Sears fleet moving to wireless data system

In what will be the first commercial application of NORCOM Networks' long-anticipated satellite packet data service, Sears, Roebuck & Co. says it will outfit 1,500 to 2,000 service trucks with wireless satellite communications operating over RAM Mobile Data's Strategic Network.As part of a preliminary field test, Sears technicians in Valdosta, Ga., have already begun using the new service to receive

In what will be the first commercial application of NORCOM Networks' long-anticipated satellite packet data service, Sears, Roebuck & Co. says it will outfit 1,500 to 2,000 service trucks with wireless satellite communications operating over RAM Mobile Data's Strategic Network.

As part of a preliminary field test, Sears technicians in Valdosta, Ga., have already begun using the new service to receive dispatch changes, access customer account information, order parts, calculate estimates, close out job orders, and handle other record-keeping chores in the field.

"We know that wireless data is the best way to bring our field service people closer to the district support team, but there are difficult-to-reach places in about half of our service areas nationwide that previously made a full-scale wireless data implementation impossible," says Vince Accardi, Sears director of process management. "Our implementation stretches the coverage boundaries of terrestrial-based networks." The addition of NORCOM's satellite service to its existing land-based wireless and public-switched services now gives RAM's Mobitex-based Strategic Network complete coverage throughout the U.S.

Vehicle hardware for the new Sears system will include Itronix XC 6000 mobile data terminals with portable printers that will connect to the RAM packet-data network via satellite transceivers. Expansion of the wireless service to the rest of Sears' operating areas is now under way and should be completed next year.

As supply-chain logistics and fleet operations move closer together, Roadshow International, a leading developer of route-management software, has announced a joint marketing agreement with InterTrans Logistics Solutions, a major provider of supply-chain and transaction software. The two plan to offer private fleets and third-party transportation providers a software suite that will cover the entire supply-chain movement from planning and analysis down through street-level routing and real-time wireless dispatching.

The two partners have already started work on integrating their products, which include Roadshow's route planning and wireless fleet management systems and Intertrans' Venture suite of supply-chain planning and management applications.

In addition to its routing and wireless systems, Roadshow brings international access to the marketing arrangement. The company currently has software installations in over 40 countries and offices in Europe and Asia. Over half of its revenue comes from markets outside of North America, according to a company spokesman.

InterTrans supplies software for strategic modeling, freight optimization, and enterprise transportation management to manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and many of the largest third-party logistics providers in North America.

The Placer GPS 450 and 455 from Trimble Navigation combine a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver with wireless communications capability over cellular digital packet data (CDPD) services, as well as communications over variety of traditional trunked radio systems.

The "intelligent mobile positioning sensors" can be connected to a laptop or mobile data terminal, but will also provide autonomous sensor reporting if the laptop or portable data device is removed. Both models also provide inputs and outputs for alarms, status sensors, distress buttons, door locks, ignition lockouts, and other security devices.

Options for the Placer 455 model include both differential GPS and dead-reckoning inputs to minimize GPS signal deflection and loss in urban environments.

Visitors to Qualcomm Inc.'s Web site (www.qualcomm.com) can track the Federal Highway Administration's high-tech demonstration truck as it travels throughout the country over the next two years. Part of the agency's Intelligent Transportation Systems/Commercial Vehicle Operations (ITS/CVO), the truck is loaded with state-of-the-art components and systems, including Qualcomm's OmniTRACS satellite communications system.

A new wireless communications company that has targeted trucking as one of its primary markets has received a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate on the high-frequency (HF) radio spectrum. Flash Comm Inc. says it plans to use a network of commercial high-power FM radio stations to deliver messages to vehicles and the HF frequencies to receive GPS position data and messages from trucks.

J. Philip McCormick, CPA, has been named chief financial officer of HighwayMaster Communications Inc. McCormick had most recently been serving as CFO of Enserch Exploration Inc., an oil and gas exploration company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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