Mobile mapping solutions are all the rage in the consumer space, as tech-savvy urban youth geotag all their activities and check in to their favourite haunts, says Mike Steyn of Aspire Solutions. However, South African companies should not overlook the technology’s serious business uses.
“Any organisation that has people moving around in physical space can benefit from mobile spatial systems,” he says. “Whether it’s sales teams visiting clients, drivers making deliveries or technicians servicing vending machines, using mobile spatial technology to link them to central systems and to track their geographical location can deliver huge benefits.”
ATM technicians are a good example, says Steyn. “If you own a network of ATMs, you have teams of people on the road all day servicing them,” he says. “If you can track those teams in space, and match them to ATM locations, you can realize huge benefits. You can plot the shortest routes, avoid traffic jams and direct your resources efficiently. This can support increased revenues and better customer satisfaction.”
These mobile solutions can be run on mobile smart phones, but often benefit from more sophisticated mobile handheld devices built specifically for field work. “These units tend to be more rugged, have a long battery life and have better processors,” he says. “They need to be easily programmable and customizable to fit a larger system solution.”
Specialist mobile devices for business are a good option – but even then, simply issuing mobile workers with handheld devices is not enough, says Steyn. “They can be very expensive toys if the technology is badly implemented and people don’t use it,” he says. “You need seamless integration to core systems, a clear business case and the ability to build in repeated returns on a single investment. The implementation is the biggest challenge.”
The two primary uses for mobile mapping are data collection and data dissemination, says Steyn. “On the data collection side, it’s a boon to anyone doing surveys or meter reading. With maps enabled, you can pinpoint the exact point at which a particular piece of data was captured, without the need to type in addresses which may be misleading. You can even attach photographs to the location.”
Spatial solutions are equally useful for data dissemination, he says. “You can give your field staff hours more each day if you eliminate the need for them to come into the office,” he says. “If you know the exact location of each technician, for example, you can allocate work packets based on who’s closest to what needs to be done next.”
“The critical thing is that whatever spatial solution you choose, it must be a logical extension of your core business solution, and integrated with it as much as possible,” Steyn concludes.