Published November 16, 1999
Volume 7, Number 11

MobileForce Outstanding in the Field
Software Creates Several Advantages for Phone, Cable Field Units
MobileForce's wireless computer network allows cable and telephone installers a number of advantages.

Companies with large field operations -- installers and technicians at telephone and cable companies, for instance -- have always relied on an elaborate system of paperwork to track orders, arrange for field tasks, and confirm the execution of orders in the field. 

MobileForce, headquartered in Hacienda, has the solution for companies like these that seek to both eliminate paperwork and automate routing, scheduling, and more. 

The company's new software suite, Nvision, provides a means for managing the entire process from scheduling to dispatching. Even the field units go paperless, with hand-held computers that communicate to the main office over a wireless network. 

"The reaction from our first customers has been marvelous," says Robert Gill, president and CEO. "We're seeing a very strong productivity gain, in the 25 to 30 percent range." 

A typical cable office, he explains, processes 1,200 to 1,500 work orders for its technicians each day. In the evening, after all the orders are input, the software schedules these work orders according to a number of criteria. 

"It makes sure the technician is properly skilled, notes any special skills like foreign languages, and then uses an algorithm to minimize drive times and match the time slots of the appointments," he explains. "The software schedules the work orders in the background, then transmits them by radio to the handheld devices the technicians carry." 

The technicians record all completed work on their machines, which then transmit their progress back to the main office. 

"The dispatchers get two displays on their computers," he continues. "They get a map which is populated with little house icons for each service call for the day, and they see a truck icon that shows where everybody is.

"They have a second screen which gives them a time-based view, so that they can see if everything is going on time." 

Once each work order is completed, the software will communicate with the billing system, automating yet another element of the process. Other add-ons feature mobile mapping software for use with GPS devices and more.

With cable companies adding Internet and other digital services at a record rate, demand promises to be strong.


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