So what exactly do people mean when they talk about “Cloud Computing”? What’s normally meant is that the software you’re using isn’t installed on your own computer. Instead it’s installed on a server which you access using the internet. The use of the word “Cloud” dates back to when people first drew diagrams of the internet - where lots of computers were shown around the edge of the diagram and the bit in the middle (the internet itself which connects all the computers) was shown as a cloud. In reality the internet includes lots of server and networking hardware so it was just an easy way of avoiding going into any of that detail. But recently the idea has taken hold because server hardware is getting cheaper and everybody’s internet connection is getting faster. A lot of providers have realised that they can offer a “cloud based” solution which minimises the amount of work that needs to be done on the customer’s own computer. And – guess what – we’ve given it a try and it seems to work pretty well. We had a recent requirement to provide a service to a number of office users running a pan-european logistics operation. The users were spread out very widely geographically – in four different countries, actually – and they all needed to use Truckcom to view tracking data, history, and driver messages for their fleet of vehicles. We installed Truckcom for them on a rented, “virtual” server in the cloud and now they can easily use the system wherever in the world they happen to be. So now, if a customer wants Truckcom to be hosted by us – that is, they don’t want us to install it on their computer, as we always have done in the past, but instead they want to access it “in the cloud” – we can easily do this. It’s not just the international operations that might want to do this; consider a small haulier where the management are very mobile – and they want to see what’s going on with a laptop anywhere they happen to be. For this kind of user, the cloud based approach may be a very useful step forward.
Truckcom in the cloud
Meet the latest phone we’ve installed Truckcom on. The price is, by any measure, remarkable. A customer bought this device for us to evaluate, brand new, for £40+VAT from Asda direct. The big thing for us is that proper smartphones at these kinds of prices are a gamechanger for a product like Truckcom. Just a few years ago, our customers were rolling out Truckcom on Windows mobile devices that retailed for £300. Truckcom passed the cost-benefit test back then easily, including this high device cost. But if phones are now available now for such a small fraction of that earlier cost, the case for adopting a system like Truckcom becomes overwhelming. And a side benefit is that operators can be a little more relaxed about thefts and damage – which although rare, were a worry in our early years when devices were so much more expensive. But then again, will such a cheap device do the job? We’ve done some tests, and our verdict is … yes it, probably can. We need to be a bit careful at this stage, of course, because we don’t have many hours of real operational use – but initial tests are positive. It’s called the t-mobile Rapport, and underneath the t-mobile branding, it’s actually made by a company in the far east called Huawei. Probably the reason it’s so cheap is that Huawei, based in China, are competing against premium brands like Samsung (South Korea) and HTC (Taiwan) – and they correctly think that western consumers expect a Chinese phone to be cheaper. Like several other products over the years (and certainly HTC did a lot of this when it was starting out) it appears under different names on different networks – on Vodafone it is sold as the “Vodafone Smart” and on Orange as the “Orange Stockholm” – but the branding is just a gloss on the basic phone, the Huawei U8160, which is pretty much the same in each case. If you bought one of these for general use expecting it to be as good as a far more expensive device, you’d probably be disappointed. There are several compromises the makers have made to keep the price low. But here’s the thing – to run Truckcom on a phone, you don’t need a powerful, expensive device. Truckcom doesn’t place high demands on the phone it runs on. So from a Truckcom point of view, it’s pretty much just as good as a more expensive device. The Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times” seems appropriate on two levels. These are genuinely interesting times in the Smartphone market – but it’s partly because we’re living in interesting (in the bad sense of the proverb) times economically that we see prices falling like this.
A recent article on the BBC website makes interesting reading. It contains figures from a recent global mobile market survey. Summarising the figures, Google’s Android operating system now accounts for 52% of smartphone sales, more than twice as much as a year ago, whereas Apple’s iPhone accounts for only 15%, and Microsoft’s share of the smartphone market is a mere 1.5%. This is good news for us here at Truckcom, as we have pinned our hopes to the Android operating system as the pre-eminent operating system for smartphones. This looks like a good policy based on these figures. We’re finding that Android handsets are very easy to come by for our customers now, and this is helping us towards our best ever year this year. Go on Android – keep it up!
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Android goes from strength to strength
You might wonder whether it’s a good idea to give a swanky smartphone to one of your employees and expect them to just use it to do their job properly. “What happens if they just spend all day on Facebook?” asked one of our customers
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Locking down Smartphones
To ensure continued excellent service to all of our customers, we have just been through a replacement programme to retire all of the older central servers we were using. Some of these servers dated back to 2006 and while they had worked very well for us, were due to be retired
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Brand new servers now online
You have to wonder how on earth big IT programmes such as the NHS National IT project recently in the news get into such serious trouble so often. The NHS debacle makes eye-watering reading: more than £2 billion of your money and mine has been spent, and apparently nothing of much value has been achieved.
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Small is beautiful
The following are extracts from case studies of Truckcom customers and how they decided on us as the best solution for their business: How can Truckcom improve your customer service? Goldstar Transport have been using Truckcom for four years and it has been a major help to them in providing excellent customer service: Derek Cawston, General Manager: “Looking at how we operate now, the key thing is that we have good information from Truckcom, easily to hand. Our customers love the job tracking website”
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Improve your haulage operation
We are pleased to announce the launch of Truckcom on Android This means your drivers can now use Truckcom Mobile on any of the large and growing range of Google Android handsets . All the major UK network operators are now providing Android handsets Free of Charge on competitive contract rates, and they are also available through a wide range of retail and internet outlets. Truckcom Mobile, which has been available on Windows devices for many years now, provides all the same features and benefits in its new Android flavour: Zero Installation Fleet Tracking – see where your drivers and vehicles are all day, every day. If you have a hire vehicle on your fleet for a day, you can still track it ; and no removal/refitting costs for new vehicles On-screen signatures – or “ Electronic POD ” as we’ve called it on our website
Truckcom Mobile is now available on Android
Here’s a cool new feature that’s pretty much unique to Truckcom and really demonstrates the power and flexibility of smartphones. Subcontractor Vehicle Tracking allows haulage and logistics operators to communicate more effectively and easily than ever before. Even for occasional, spot job allocation, the same benefits that are available when operating your own vehicle with Truckcom are available when you subcontract the job to another Truckcom operator. Customer s : How would you like to be able to track spot subcontractor vehicles doing jobs on your behalf?
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