their vehicles operate within the airport’s speed limit.
On the technical side, our AVL solution is ideal for airport operations, because it’s designed for vehicles operating in an 802.11b coverage area; that is, it uses a point-to-multipoint configuration with an omnidirectional antenna located in a coverage area around the access point.
Webtech Wireless is flying off to several trade shows this autumn. Follow our Events page, which is updated with new events regularly.
|September 5||Snow-N-Ohio Workshop||Perrysburg, Ohio|
|September 13||2012 Iowa Snow Roadeo||Des Moines, Iowa|
|September 16||BC Roadbuilders Association Fall Conference||Kelowna, BC|
|September 20||Snow and Ice Symposium||Milton, Ontario|
|September 21||Truxpo Seminar – Abbotsford||Abbotsford, BC|
|September 23-26||TMW TransForum||Orlando, Florida|
|September 25-27||Association of Municipal EMS Conference (AMEMSO)||Ottawa, Ontario|
Once just a small town with a vision, the City of Vaughan is growing fast. Located north of Toronto, current projections show that its population is expected to almost double by 2030. For the City of Vaughan to keep up with growth in this region of overlapping jurisdictional responsibilities, it must find ways to get the most out of its technology investment.
According to Shawn McKenzie, Senior Engineering Assistant at Public Works, “It’s a barrel of monkeys for residents to understand and to many residents, anyone with a plow blade is a City truck,” so Public Works must manage public perception as well as public roadways. In the future, the ability to share data among different jurisdictions will increasingly clarify public perceptions of who’s doing what.
Recently, Public Works mandated that its third-party contractors use GPS/AVL Locators, thereby enabling it to track how efficiently both its primary suburban and secondary rural roads are maintained across different seasons. This decision keeps contractors accountable and citizens content. As proof of reduced complaints, its initial Webtech Wireless deployment calling for a “Where’s my Plow?” Web site and Call Centre, became so efficient that as calls dropped away, it eliminated the need for a Call Centre altogether.
Today, the City of Vaughan has realized the great opportunity that is intrinsic in a GPS/AVL solution and, with hundreds of vehicles now equipped and reporting, the word is spreading. The City of Vaughan’s Parks Board (with a fleet of sidewalk plows), has just adopted a Webtech Wireless solution for its vehicles too.
“When we make appointments to send our water trucks to an address and the client isn’t there, the driver needs to move on to the next appointment. If someone claims the water truck never came, we can prove the site call was made.”
— Shawn McKenzie, Public Works, City of Vaughan