(2004), "We know where you are!", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 53 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijppm.2004.07953caf.002Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
We know where you are!
Mobile phone users can now be tracked, wherever they are, from any Internet browser. Though this might sound like “big brother”, many organisations have a legitimate need to keep track of personnel – and should be able to do so, as long as those employees know they are being tracked, of course.
There are also instances where consumers might like to be tracked or located. Imagine having an accident or a breakdown in a remote location. If the emergency or breakdown services could offer to locate you from your mobile phone signal, wouldn’t that be a real help? If they also linked that location service with their own vehicle tracking system, they can have their nearest support team with you much faster than by waiting for you to try and identify where you are.
This technology is in use right now, using standard mobile phones. Take a look at www.verilocation.com After you have registered, you can use a Worldpay account to buy credits. Each credit tells you the current location of a single mobile phone. When you enter a number to track, a text message is sent to that person, asking them to reply to it within a short time with their permission. Once they have consented, you can bring up a map showing where they are (provided their phone is on) which can be magnified right down to street level.
One UK fast food delivery company has had to use a patchwork of local numbers rather than a single national one because until recently there was no easy way of directing a call to the nearest restaurant. This was not only inconvenient for customers, who might find themselves waiting too long if they didn’t happen to know where their nearest branch was, it was also a marketing headache for the company, because it had to tailor all of its advertising and marketing materials to local areas.
However, using Verilocation’s services, this fast food company will shortly be able to move to a single, nationwide number. When customers call from landline phones, the system can automatically look up the caller’s address and use a map to see which local restaurant will be able to deliver most quickly. It will also cater for the growing number of customers who have dispensed with landlines and now only have mobile phones. When they call the national number, their location can automatically be traced for a 50p fee (charged to their mobile phone bill) and their call directed accordingly. The system will remember who they are, so that on subsequent calls it will know which restaurant to route their call to without their having to pay again.
As with the breakdown service, companies can integrate Verilocation’s databases with their own sources of information. Field engineers, for example, can track and account for hundreds of personnel. Rather than using expensive GPS (global positioning system) technology, which costs thousands of pounds to install in a vehicle, they can use Verilocation’s mobile phone tracking system. This automatically logs their arrival at client sites, continuously recalculates their routes and even warns subsequent clients by email or SMS if an engineer has been delayed at a particular site. In the event of an emergency, the system always knows where the nearest engineer is.
The technologies that co-ordinate the sharing of all these different sources of information are industry standards, such as Microsoft’s Web Services, XML (extensible mark-up language) and SOAP (simple object-access protocol). This means that the various things Verilocation does – mapping, routing, tracking mobile phones, pinpointing addresses, finding nearby amenities and keeping track of local information – can be combined in any way its clients want, and then integrated with their own systems.
For an example of the way all these services could be combined, imagine an organisation that represents companies and drivers who transport goods by road. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many lorries on the road apparently carrying nothing, it is because of the difficulties of what the industry calls “back haulage”. Drivers are contracted to take loads from one place to another, but it is notoriously difficult to find a load for the journey back. The organisation could set up an application for its members whereby it keeps a database of all loads that need transporting. Members would be able to send a text message from their mobile phone when they drop their load off, and be answered with a list of loads that need to go back in the opposite direction. They could pick the one that suited them best and then earn money from the return journey as well.