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RF Delivery System uses satellites to keep delivery trucks connected


By Gary J. Sullivan


Maine, the 23rd state to join the United States, is the home of the world’s largest boulder, the inventor of the toothpick, the author of “America the Beautiful,” the first state to have mandatory retirement at age 65, the first to broadcast a transatlantic TV signal in 1962, and now A.E. Robinson Oil in Dover-Foxcroft has a point-of-sale system in its fleet of trucks, operating over a satellite communication network.

A.E. Robinson installed the RF Delivery System from Automated Wireless Environments Inc. Now, each of its delivery trucks is part of the office network. Kurt Fortier and Jamie Robinson of A.E. Robinson worked closely with AWE during the installation of the system, and in conjunction with EMS, the satellite provider, and Factor, the office solution provider, a seamless solution was deployed.

AWE was already expert in wireless communications using satellite (file transfer), VHF/UHF radio, cellular, CDPD, CDMA, GPRS or whatever was required to provide a wireless link. Automated Wireless had used satellite in northern Canada, where the connection was more like a phone call, but this project called for a more real-time environment like AWE uses in urban areas with CDMA.

CDMA is the method used by cell phones to send text and graphics. Mike Sullivan, the creator of RF Delivery, analyzed the requirements and with the PDT-100 Satellite Tranceiver from EMS Satcom and a Centrino Tablet Computer from Xplore-tech, he created the RF-SAT product for A.E. Robinson.

This product is soon to deployed at another company with a similar requirement. John Murray of Murray Oil in Turner, Maine, immediately saw the same vision that A.E. Robinson has and is also deploying AWE’s RF-SAT with Taurus. Taurus is an office solution provider, also located in Maine.
Accountability, control and immediate availability of information at the office are the reasons to automate delivery trucks and service vans. Routes are created and assigned visually to each truck, as well as the addition of new orders and the cancellation of existing delivery stops. The dispatcher can view the trucks with their course, speed and location, as well as pending deliveries and inventory on-board. Each truck is equipped with a PDT 100 satellite transceiver and a Windows Centrino Tablet Computer that processes and controls all functions on board the truck. This includes the interface to the electronic register and to global positioning. Automated Wireless is also currently working on a navigation system that will give step-by-step verbal driving directions.

Customers receive a computer-printed invoice from the truck immediately following the delivery and the customer service department has the point-of-sale information at the office just a few minutes later. The system also controls inventory, loading of product, payments and time accounting.

A.E. Robinson uses a well-known business system from Factor, a software supplier in Oklahoma with a fully functional seamless integration. Delivery information is processed and made available to office users on a real-time basis.

Fortier has recognized that a rapid transition to new technology is the only method for providing service and efficiency to compete in the 21st century in his beautiful country environment, where customers are spread out and even cell phones only work occasionally. After product cost, labor and fleet are the largest operating expenses and information and control is necessary at all times. The trucks are equipped with meters and electronic registers from Liquid Controls that are connected to the AWE on-board computer system that controls the delivery process.

AWE has many systems installed using electronic registers from Liquid Controls, as well as from Mid:Com, Actaris and Veeder-Root. These companies manufacture equipment to meter liquid products such as gasoline, heating oil and propane.

AWE has alliances with truck builders and repair centers to support its products. AWE currently provides systems to some of the largest petroleum companies in North America and is a Microsoft Beta developer, creating products for the petroleum industry. In addition to its RF Delivery system, its RF Service system provides work-order management, assigning work orders to each service technician with time accounting. Unlike delivery, the calls are managed one by one, allowing for priority adjustments and re-assignments. As calls are completed, the service technician can bill out parts and labor and provide a point-of-sale invoice to the customer.

Systems from Automated Wireless are an extension of the office or business system. AWE has designed a standard table structure, defining the orders coming from the office system and completed transactions to the office system, using industry standard ODBC. The majority of suppliers of office software have interfaces to AWE, itself a standard for the wireless industry.

Gary J. Sullivan is the CEO of Automated Wireless Environments. He can be reached by calling (973) 663-6990, ext. 215, or e-mailing gary@auotmatedwireless.com.

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