Drawing Intelligence from Data

Huckabee addresses the TMW Transforum 2012

For anyone who saw the irreverent film, Freakonomics (“the hidden side of everything”), knows that we’re now collecting data on a vast scale. The stories that are emerging from all this data are remarkable. Who knew that, with this accumulation of data, we could prove Sumo wrestlers were cheating or that the reasons politicians cited for falling crime rates were wrong?

At the TMW 2012 Transforum this week in Orlando (attended by 1,700 vendors and customers), a key theme was, “how do we draw intelligence from data?” According to TMW Senior Project Manager, Michael Malecha in his session on business improvement, “We have 86% more data than even just two years ago, but how do we draw meaning from it?” He also stated that 93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data.

Since all data sets contain noise, the secret is in discerning the noise from the signal. The signal, of course, refers to meaningful trends.

His cautionary message is simple:

  • If we treat noise as a signal, we spin our wheels;
  • If we treat signal as noise, we miss opportunities.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (speaking neither as politician nor as pastor and pictured above) decried the state of personal accountability when he said, “We’ve created a monster”. Sometimes, the gathering of data can be seen as a monster—Big Brother tracking our every move. But business intelligence (knowing how to draw meaningful conclusions from information), serves the needs of small to medium companies just as it does large—if they know what to do with it.

In order to optimize fleet operations and enhance financial performance, fleet managers often turn to automation. Initially, the desire is for dot-on-a-map visibility of their vehicles. Using GPS/AVL technology, they collect location and sometimes diagnostic data in real-time. As the data accumulates, managers may want to report on it, such as exception reporting to filter out only data that doesn’t conform to expected norms. Data then starts to fulfill a more complex need: analyzing trends to facilitate better cost projections (such as optimizing fuel usage), and route planning. Finally, with data streaming in from multiple third-party sources, they can integrate information to discover complex relationships between external events and internal actions.  This is the essence of business intelligence.

TMW CEO, David Wangler, in the general session keynote speech emphasized this point when he said, “It’s no longer the big who eat the small, but the fast who eat the slow”. In other words, becoming leaner and more efficient enables us to outmanoeuver the competition. Your GPS/AVL fleet tracking solution is sending you real-time data that not only provides you with visibility here and now, but down the road, will enable you to see trends and anticipate opportunities.

Perhaps as a fitting representation of the need to draw intelligence from data, the TMW awards gala was warmed up by Jean Francois, the Quebec-based visual artists who drew fantastical pictures for everyone while dinner was served. Accompanied by pulsing rock music, the images appeared abstract and confusing at first until he ceremoniously turned them over (new right-side up) and delighted everyone with images of the Statue of Liberty and a long-haul truck.

Jean-Francois-TMW-WEW

Death by Powerpoint – My Writing: September 18 to 24

This week, I attended the TMW Transforum to find out all I could about fleet management in North America. The scale of this event is staggering as are the numbers in trucking—2 million long haul trucks in the US. While here, I attended a talk on agile software development and found myself staring down that old barrel—death by PowerPoint.

Microsoft needs to include in its software something that prevents slides with long bulleted lists to fade from view while the presenter is speaking. It’s impossible to follow both at once. To make matters worse, the presenter had trouble pronouncing some words in the presentation leading me to suspect that the presentation wasn’t his own.

Going Down the Road with Terry Fox actually tells the back story of the Trans Canada Highway (the highway Terry Fox ran), that transportation route so vital to Canada’s economy. Incidentally, Webtech Wireless—the company that produces GPS/AVL solutions for transportation—had several runners in the 32nd annual Terry Fox Run.

Is Your Doctor Putting Your Disability Claim at Risk? asks if procrastination on the part of doctors can affect the speed and success of a disability claim. Your disability claim.

5 Autumn Driving Tips to Keep You Safe provides some tips to remind you to drive safely as fall brings a different set of driving risks. Watch for Bridges, Shadows, and Intersections, or a pile of wet leaves near a neighbourhood intersection.

