Testimonial – Critical polishing greatly improved final report

Working to deadline, Jason provided valuable copy editing and feedback to a key customer report that was over thirty pages long. Jason’s changes provided the critical polishing that greatly improved the impression the prospect received with the final report.

—David Greer, VP of Marketing, Webtech Wireless

How Nextbus Transit Technology Serves Riders

Webtech Wireless’ NextBus solution is now the transit technology that municipalities (from Montreal’s Société de transport de Laval to the Los Angeles Metro) rely on to provide accurate real-time public transportation information to millions of riders. Like other AVL solutions, NextBus uses global positioning system (GPS) tracking satellites to display transit vehicle locations in real-time. So what makes Nextbus’ particular solution so helpful?

Tackling the Problem

There is something of a perfect storm closing in on public transit systems these days. Rising fuel costs are driving many commuters to use public transit as their primary method of transportation, and with traffic variations, breakdowns, and other day-to-day problems leaving riders waiting at bus stops and train platforms, they’re increasingly turning to instant wireless communications (such as cellphones, PDAs, text messaging, etc.), to manage their lives. These riders rely on and expect reliable location-based services.

“The need for a predictive transit solution became apparent as a means to encourage ridership and streamline bus routing.”

Designing the Solution

To address these problems, NextBus was designed to “keep your customers on schedule even if their bus isn’t”. Using GPS tracking, NextBus estimates vehicle location information with a high degree of accuracy. Using PCs, landline phones, cell phones, or SMS (Text) messaging, riders get real-time travel information, which helps them decide whether catching the next bus is a sprint or leisurely stroll.

NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

Viewed through a web browser, NextBus uses Google maps to show highly accurate route maps

“NextBus helps riders make the best use of public and university transit.”

From the standpoint of transit authorities, deploying a transit AVL solution helps transit companies improve customer service, reduce accidents, reduce fuel and labor costs, improve operator performance, and improve street-level visibility for transit supervisors and planners.

In the New York Times writer, Joshua Brustein praises the recent deployment of NextBus to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Los Angeles began using NextBus for its entire bus system in May, the largest transit agency to do so.” Or, according to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority itself, the NextBus solution is “designed to help take the guesswork out of bus arrival and help you to get to your stop at the same time as your bus”.

Using NextBus on Your Smartphone

Just as the adoption of the cell phone became universal a decade and a half ago, the smartphone is now a ubiquitous part of life for most urbanites. According to New York Times writer, Damon Darlin, “historians will remember the advent of the smartphone as something as important as the elevator, air conditioner and automobile.”

The implication for transit companies is clear: adopt an AVL solution or face irritation and disinterest from your ridership. Fortunately, transit authorities are reading the writing on the wall and many of them are choosing NextBus—for its reliability and simplicity.

“NextBus, a wonderful Web site that monitors the arrival of city buses in many big cities, is a godsend.”

While there is no official phone application for Nextbus, the simplicity of the NextBus website makes it easy to use on most smartphones.

NextBus iPhone

NextBus viewed on an iPhone

To access NextBus using a smartphone:

  1. Using your smartphone’s web browser (such as Safari), access the NextBus website: www.nextbus.com.
  2. Choose the mobile version or the full-featured website.
  3. Select your location, your transit agency, your route, and then your stop.
    The most current prediction for the arrival time of the next vehicle is displayed.
  4. You also can add your stop info to your home screen so it will be instantly available.
  5. If a prediction is already displayed on your smartphone, simply push the ‘refresh’ link at the bottom of the page to get the most up to date information.

Testimonial – It’s great to have a good editor looking over my shoulder…

Thanks for all of your edits. I accepted them all and then this morning went through your comments one by one. It’s great to have a good editor looking over my shoulder.

—David Greer, Vice-President of Marketing, Webtech Wireless

Testimonial –

You’ve outdone yourself. Tears of joy in my eyes…I love this story. Really beautiful and quirky and unexpected. It’s a huge story on the front page right now.

