GPS Past the Destination

GPS-enabled mobile-resource management systems can "flip the supply chain," although challenges are en route.

Getting there may be half the fun, but it's only a first step for companies looking to parlay the tracking and location capabilities of GPS into useful mobile applications.

While GPS technology may provide an answer to "Where's Waldo?" it is a bit trickier to pinpoint what Waldo or any other mobile worker is doing once they arrive at a destination and interact with customers.

"It really becomes an applications integration problem," said Ananth Rani, senior vice president of products and services at Xora, a supplier of mobile resource management (MRM) solutions.

Challenges include accurately capturing information at the customer or job site, tracing deliveries manually or automatically with RFID(define) tagging and logging events that occur before, during and after the job is completed. In short, everything relate to the interaction "last mile," Rani noted. P>State transportation regulations and labor union contracts and restrictions can also impact the use of GPS and MRM tools. "Chicago has a pretty tough union, for example, which states that when you go to lunch the tracking on a device be turned off," Rani explained.

Other hurdles include difficulties for wireless carriers in selling and supporting MRM applications, even though they provide the communications backbone for these services; problems integrating slick GPS-enabled software with antiquated back-end systems; and a scarcity of 'out of the box' mobile applications solutions.

Challenges and potential roadblocks for location-enabled and handset-based MRM solutions are, oddly enough, overshadowed by sunny forecasts that predict a $1.6 billion North American market by 2013, according to a report just released by Frost & Sullivan.

This optimistic forecast is supported by the advantages and promise of MRM -- including an attractive ROI, increased productivity, competitive advantage and a way to extend automation and improvements in business processes out to the field, analyst Jeanine Sterling noted in the report. "The current MRM market is very underpenetrated, and substantial MRM growth is expected across all sectors," she added.

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