 

 

Going Down the Road with Terry Fox

Webtech Wireless Remembers Terry FoxIn 1912, when Thomas Wilby set out from Halifax, Nova Scotia in his four-cylinder REO Special bound for Canada’s distant west coast, he knew his arrival in Victoria, British Columbia would mark the first time anyone successfully crossed Canada by automobile. It took two months. Last week, across Canada (and around the world), runners laced up and prepared to pay respect for another great Canadian, Terry Fox. Webtech Wireless employees also took part in the Terry Fox Run, a run that in some ways also commemorates transportation in Canada. This is the story of a Canadian hero and legend who joined a nation in his Marathon of Hope—to find a cure cancer.

Owing to its geographical size (second only to Russia), Canada has historically been challenged to provide a high level of communications to a relatively small population spread across a vast land. This is the reason highways were so important to Canada’s emergence as a leader in the post-war period.  Like the Federal-Aid Highway Act in the United States, Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway Act paved the way to build the transportation infrastructure needed to move the bounty of natural resources to waiting ports and to move people—including new immigrants—around a continent untouched by war.

But unlike the United States, Canada has always been a one-highway nation and that highway is the Trans-Canada Highway stretching 7,821 kilometres (4,859 miles) from St. John’s, Newfoundland in the east to Victoria, British Columbia in the west. It is this highway that 22-year-old Terry Fox set out to conquer and set the stage for conquering cancer too. In 1980 with little initial fanfare, he aimed west with his skip-hop-run that would later became his signature (he’d already lost his right leg to cancer) he began his long journey. Sometimes, it’s said that his journey was cut short by a return of the cancer that eventually killed him, but when he was forced to stop near Thunder Bay, Ontario, he had completed 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) of his journey. That’s almost two Tour de Frances or 1½ times across Australia.

Webtech-Wireless-Teams Terry Fox run 2012

With a total of 17 runners, the two Canadian Webtech Wireless offices (Webtrekkers) ran in Toronto’s High Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park to raise a total $5,496.62 for the Terry Fox Foundation. Congratulations to all.

Mary Cecilia MacPhee, Senior Account Manager, Webtech Wireless Inc.

“I have read all of the case studies and blogs and have to say they are well written and speak a great message. I like the one re Hunger too. Great Work.”

—Mary Cecilia MacPhee, Senior Account Manager, Webtech Wireless Inc.

Cargo Temperature Monitoring Helps Reduce Hunger

Vladivostok, Russia may seem a long way away from America’s heartland, but a summit being held there points to a shared concern—food security. As Russian President Vladimir Putin put it, food security “is one of the most acute problems of our time.” So while Asia-Pacific summit leaders are focusing their attention on the rising concern over food security, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture states that 17.4 million American families (almost 15 percent of US households) are now “food insecure”.

What is The Local Face of Hunger?

Did you know that a staggering 40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted? Of that, 20% is wasted through spoilage during distribution (i.e., transportation).  But food spoilage can be reduced, if not eliminated through better temperature tracking during transportation.

Detail from Next Generation Food infographic

 

Monitor Your Trailers and Prevent Waste

At Webtech Wireless, our GPS/AVL tracking solutions help trucking fleets reduce all kinds of waste: fuel wastage, time wastage, and food wastage. By providing you with the ability to monitor the contents of your shipments on route, you ensure that perishable cargo travels within the required temperature specifications. With status updates sent to you remotely, you are assured that you are part of the solution, not the problem. It’s that simple: Monitor your trailers and prevent waste.

September is Hunger Action Month

Many people assume hunger is supposed to happen in other places, yet hunger is a reality in the most plentiful of nations. According to Feeding America, a Chicago-based food bank network, one in six Americans goes hungry. Among its charitable activities, Feeding America food banks provide food and groceries to 33,500 food pantries, 4,500 soup kitchens and 3,600 emergency shelters.

