Open technology the key for wireless solutions in commercial trucking: EIS director

by Canadian Shipper

The trucking industry is well positioned to benefit from the many advances in wireless and mobile technology available today, according to Marc Mitchell, Transportation Practice Director, Enterprise Information Solutions.

“Today, an increasing number of transportation operations are rethinking their approach based on a new generation of wireless technologies that leverage a much wider audience of users but is still capable of addressing the specific needs of transportation industry. When no longer faced with only proprietary options, these new solutions mean measurable ROI that did not previously exist,”says Mitchell.

When choosing the right wireless technology, however, fleets and independent truckers must consider a thorough range of issues that need to be addressed in order to meet their specific business models, adds Mitchell.

“A wireless solution that works for one company, doesn’t necessarily work for another,” he says.

He advises understanding your specific business requirements and types of data you need to capture and transmit such as dispatch and delivery times, as well as routing, identifying tasks you need performed in the field such as inventory control and shipment confirmations, putting in place shipment tracking and exception reporting functions, as well as DOT HOS and IFTA events and reporting, Geo-location software and costing structures and driver pay events.

“Increasingly, users and vendors must look to ‘Open Systems’ technologies for on-board computing solutions,” But the idea of ‘Open Systems’ technologies is not new, and it is often misunderstood. While many IT vendors lay claim to the title of ‘Open’ through their compatibility with other products, this is simply not what is meant by the term. The true meaning of ‘Open’ technology is a system that is built to a previously existing public standard and one that has equivalent solutions from multiple vendors – not restricted to a single, often costly vendor,” he says.

Another impact of this commodity-based technology, says Mitchell, is the transformation of the landscape of how on-board computing (OBC) is brought to users within the commercial trucking industry. Prior to the 1990s, OBC solutions had to address all components of the mobile computing process, given the sophistication of the technology at that time, yielding a clear separation between the transportation management system (TMS) and the OBC domain. The result produced a series of proprietary vendor offerings, some satellite-based, which proved to be too expensive for many in the trucking industry.

“Today,” he says, “the combination of wireless communication and the Internet have joined to become just another flavor of WAN TCP/IP connection that enables the integration of the responsibilities of the TMS and OBC applications via hand-held mobile devices. The distinction between TMS and OBC domains is quickly becoming obsolete, with mobile functionality being a piece, like any other, of the entire Enterprise Transportation Management System (ETMS) application. The result will be that more and more commercial trucking firms will turn to this ‘Open System’ commodity application that utilizes inexpensive mobile communications technology to perform all necessary trucking functions, including GPS, in an extremely price competitive manner while leveraging the economic forces at play in the consumer market,” says Mitchell.

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