RealTime IT News

GPS Grows Up

A new workforce management tool using global positioning system (GPS) technology can help companies track timesheet data collection, payroll integration, job order management as well as worker logistics data.

That's just a short list of features promised by the Xora GPS TimeTrack software. It's just rolled out for a slew of smartphones on the AT&T (NYSE: T) network, including RIM's BlackBerry, Motorola's Q, HTC's Tilt and Samsung's BlackJack devices.

The mobile product announcement this week illustrates how far GPS has advanced beyond mapping and location-based services capabilities.

"GPS isn't just for finding your way any more," Carmi Levy, senior VP with AR Communications, told InternetNews.com.

"Businesses are using it to super-charge their applications and improve their ability to manage their businesses," he said. Plus, couriers and service companies now use GPS-enabled devices to go beyond tracking routes to providing route changes for greater fleet efficiencies.

"In this age of skyrocketing energy prices, even small improvements to deploying resources on a street network can return major cost and time savings," he noted.

Xora has more than 50 industry-specific GPS application templates to customers in construction, trades, field services, transportation and government.

According to Xora, its product acts as a mobile punch clock which lets employees log starting and ending times for shifts, breaks and specific jobs by using a simple interface.

A list of scheduled jobs for the day, along with relevant information, can be delivered to a user's smartphone. Mobile workers can use the FlexFields feature to record specific job-related data so that the company can more accurately bill customers, cost out jobs, track inventory and servicing information and pay employees.

Advanced features like JobPix lets users attach photos to job records and even record a audio clip of work notes to be attached to a specific job record. Companies can track employee job movements by creating a "smart job zone" using the GPS mapping feature which records job start and end times by workers on the site.

Those capabilities are a lifetime away from the early days of black and white GPS maps with tiny arrow indicators.

The new features are spurring GPS-enabled device adoption. In 2006, 31 percent of handsets featured GPS, according to consumer electronics research firm The NPD Group. By 2007, that number jumped by 8 percent to 39 percent.

But like any advancing technology, there are drawbacks and challenges, such as privacy issues that location-aware services conjure.

"The onus remains on businesses to find balanced ways of using the new technologies to improve the bottom line without compromising the core values of the organization or its stakeholders," said Levy.