In response to fleet demands for more integrated mobile information technology services, the new year has brought a flurry of consolidations and partnership agreements among software developers, mobile hardware makers and wireless service providers serving the trucking industry. Although the trend isn't entirely new, wireless integration is clearly the target as many providers attempt to refine and expand offerings of mobile IT systems carefully tailored for specific fleet applications.
Here's a roundup of wireless joint ventures, partnerships and new services announced in just the first month of 2001:
Under a new agreement announced just after New Year's Day, Aeris.net will provide wireless data communications throughout North America to Lat-Lon Inc. for a variety of trucking and rail applications that include trailer tracking. As a low-cost wireless data service, Aeris.net's MicroBurst network is a perfect complement for asset tracking and monitoring systems like those developed by Lat-Lon. MicroBurst transmits short data messages over unused channels of existing cellular networks.
“Our telemetry units provide a durable monitoring and broadcasting platform designed to withstand the harsh railcar and trucking environment, and Aeris.net's MicroBurst network gives us the coverage we need with a market-beating price structure,” said Lat-Lon president Dave Baker.
Already offering integrated wireless data products for truck operations, Terion Inc. extended its capabilities last month by agreeing to acquire a software development company that specializes in mobile asset monitoring from Orbcomm Global LP. The company, Dolphin Software Services, currently offers one application that combines data from wireless tracking devices with an Internet-based asset management system.
The acquisition doubles Terion's software development resources, according to the company, and Dolphin's wireless applications will be integrated into existing Terion products, as well as used to develop applications for new markets.
QUALCOMM Inc., trucking's largest wireless service provider, has announced a new business group dedicated to developing and marketing “the first comprehensive construction fleet management solution.” Combining the company's mobile hardware, wireless communications services and web-based software, the new product will offer construction companies tracking and monitoring services integrated with vehicle and fleet management systems.
Heading the new construction group is Tim Lewis, former vp and general manager of Tracsat, a provider of satellite-based asset tracking systems for the heavy equipment industry.
In a move that will give it both new products and much needed working capital, @Track Communications Inc. has signed a “letter of understanding” with Minorplanet Systems PLC (MPS), an English producer of vehicle tracking and management information systems.
Subject to stockholder approval, the agreement gives @Track exclusive North American rights to MPS's VMI systems for remote vehicle management. Currently, VMI is used to track over 26,000 vehicles in Europe. It will also provide @Track with $10 million in new working capital in return for a significant stake in the company.
According to @Track president and CEO Jana Bell, the new alliance will allow the company “to reduce development costs and speed time to market with new products targeted at companies particularly with service-vehicle fleets.”
DAT Services announced last month that it will partner with sometime competitor DRIVERNet to offer load information from its freight exchange network over a new wireless messaging service for drivers. The service, called DRIVERNet pK, allows drivers to communicate using an inexpensive Visor handheld PDA device. Even though DRIVERNet maintains its own Internet load-matching service, DAT will be the exclusive provider of load information for the new wireless system.
DAT also said that it is working with Freightliner LLC to offer wireless access to its freight exchange network over the truck builder's new in-cab TruckPC. Details on that partnership will not be available until sometime later this year.
Melard Technologies and Dynamic Mobile Data (DMD) have agreed to “a strategic alliance” that will allow them to offer an integrated wireless system for field service operations. Melard brings its Sidearm ruggedized Windows-CE computer with built-in wireless modem to the partnership, while DMD has expertise and products for wireless ASP services and network centers.
The two say they will develop integrated wireless products that offer messaging, monitoring and tracking, as well as Internet and database access to mobile workers in field service, transportation, sales and emergency services.
The utility industry will get a new integrated wireless data system for its field service personnel as the result of a new partnership between Broadbeam Corp. and Severn Trent Systems.
Severn already offers utility companies a suite of applications for managing field workers. Broadbeam's strength is wireless infrastructure.
off the wire
Prophesy Mileage Gateway (PMG) lets fleets add the Prophesy Mileage and Routing system to their web site or Internet applications. The new tool transparently connects users to the PMG application without taking them away from the fleet's site, according to the developer.
TMW Systems Inc. has signed its first PowerSuite software license agreement in China with Sinotrans, one of the country's largest transportation companies with 6,000 power units. TMW's PowerSuite fleet management system is being marketed in China by Guangdong South Satellite Telecommunications Service Co., which also has a business alliance with QUALCOMM Inc. to sell its OmniTRACS mobile communications and tracking service in China.
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