The MSA is a Windows Mobile application that runs on a Motorola FR68 mobile device supplied by Mobico. It makes full use of the device’s features - GPS, camera and barcode scanner – to capture information, minimise errors, and maximise automation of the process.
The interface is built for “fat fingers”, with minimal data entry and job steps completed in easy-to-use wizard format. The device’s inbuilt GPS records location data, while the barcode scanner inputs meter and tag serial numbers without keyboard entry. The camera is used to take high-resolution pictures so that wiring audits can be conducted offsite – an innovative feature of the MSA that allows technicians to concentrate on installation work instead of paperwork, and will make VirCom the largest mobile data user in NZ.
Out in the field, the MSA checks for and retrieves new jobs, guides the technician through the steps required to complete a job and then submits the job report back to the server. On the server, a new J2EE Mobile Gateway Application handles the integration between the MSA and Vircom’s existing job management application.
The MSA is designed to work in areas of little or no connectivity to a mobile phone network – a common scenario for meter installers in NZ. When an installer moves back into mobile coverage, completed jobs are submitted and new jobs retrieved.
“This application represents a big leap in productivity for us,” says VirCom CEO Craig Shepherd. “We used to manage installations using paper-based job sheets – processing a maximum of 300 jobs per day with an error rate of 10-20%. Now we can process 600 installations per day, and the data quality has improved dramatically, with the error rate less than 5%.”
This Windows Mobile application was selected as a Microsoft New Zealand Partner Awards 2010 finalist, for the Microsoft Supreme Award - Business Impact Solution of the Year.