NAFA – Embracing the Future

We were at the NAFA 2012 trade show (North America Fleet Managers Association) in St. Louis and one of the highlights of the show was the keynote presentation, Making Sense of the Future, given by Dr. Peter Bishop, PhD. Together with other trade show attendees, we gathered in full force and in great anticipation to hear Dr. Bishop provide a wide vision of the future of debt, oil & resources, people and demographics, automotive market and emerging technologies.

Patrick Lizotte, our account manager in Quebec and eastern North America said, “Dr. Bishop invited us to look into change versus sudden change, and our relationship and involvement with technology and computers; that is, how we are evolving and adapting ourselves toward the computer era”.

Some of the topics he presented included:

  • Which trends and technologies impact on our business?
  • Which scenarios of the future are imaginable?
  • What will we probably have to face and what not?
  • Which surprising changes of direction could the future take?
  • Which new future markets and business models are imaginable for us?
  • Which alternative designs for the future of our company exist?
  • What do we need to do to use our opportunities and secure our future?

Dr. Bishop concluded his presentation with a simple two-word recommendation, “Stay Awake”. – Be certain to handle Future and Change.

Dr. Peter Bishop is an associate professor of Human Sciences and chair of the graduate program in Studies of the Future at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Dr. Bishop specializes in techniques for long-term forecasting and planning. He delivers keynote addresses, conducts seminars on the future for business, government and not-for-profit organizations, and also facilitates groups in developing scenarios, visions and strategic plans for the future.

Ville de Québec Top Finalist for Intelligent Community Award

Ville de QuébecWe are thrilled to report that Ville de Québec (Quebec City) is among seven finalists for the municipally coveted 2012 Intelligent Community award.

Since 2001, Ville de Québec has been actively developing its broadband infrastructure and, in 2009 as part of its commitment to bettering itself as an intelligent community, implemented our InterFleet solution to its winter fleet operations.

Each year, the Intelligent Community Forum presents this award to intelligent communities that “have come to understand the enormous challenges of the broadband economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it”.  The awards program has two goals: to salute the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, and to gather data for ICF’s research programs.

As part of Ville de Québec’s commitment to promoting web-based solutions, the city launched an interactive Web map to provide high-quality cartographic and zoning data. Among other capabilities, the map displays real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. “Through smarter deployment of plows, the city has been able to reduce the number of vehicles and operating expenses per vehicle while providing better results.”

In 2009, Ville de Québec chose Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution for their snow plows and winter fleet operational information, because it offered real-time information (five-second reporting and automatic map updates), support for multiple spreader controllers, and great road salt management capabilities.

The seven finalists for the Award (in alphabetical order):

  • Austin, Texas, United States
  • Oulu, Finland
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Riverside, California, United States
  • Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Stratford, Ontario, Canada
  • Taichung City, Taiwan

More About Québec’s Award Nomination

Quadrant Manager goes Mobile

Our “Win an iPad from Webtech Wireless” promotion at the four trade shows we’re attending this spring is proving very popular, while serving the purpose as an avenue for launching our mobile version of Quadrant Manager.

Quadrant Mobile Manager iPad

The Quadrant Manager Mobile for the iPhone and iPad is really a new way of viewing Quadrant Manager, this time on an iOS interface. It gives fleet managers the same ability to view strategic real-time information about their fleet, but without needing to log into a desktop computer (such as what they’d find in a Dispatch office). This iPhone and iPad capability is enabled automatically for users who already access Quadrant Manager from their office.

To clear up any confusion that this is another offering of our Quadrant In-Cab MDT device, it is not. That solution—providing CSA and HOS capabilities to drivers—is indeed mobile, but does not offer the enterprise level insight into fleet operations as does Quadrant Manager.

Quadrant Manager Mobile iPhone

Our customers have told us that mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad are critical to improving their productivity. Quadrant Manager Mobile now enables you to maximize the Quadrant Manager information you need—in the field, in real-time.

Remember, if you’re attending any of the trade shows that we are exhibiting at, visit the Webtech Wireless booth and sign up to win one of four Apple Resolutionary iPads. Click here to find our booth location.