Feeding America is promoting many programs to help including online donations, a “Give a Meal” program, a virtual food drive, and corporate donations. Find out and view their “Map The Meal Gap” study. Remember, September is Hunger Action Month.

Farewell Summer; Hello Adjectives (My Writing: Aug 27 to Sept 3)

I’m considering what it would be like to write entirely without adjectives. I think Strunk & White would approve, but might I become terminally boring?

One of my activities as an editor (with technical writing credentials) is to question what we in marketing call “bumpf”. Bumpf is the motherhood and apple pie that promises everything, cannot be argued with, but ultimately delivers very little. For example, saying “Using our patented XW500 technology will make you happier, bring you the results you deserve, and keep your assets secure,” says nothing at all—it’s bumpf.

Adjectives are like that too. I smile when people overuse words like “amazing”, “fantastic”, and “awesome”. The little voice immediately wants to know how that can be so. “Don’t tell me. Show me.” I don’t suppose my writing is the most sober ever, but I do try to keep my adjectives in check by using them as descriptors of real things. I try to avoid letting them fly about my writing like so many escaped helium balloons…

Here’s my writing for the week. You be the judge:

Webtech WirelessIn Vision, Venture, Velocity (Aug 28, 2012) – I describe three “V”s for Webtech Wireless’ email campaign. I highlight the City of Vaughan’s Public Works department, (which I visited in June), preview the APWA (American Public Works Association) Expo we’re attending, and describe a news story about The fastest road in America, a challenge for those concerned with excess speed on the highways.

 

City of Vaughan Embraces a Four Seasons Solution is a blog post I wrote based on my interview with the Public Works department. It describes how overlap jurisdictions and rapid growth and increasing demand for GPS/AVL technologies.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Approved by WorkSafeBC describes the traumatized dog-sledder who won a claim with WorkSafeBC, but the seven-page report quickly gained the attention of international media for months to follow.

 

How to Save a Few Lives without Breaking A Sweat prepares British Columbians for the news that the Labour Day week-end can bring harsh statistics: more than 575 of us are injured in vehicle accidents on an average Labour Day weekend.

Webtech Wireless Taking off with Airports

Webtech-Wireless-Taking-off-with-AirportsWith summer winding down and kids going back to school, most people are thinking beyond holidays. At Webtech Wireless, we’re ramping up for a busy season of fleet management trade shows and conventions, and that means we’re spending lots of time in airports getting to and from these events.

Airports tend to embrace new technologies quickly, especially when the technologies can be shown to reduce cost and improve security. Webtech Wireless has airport security perimeter ground vehicle solutions at several major airports in the United States, including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Massport (Boston), and O’Hare International in Chicago. Here’s what we’re doing in Chicago.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

The City of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is owned and operated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation. As a Webtech Wireless customer since 2003, we provide solutions to many of the City’s 2,500 vehicles (including vehicles in its various public works departments). Our airport solution is used to transmit critical location data from designated City of Chicago vehicles every ten seconds alerting the City of runway incursions and security breaches. We also provide automated vehicle location services (AVL) for its snow removal equipment.

As it is not operationally practical to maintain two-way radio communications between every vehicles and airport operations, GPS/AVL technology helps the City track its vehicles. Also, as the speed limit within the airport security perimeter at O’Hare is 30 miles per hour, our vehicle reports help City fleet managers ensure their vehicles operate within the airport’s speed limit.

On the technical side, our AVL solution is ideal for airport operations, because it’s designed for vehicles operating in an 802.11b coverage area; that is, it uses a point-to-multipoint configuration with an omnidirectional antenna located in a coverage area around the access point.

Fly with Webtech Wireless

Webtech Wireless is flying off to several trade shows this autumn. Follow our Events page, which is updated with new events regularly.