—Linda Solomon, Managing Editor, The Vancouver Observer

Quadrant proves powerful tool during tsunami warnings

HELCO truck

HELCO truck

In addition to the Hawaii Electric Light Company’s (HELCO) success with reducing fuel consumption, using Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant location-based services (LBS) and telematics solutions (see previous Blog post), HELCO has also found Quadrant to be a necessary tool in times of crisis.

With its own home-grown volcanoes, the Hawaiian Islands are no strangers to nature’s fury. At the center of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii must also be prepared for dangers from its far-flung Ring of Fire neighbors—in the form of tsunamis.

Tsunami from Chile

The effectiveness of the Quadrant system in emergency situations was tested in February 2010 after the devastating 8.8 Mw earthquake in Chile, which put all of the Hawaiian Islands on tsunami alert. HELCO’s emergency plan was kicked into high gear, which meant immediately locating all of the company’s mobile resources and redistributing them to key points on the Island and HELCO installations, away from areas that could be vulnerable in a tsunami event. “It made such a difference to have that information available in real-time and on my computer so that I could easily direct our staff, and if needed, share that information with other emergency organizations,” said Kelvin Kohatsu, HELCO’s Fleet Administrator.

Fortunately, Hawaii was unaffected by the quake, but it was a good test of HELCO’s preparedness and the Quadrant system.

Quadrant GPS map showing HELCO truck locations on the Big Island of Hawaii

Quadrant GPS satellite image showing HELCO truck locations on the Big Island of Hawaii

Tsunami from Japan

On March 11, 2011, the tragic 9.1 Mw Sendai earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, again demonstrated Quadrant’s usefulness in times of crises. As Pacific Rim nations raced to secure their coastlines before the tsunami hit, Kelvin was able to use Quadrant GPS to allocate trucks and drivers, and to prepare to assist with evacuations and clean up on the Big Island.

With a tsunami bearing down on the Hawaiian Islands, Kelvin rushed to HELCO’s headquarters to check that fuel acquisition, standby contractors, dispatch, and equipment were available and ready. In addition, he hurried to ensure HELCO trucks located in the tsunami inundation zone were relocated to higher ground.

As Transportation & Maintenance Unit Leader for the Logistics Team at HELCO, he credited Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant solution (particularly Dispatch Management) as crucial in supplying needed vehicles to support Operations. “GPS remote vehicle management technology is invaluable in these situations,” he claimed, adding that “having a comprehensive GSP system allows us to instantly locate units and plan for dispatch of those resources. Other organizations would use two-way communications, if they’re operational.”

During tsunami alerts, the main evacuation route requisitions the Hilo International Airport runway

During tsunami alerts, the Hilo International Airport runway becomes a main evacuation route

This first operational period lasted until the tsunami warning was lifted, which came the following day. After the emergency period passed, HELCO transitioned to the recovery period, where it supported Operations in clearing and cleaning up debris and damage from the tsunami, which fortunately was minimal.

Quadrant has also been of use in more minor situations such as when a localized oil spill affected Hilo Harbor and HELCO vehicles and personnel were involved in containment and cleanup efforts.

Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) renews its service contract

Citing safety and savings as its primary reasons, Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) has decided to renew its Quadrant Enterprise service contact for an additional two years.

HELCO-SavingsWithin the first two years of deploying the Quadrant solution (2008-2009), HELCO realized a fuel savings of over 22,000 gallons (US). In 2010, HELCO saved an additional 18,000 gallons. Kelvin Kohatsu, HELCO Fleet Administrator, credits the impressive reduction and subsequent cost savings for their decision to renew the contract and attributes lower fuel costs to a combination of “GPS technology, driver training (operator knowledge), more fuel efficient vehicles, and improved dispatch management.”

HELCO, a subsidiary of HECO currently has Quadrant Locators in approximately 220 of its 240 vehicles and as part of the renewed service contract, will implement Job Management, using Garmin® in-vehicle navigation devices, which integrate fully with the Quadrant system. With the ability to enhance communication with drivers even more, it is expected that HELCO can expect even more dramatic savings over the next two years.

