App prototype looks to keep truck drivers safe, socially distant

by Today's Trucking

KITCHENER, Ont. — Researchers at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., are building a mobile software app that will help critical supply chain workers maintain physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The prototype is being developed by researchers at the college’s SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre in col­laboration with Kitchener-based Cones­toga Cold Storage (CCS).

The app will help direct drivers serving the Conestoga Cold Storage (CCS) facility. (Photo: Conestoga College)

Each day, hundreds of truck drivers, now deemed essential workers, move between the company’s facilities, haul­ing frozen food and other goods across the country. The new software applica­tion will allow drivers to remain in their trucks and avoid face-to-face contact when arriving at a CCS facility.

“Working in collaboration with CCS programmers, we have built an applica­tion that uses the concept of geofenc­ing to monitor truck drivers as they approach CCS facilities,” said principal investigator Russell Foubert.

“By using GPS or cellular data, the system can track drivers to understand when their trucks are within the appro­priate range, then issue door assign­ments to drivers through a mobile check-in process, eliminating the need for them to enter the building.”

Student researchers Taylor Beck and Travis Roy from Conestoga’s Software Engineering Technology program have been working on the project since Jan­uary 2020, before the COVID-19 pan­demic reached North America; however, there’s a new sense of urgency to deliver the prototype.

“Our cold storage facilities provide a critical service to food manufacturers across the country. The current situation has highlighted the importance of keep­ing Canada’s food supply chain up and running so deliveries to grocery stores can continue uninterrupted,” said Gavin Sargeant, vice-president of CCS.

“If we can eliminate the need for truck drivers to park in our yards and enter our offices to do paperwork, we can reduce the risk to workers while also making our operations more efficient.”

CCS hoped to have some of their driv­ers using the mobile software applica­tion by the end of May.

Researchers are also discussing poten­tial opportunities to further enhance the system.

“We’re exploring how this technology could be used to automate more of the process,” explained Foubert.

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