Possessive or Plural?

I’m building a list of real-life grammar error examples, based on my writing, researching, and reading. These examples will all make titallating class materials at BCIT or when I publish my own version of Strunk & White. The examples below focus on confusion about pluralization.

ICBC

As an insurer and issuer of driver licences, we make decisions which can have a significant impact on peoples’ lives.

Problem: People is already plural, so the apostrophe is misplaced. Also, the sentence should use that and not which as it’s restrictive. In editing, the lack of a comma is a giveaway that the writer was uncertain anyway—using which always requires a comma.

Correction:

As an insurer and issuer of driver licences, we make decisions that can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

Construction Company

ABC Crane Service is an Oklahoma based crane rental company that provides crane service nationwide. Their fleet of cranes range from 80 to 660 tons and have been used in projects to solve challenges such as…

Problem: In the second sentence, the subject is fleet, which is a collective noun (therefore treated as singular). The confusion arises from the words cranes and tons (clearly plural) closer to the verb have, but the collective should prevail so it should be has. Other copy errors are indicated, (and corrected), in underscore.

Correction:

ABC Crane Service is an Oklahoma-based crane rental company, which provides crane service nationwide. Its fleet of cranes ranges in size from 80 to 660 tons and has been used in projects to solve challenges such as…

Are Your Winter Fleet Contractors Worth Their Salt?

City of  OttawaOne of the hidden costs of winter road maintenance is its affect on the environment. Much of the salt applied to keep roads ice free finds its way into soil and waterways. Toxins found in fish, either from surface water or metals dissolved in water by salt, are among the toxic effects of excessive salt usage. A municipality’s ability to supply quality drinking water is also compromised by surface or groundwater that’s contaminated with salt. Soil retains salt year after year, destroying its ability to sustain plants leading to increased erosion. Also, salt residues by the side of roads serve as an enticing salt lick, luring animals into dangerous on-road encounters with vehicles.

“We cannot keep trading short-term cost for long-term cost.”

Reducing salt usage is good for the environment and fits well with municipal, provincial, and state environmental efforts. To address environmental concerns, some municipalities have experimented with other solutions over rock salt, such as using calcium magnesium acetate (as it has far fewer toxic effects). While less toxic, calcium magnesium acetate has the drawback of taking longer to melt ice than rock salt and it’s 20 times more expensive.

One remedy is to drastically reduce the use of cheap rock salt and phase in one or more of the expensive alternatives. But to really reduce your salt usage, you need to increase your ability to track excessive salt usage with precision—especially when it comes to third-party contractors (some of whom charge for salt and thus may be incentivized to use it to excess).

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets. By gaining the ability to identify excess salt usage by its contractors, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

 “Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

In Ottawa, where they don’t use contractors, InterFleet’s Live Material Monitoring tool saves costs by highlighting in real time when an operator is using pure salt (icon appears red), as opposed to the environmentally friendly alternatives (such as pre-wet applications, allowing for less overall salt usage).

Other government scenarios, which use contractors, utilize InterFleet’s real-time visibility to verify contractor compliance with salt-usage standards. This is particularly advantageous if contractors are charging for salt used.

The most impressive advantage of InterFleet’s real-time visibility is that, unlike passive GPS tools that merely store data and upload it when the vehicle returns to the yard, live data allows a fleet manager to bring immediate attention to help an operator if salt levels are too high. Real-time alerts provide operational efficiency that can foster an environment of cooperation between government and its third-party contractors, and in the end, less salt on the roads means a better environment for everyone.

Investment in Lean Technology Powers CP’s Success

Despite unusual harsh winter conditions in parts of western North America and a weak valuation of its stock, Canadian Pacific is reporting if first-quarter profits to be far ahead of predictions. Founded in 1881, Canadian Pacific (CP) is one of Canada’s oldest railway companies.

