NEXT-GEN MOBILE COMPUTING

 

Three years in development and ready for its Canadian launch next month, the OmniVision mobile computing platform from Shaw Tracking (formerly Cancom) is all new yet it’s completely compatible with older hardware going back as far as 16 years. That’s when Cancom first offered satellite tracking to Canadian truck operators. The flexible and scaleable new system offers far more capability in general, engineered from the ground up. Shaw says it will help fleet operators improve efficiency, better manage fleet logistics, enhance driver safety and productivity, and improve driver satisfaction. OmniVision, from QualComm in the U.S. like previous Shaw offerings, is said to deliver higher processing power on the mobile unit, an increased number of hardware ports, and an industry standard operating system — Windows CE — that enables rapid feature development. Flexibility comes via operational profiles, so users can tailor solutions that meet the needs of a diverse fleet, with the ability to handle future growth readily. And by scaleability Shaw means that the system supports a growing number of services to enhance fleet operations. Over-the-air upgrades improve uptime as services can be deployed quickly without touching the truck or taking vehicles off the road. Paperless driver logs will be a simple matter of switching on the service. Highlights also include enhanced position reporting. The system’s integrated GPS delivers more accurate on-board position reports and enables new applications such as Navigation (see below). The OmniVision platform, a framework of hardware, software and network infrastructure, enables delivery of two-way data communications 12 times faster than before. Options like SensorTracs remain, with more besides. The system’s hardware components include a new media display unit. As before, it integrates with back-office systems from leading management software providers. Enhanced management tools allow back-office users to create and modify operational profiles, view recommended hardware for a profile, request an evaluation of a service, and more. In addition, the OmniVision system supports value-added services like automated arrival and departure, hours of service, and SensorTracs performance monitoring. Overall fleet productivity should also be increased with the new system because many subscription-based services can be activated and upgraded over the air to a single truck, a group of trucks, or an entire fleet so vehicles can stay on the road while receiving the latest software. As well, because the system is compatible with the existing OmniTracs and OmniExpress mobile comm systems and the T2 Untethered TrailerTracs asset management system, customers can easily incorporate the latest technology into their fleets in a ‘customized’ way. Pricing will change, with a move away from charging by usage to charging by application a la carte. The new hardware costs about $100 more than before, but Shaw vice president Mike Ham says operating costs will drop. And with far more capability in the mix, he figures the value proposition is a good one. One of the key features is advanced text-to-speech capability that promotes safety and productivity by allowing drivers to listen to and replay messages on the run. The platform also features an integrated, color touch-screen and a new remote control device, providing drivers quick access to critical messages and other information. One of the improvements is in the familiar satellite dome and its formerly aluminum base. Now both are made of plastic, eliminating the corrosion problem that some operators complained about previously. Among the more attractive options is the upcoming Navigation Service, available in Phase Two after the initial launch of the system (contact Shaw to confirm timing). It will offer the driver turn-by-turn directions that can be read to the driver using the system’s text-to-speech capability. It features truck attributes and truck-approved routing. The map data includes more truck-relevant information than any other system currently available, says one American user. Phase Two will also bring ‘WiFi’ capability. As more and more truck stops, and even many rest areas in the U.S., offer wireless connections, this will become increasingly useful in terms of e-mail and downloading/uploading documents.

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