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Fleet Applications Emerge for Mobile Communication Devices

Applications for mobile communication devices to perform fleet-related tasks will become increasingly prevalent in the near future. These emerging applications will help enhance driver productivity and communication.

May 2010, by Mike Antich - Also by this author

As phones become smarter and more ubiquitous in the work environment, there is an emerging trend to develop fleet applications for these mobile communication devices.

 "The key advantages to going mobile are convenience and timeliness," said Paul Millington, technical sales leader for GE Capital Fleet Services. "A field user now has the ability to use a mobile device for activities that once required a laptop or desktop," said Millington. "GE's expectation is that demand and usage of fleet mobile applications will continue to grow. Greater speed and more sophisticated devices will expand the breadth of available functionality, leading to some convergence of mobile and traditional Web platforms."

Other fleet management companies are likewise looking to develop driver support and productivity applications for mobile communication devices.
"Personal use mileage reporting, maintenance scheduling tools, vehicle diagnostic apps, and one-click speed-dial to phone support solutions are all things drivers can use on a regular basis to make vehicle management more efficient," said Cheryl Middleton, director, product management for PHH Arval. "Anything that requires immediate response, such as a request/authorization for service, locating a service provider, resetting a service/fuel card PIN, finding the nearest fuel location, vehicle accident support, and other such activities work well on a mobile device."

A growing number of fleets view mobile applications as a way to help lower fleet costs, increase driver efficiency, and improve fleet management control.

"The key to these new mobile apps is the real-time exchange of pertinent data tied to technology that gives both the driver and fleet manager the ability to immediately act, or react, to serve the best interests of the company," said Keith Steidle, new product development manager for ARI. "Mobile applications bolster the driver's ability to support the management of the vehicle with apps tied to maintenance, accidents, fuel, licensing, and so on."  

Initially, fleet applications will provide only basic data and information due to limitations in the technology's current state of the art.

"The best content for mobile applications is still basic, non-complex data or graphic-heavy reporting. However, this will be a short-lived trend as mobile networks are in high gear to get lightning-fast connections with larger high-resolution screens for much easier content viewing," said Chris Tepas, executive vice president, marketing for Emkay Inc.
As mobile fleet applications proliferate, they can be segregated into distinct application categories.

"Mobile technology within the fleet space may be grouped into three broad functional categories," said Millington of GE Capital Fleet Services. These include:

● Notification - Alerts via SMS/text to instruct end users of action required or non-compliance. (SMS stands for short message service that lets users communicate with others using text messages.)
● Location - Mobile access to locate a service, address, or geography, which may also include mapping and directions.
● Task - Completion of more complex fleet activities through use of a mobile device, such as driver updates.
An early application for mobile communication devices is personal use mileage reporting by drivers.

"We found drivers really like the convenience of reporting their mileage on the mobile device because they can do it right in front of their odometers, so they don't have to write down the information and then log onto their PC to report mileage. The response to this application has been very enthusiastic," said Middleton of PHH Arval.

However, a multitude of other fleet applications also lend themselves to use on mobile devices.

"Other applications could allow drivers to order their vehicles, direct them to the nearest fueling station or repair facility, send preventive maintenance and oil change reminders, and even fill out an accident report," said James Semsey, vice president, information technology for LeasePlan USA. "Because drivers are, for the most part, on the road and not sitting at a computer during work hours, fleet applications can save time and provide the convenience needed for many drivers."

Companies implement mobile fleet applications as one way to maximize fleet savings and control.

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