Yesterday’s article in the Vancouver Sun quotes BMO Capital Markets analyst, Fadi Chamoun, “We believe the results also demonstrate that the company has begun to reap the benefits of recent investments in its infrastructure and lean initiatives.” According to the Vancouver Sun, “Chamoun estimated that CP’s operating ratio in the first quarter has improved to the 80-81% range from 90.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2011”.

Part of their commitment to infrastructure and lean initiatives involves the implementation of our Quadrant solution to streamline its InterModal operations (moving freight between trains and CP’s customers). CP benefits from Quadrant in two ways:

  • Save Costs – Rather than CP drivers waiting up to an hour to be dispatched, Quadrant’s In-Cab solution saves time and costs cumulatively over its hundreds of drivers by eliminating the need for mobile phone communication to dispatch drivers.
  • Increase Revenue – By using Quadrant’s geofencing features, CP has identified distribution centres with long stop times. Because CP has a contractual agreement with customers on the maximum amount of wait time at the distribution centre, CP tracks work with customers who are not meeting their contractual obligations and bills them accordingly for excess time.

By investing in its infrastructure and committing to lean initiatives, CP Rail is thriving even in the face of harsh markets and harsh winters.

Integrating Fleet Technology Boosts Revenue

Recently, we talked with CEO, Steve Troyer, and found out how Troyer Ventures is generating revenue to stay way ahead of its competition.

Challenge

As a leading fluid transportation company in the oil and gas sector in north-eastern British Columbia, Troyer Ventures found that it couldn’t grow with the old system. And to realize their growth potential without replacing the old system, Troyer was facing adding an additional dispatch office or even splitting the fleet, which in itself presented another host of operations challenges.

To realize its revenue generating potential, Troyer made the strategic decision to embrace an integrated technology solution.

Solution

Troyer took the unprecedented initiative to adopt a challenging integration combining the best of three different software providers: TMW, Great Plains, and Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution.

“It allows us to re-allocate staff to more strategic activities than merely pushing paper and most importantly, it has allowed us to grow and handle more revenue with the same staff.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

Better ROI

So far, the implementation is showing many encouraging trends and Steve concludes that what’s emerging shows what a great fleet management tool Quadrant is, because it has allowed Troyer to “realize better returns on our assets and people”.

“With the level of minute-by-minute information we’re getting, Quadrant is the best thing going.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

How Much Better?

Steve expects benefits to increase over next 12 months with trends pointing toward a complete return on investment in the not-too-distant future. In addition, the new growth strategy leverages on improved staff efficiencies, particularly as staff re-allocations mean increased revenues for the company without increasing staff.

“In the end, it all pays off—we doubled our revenue.”
—Steve Troyer, Troyer Ventures

How Much Graphic’s Experience Do You Need?

As a freelance writer, how much graphic experience do you need?

Writers often find themselves involved in the visual components of their writing. This can range from making aesthetic choices for a document to sub contracting a graphic designer to taking a DYI approach and creating graphics themselves.

These days, things are a lot more visual as everything moves online where people tend to even read visually—scanning, foraging, and generally jumping around compared with more traditional linear reading styles.

I just edited a blog post for Webtech Wireless, one of my main clients, and apart from having to revise the text on an image, I designed to improve the overall look and feel of the image. So, not really a functional improve, just an aesthetic call to improve the overall look and feel of a very technical article.

Original

I didn’t have the source for this image—it was just pasted as an Excel® chart in Word®. I find that most graphics created in Microsoft programs look really clunky and, well let’s just face it, nerdy.

Odometer original

Original Excel graphic

Revised

To revise the original, I started from scratch and redrew the content in Adobe Illustrator. I didn’t intend to go quite this far, but one thing led to another and pretty soon I’d built up these dreamy layers of gradients, Gaussian blurs, reflections, and transparencies. I think I’d go for some Jell-O salad now.

Odometer revised

Revised graphic in Adobe Illustrator

In the end, a lot of technical material was rendered a little more, er, palatable with an eye-popping image. Read the article…

Why Increased Accuracy Matters

–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless

With ever increasing fuel costs, a common question these days is, “how do I accurately measure my individual vehicle fuel consumption?”