MTS Sales & Service sees a tangible reduction in fleet management costs with Quadrant

The MTS Team

The MTS Team

Quadrant customer, MTS Sales & Service, has reported “a tangible reduction in the cost of fleet management costs of 69%.” This figure is based on the difference in the cost of their old fleet management solution and savings in vehicle usage using Webtech Wireless’ Quadrant. Gino Venditti, VP of Operations, says that in addition to the superior quality of service and reliability (at the above-mentioned reduction in cost), it is now possible to manage routes, forecast fuel usage, and monitor assets with real-time notifications of unauthorized vehicle use.

He added, “Having used other GPS-based solutions we knew of the positive ROI that this type of technology created, however other providers were unable to provide the quality of service and up-time that we found with Webtech Wireless”.

In addition to tangible cost reductions, they have also seen improvements in another, often less tangible way a company can make great gains: customer service. “We have improved customer satisfaction through the use of GPS based dispatching and resolved conflicts with customers revolving around service times using the GPS technology”, says Mr. Venditti.

MTS Sales & Service installs commercial kitchen equipment, such as dish machines, beverage equipment, and all other types of hot and cold commercial kitchen equipment.  They also provide on-site repair and preventative maintenance services to their clients in western Pennsylvania.

Testimonial – a great and challenging class

Thank you for a great and challenging class. I am sad that I will be missing your instruction for the Technical Editing class. It has just been posted that there are two instructors. They have big shoes to fill—that must be why it takes two!

—Ann, Technical Writing Student, BCIT

Writing a corporate blog

I recently wrote a corporate blog and came upon some interesting considerations. It’s one thing to write a blog for one’s own site, but to write on behalf of someone else (i.e., a company) is another matter. There’s of course the matter of style and tone, but what is appropriate especially if there are no clear guidelines.

You may have to spin things slightly to represent the best interests of your employer, but don’t be insincere—people sense it. The story I wrote, Iridium satellites not affected my recent solar storms, concerned the effects of recent solar storms on the company’s GPS location-based tracking services. I realized that it was important not to represent their technology as vulnerable or the solar storms as alarmist.

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Focus on the positive – plays down concerns in the title
  • In first sentence, I use end focus to draw attention to reliability of products/services of company “…has had no affect on Iridium satellites”.
  • I chose a beautiful and re-assuring image of the aurora borealis, instead of something that might cause concern.
  • I was given permission to use images found on the internet (always something to consider), but because I didn’t think the site where I found this image was one I wanted to highlight, I buried the source credit in the code for the image.

Iridium satellites not affected by recent solar storms

Aurora activity is brighter and more vigorous during solar storms

Aurora activity is brighter and more vigorous during solar storms

Leading scientists’ warnings that a massive solar storm, which could adversely affect satellite communications worldwide, has had no affect on Iridium satellites.

In an email to partners, Iridium CEO, Matt Desch, said “Low-Earth orbiting (LEO) satellite systems, such as ours, are actually less susceptible to solar storms than geosynchronous (GEO) satellite systems. Solar storms generate an increase of radiation that can cause issues for satellites and even some electrical systems on Earth.  However, due to our satellites’ robust design, along with our system fault detection and mitigation processes, we have little concern over these kinds of storms. This is because of the altitude at which our satellites fly as well our continued investment in our network.”

WebTech Wireless VP of Quadrant sales, Harald Fritz, said, “We chose Iridium as that critical link when regular cellular coverage is unavailable. Iridium provides the global network coverage as well as best-in-class coverage in northern regions where we service energy, resource, and government customers”. He added that this is important to WebTech Wireless clients, because “customers usually choose this dual mode hybrid solution in mission-critical or worker-safety related applications. This means their staff must always have coverage and be in constant connectivity.”

On February 15, 2011, scientists observed solar flares emitting billions of tons of charged particles that could trigger a $2 trillion global Katrina to communications satellites, electric power grids and GPS navigation systems. It was the largest solar storm in four years. Solar particles interact with Earth’s magnetosphere.