Aliant dispatches tech to couriers

Deploying Nextair Inc.’s mdispatch solution, Halifax-based Aliant Wireless Telecom launched its Wirefree Dispatch solution to business customers throughout Atlantic Canada last month.

The service will allow a dispatcher to relay orders to technicians or field service workers from any Internet-connected PC. Allowing the recipient to confirm receipt, accept orders, track progress, parts used and labour at the call in real-time, the service is supported on a variety of different wireless devices. But Aliant will only support CDMA-based mobile phones and Compaq’s iPAC.

Wirefree dispatch will push out information to employees without the employee actively having to connect to the Web. It is done automatically by the dispatcher and is invisible to the user.

The service is based on Nextair’s AIRIX wireless enabling platform – the AIRIX Design Studio, which is an XML-based programming language called ARML. Users have the option of licensing the Design Studio to create their own applications or they can license one of Nextair’s mobile dispatch applications as Aliant did by licensing the mdispatch application.

Nextair’s mdispatch can be installed on any mobile device, said Steven J. Hulaj, Nextair’s director of marketing, including all mobile phones, Blackberry’s RIM devices and Palm devices.

“About three years ago we came up with this concept of this Smart Client program,” he said. “It is a tiny program which sits on the actual device, and if it’s a device with a browser, there’s actually a virtual version sitting up on the Web which pretends it’s sitting on the device.

“…This little Smart Client that is sitting on all the devices actually makes the AIRIX Design Studio programming language think that each one of the these different device types and operating systems….are the same.”

Not only can Wirefree dispatch export customer and work order details into accounting packages, but the features of the solution can be tailored to specific industries. These include taxi, courier, delivery, HVAC, computer repair, passenger transit, general field service and on-site health service sectors.

“We are tremendously excited with this new Wirefree Dispatch solution because it offers businesses a better way to manage their mobile workforce,” said Dean Roebothan, marketing director for Aliant Telecom Mobility. “Using wireless devices and simple e-mail applications, communications can occur instantly between the outside workers and the home office,” he said.

Adding that Wirefree Dispatch is targeted at companies with a dispatch team of between five and 50 members, he said it works on digital phones, which could reduce the implementation cost to the customer since they are likely to already own that equipment.

A Baltimore-based trucking dispatch company called E. Stewart Mitchell chose to take the other route with Nextair and license its AIRIX Design Studio in order to develop its own wireless dispatch application. Dave Corun, IT manager for E. Stewart Mitchell, said they decided to go with AIRIX because it was affordable to license, cut down on development and because they wanted a custom application.

“We spent months reviewing many types of wireless architectures but nothing could offer the offline capability, device alternatives and ease of development that AIRIX offered,” he said, adding that by licensing AIRIX the company cut down on months of development time, and that they anticipate employee efficiency increasing by 15 per cent.

Mark Quigley, a research director with the Yankee Group Canada in Ottawa, said Aliant’s only competition in this area so far is Rogers Communications Inc., which developed a custom-made wireless dispatch solution for Purolator Courier Ltd. in May 2002.

However, Rogers runs a GSM/GPRS network, as opposed to Aliant which runs a CDMA network. Quigley said Aliant has a larger market share in the Atlantic provinces, especially in P.E.I. and Newfoundland, and thus could definitely compete in this market.

The cost of Aliant’s Wirefree Dispatch Solution depends upon the device. For mobile phones, users get 200 minutes a month and the cost is $55 per unit per month. Should the user exceed 200 minutes, each subsequent minute would cost 25 cents.

For Compaq’s iPAC the cost is $85 per month per unit.