GPS versus Vehicle Odometer Reporting: “It’s a mine field”

With the advent of on-board diagnostics (OBD) in the 1980s the problem was solved, right? In an automotive context, OBD is a generic term referring to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability. All vehicle manufacturers conform to SAE J1979, and the OBD-II standard has been mandatory for all cars and light trucks sold in the United States since 1996.

“It’s complicated”

Problem solved! We just connect to the vehicle OBD port (they all have one) and read the fuel consumption data, right? Wrong—it’s not that simple—it’s complicated and fraught with pitfalls.

Each vehicle manufacturer implements the OBD standard uniquely and will rarely, if ever, share that standard outside its service network. It’s possible to gain access to that standard and implement a solution to read the PID (parameter identification) number codes, but manufacturers are not required to implement all PIDs listed in J1979, and they are allowed to include proprietary PIDs that are not listed. It’s just a minefield to attempt to interpret individual manufacturer PIDs accurately.

Most importantly, non-approved connections to a vehicle OBD port (ECU/Engine Control Unit) could invalidate warranty and cause other legal or technical issues. Modern vehicles are controlled by highly sophisticated computer systems, can detect miniscule unexpected current draws, and may register a fault. What if you have a mixture of old and new cars, vans, buses, and other vehicles from different manufacturers? Older vehicles don’t have any OBD port at all.

Comparing OBD against GPS Statistics

Both OBD collected data and GPS calculated data have some inherent flaws—neither one is 100% accurate. Recent studies have shown a variation of plus or minus 5% for speed and odometer data from OBD. We recently conducted a series of studies with our major customers involving hundreds of vehicles measuring the accuracy of ODB versus our GPS locator information. With recent improvements in our  locator hardware and algorithms we have now confirmed our GPS information is accurate to plus or minus 3% versus OBD data from the same vehicles.

The federal specification for vehicle speed/odometer is plus or minus 10%. A recent study by a major Webtech Wireless customer has shown that their trucks were reporting a speed of 15% to 20% higher than actual when using cruise control (this data was taken from the ECU (engine control unit)). This prompted the customer to switch to GPS calculations for speed.

Odometer Drift Analysis for 827 Vehicles

Recently, Webtech Wireless completed a study of 827 vehicles from a large customer fleet. This study compared the odometer readings from the vehicle with the mileage calculations from the Webtech Wireless Locator using GPS calculations.

The results of the study are as follows:

Odometer Drift Analysis for 827 Vehicles

  • Average GPS odometer drift was plus or minus 3.07% when compared to vehicle odometer
  • 87% of the vehicles had less than 5% drift
  • 63% of the vehicles had less than 3% drift
  • 2% of vehicles had GPS antenna issues (19 vehicles)

In an additional study, one of our largest clients found ECU data on speed to be way off, so they asked us to switch to GPS calculated speed.  When the GPS antenna was properly mounted and had clearance to the sky (i.e., in highway conditions further from obstructions such as skyscrapers), GPS speed and odometer calculations were favorable.

Increasing Accuracy

The biggest factor in getting good GPS odometer (mileage) readings is to have the GPS antenna installed properly. Improper installation can cause a high number of no-fix records that, in turn, can cause invalid GPS odometer readings.

The following actions can increase GPS odometer accuracy:

  • Install a GPS antenna with a good view of the sky
  • Update the GPS odometer for all vehicles every 6 to 12 months
  • Update the GPS odometer during scheduled maintenance
  • Monitor vehicles with high no-fix rates of greater than 25%

Summary

In conclusion, both vehicle OBD and the GPS odometer readings can have some issues regarding accuracy. Webtech Wireless Locators and highly accurate GPS calculations provide proven GPS accuracy for speed and odometer readings. These studies resulted in our customers using Webtech Wireless GPS reporting for accounting purposes.

Testimonial – Making a difference

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your instruction and guidance in class.
Having teachers who have a passion for what they teach makes the difference.

—Joe Coll, Technical Writing Student, BCIT
(Now Technical Writer at Ballard Power)