Wireless contest zooms in on cutting edge

Wireless communication continues to resonate as a vibrant stomping ground for innovation in technology. The latest winning ideas range from mobile workforce cyber-managers, snow-smart hydro meters and undersea video streams, airtime from an ATM and anti-theft vehicle devices.

The Wireless Innovation Network of British Columbia (WINBC) last month awarded top honours to a Web-based mobile software package called etrace Mission Control. The management application traces the location of mobile workers and tracks their job status in field operations.

Mission Control won first prize for Gearworks Inc. in the private-sector business category at this year’s Wireless Innovation Contest. The Eagen, Minn-based company combines GPS (global positioning system) with Java-enabled handsets to keep mobile workers connected to a central dispatch centre.

The etrace software provides a customized fleet map with a location directory for work zones, a workforce database that tracks a worker’s whereabouts and duration on specific jobs, as well as workflow templates that allow managers to create and assign jobs to mobile workers. Mission Control can also generate reports on job productivity and worker timesheets.

Research and consulting firm Frost and Sullivan last month also named Gearworks the winner of its annual Workforce Management Solution Award. Frost and Sullivan says etrace delivers real-time visibility and control, which helps companies shorten job cycles and improve communications with customers and mobile workers.

In the public sector, Elster Electricity LLC won first prize for its EnergyAxis System of hydro smart meters. Raleigh, N.C.-based Elster uses smart meters with an embedded mesh radio that creates a two-way communication network.

Alaska Village Electric Cooperative Inc. uses EnergyAxis to read meters in five remote villages from its headquarters in Anchorage.

The utility company’s meter readers previously had to either dig tunnels in the snow or take a rain (snow) check on meter readings during winter months.

A wireless communication system under the sea was named runner-up in the public sector, where the Aquarius Undersea Research Laboratory is using technology from Waltham, Mass.-based Orthogon Sys

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