September 5 Snow-N-Ohio Workshop Perrysburg, Ohio
September 13 2012 Iowa Snow Roadeo Des Moines, Iowa
September 16 BC Roadbuilders Association Fall Conference Kelowna, BC
September 20 Snow and Ice Symposium Milton, Ontario
September 21 Truxpo Seminar  – Abbotsford Abbotsford, BC
September 23-26 TMW TransForum Orlando, Florida
September 25-27 Association of Municipal EMS Conference (AMEMSO) Ottawa, Ontario

 

My Writing: Awareness, Absenteesim, and Accomplishment (August 21 to 28)

 

Cell Phone Distraction May Depend on Who’s Driving describes the loss of situational awareness that airline pilots get. What is situational awareness and how is it similar to what happens to distracted drivers?

 

Be Aware of the “Disability Managers” at Your Workplace describes disability and absenteeism and who’s checking up on you when you call in sick. According to Statistics Canada, an employee who is absent due to disability may require some management.

 

 

 

City of Vaughan Embraces a Four Seasons Solution describes how Public Works departments must manage public perception as well as public roadways. The City of Vaughan has relied on a Webtech Wireless solution for years to accomplish just that.

City of Vaughan Embraces a Four Seasons Solution

Once just a small town with a vision, the City of Vaughan is growing fast. Located north of Toronto, current projections show that its population is expected to almost double by 2030. For the City of Vaughan to keep up with growth in this region of overlapping jurisdictional responsibilities, it must find ways to get the most out of its technology investment.

According to Shawn McKenzie, Senior Engineering Assistant at Public Works, “It’s a barrel of monkeys for residents to understand and to many residents, anyone with a plow blade is a City truck,” so Public Works must manage public perception as well as public roadways. In the future, the ability to share data among different jurisdictions will increasingly clarify public perceptions of who’s doing what.

Recently, Public Works mandated that its third-party contractors use GPS/AVL Locators, thereby enabling it to track how efficiently both its primary suburban and secondary rural roads are maintained across different seasons. This decision keeps contractors accountable and citizens content. As proof of reduced complaints, its initial Webtech Wireless deployment calling for a “Where’s my Plow?” Web site and Call Centre, became so efficient that as calls dropped away, it eliminated the need for a Call Centre altogether.

Today, the City of Vaughan has realized the great opportunity that is intrinsic in a GPS/AVL solution and, with hundreds of vehicles now equipped and reporting, the word is spreading. The City of Vaughan’s Parks Board (with a fleet of sidewalk plows), has just adopted a Webtech Wireless solution for its vehicles too.

“When we make appointments to send our water trucks to an address and the client isn’t there, the driver needs to move on to the next appointment. If someone claims the water truck never came, we can prove the site call was made.”
— Shawn McKenzie, Public Works, City of Vaughan

My Writing: Allergies, Communications, and Workplaces (August 14 to 20)

Last night, I was watching the film Freakonomics based on the book of the same name. What it’s about at its essence is how the vast amount of data we collect now tells a remarkable story about human nature. By looking at the numbers, we can now micromanage pretty much everything. Perhaps, in the same way Ford’s assembly line created a monotonous workplace conformity, infinitesimal management of data carries with it a tyranny of its own.

http://www.disabilityclaimdenied.caWhen Is An Allergy A Disability? describes how, in an attempt to accommodate more passengers, airlines got themselves in more hot water with people with allergies. But, when are allergies considered disabilities?

 

 

Webtech WirelessDare Mighty Things is a story I wrote for this week’s email campaign at Webtech Wireless. The video I reference describes the “seven minutes of terror” during which the NASA team has no telematics (or communication) between itself (Earth) and Mars. I go on to draw the comparison with Webtech Wireless’ offerings by saying that, while fleet management is admittedly not rocket science, similarities abound when it comes to deploying a reliable automated telematics solution—anywhere, anytime.

 

 

http://www.disabilityclaimdenied.caBe Aware of the “Disability Managers” at Your Workplace describes disability and absenteeism. In it, according to Statistics Canada, an employee who is absent due to disability may require some management.