RFP Showdown: August 20, 2001

Dozens of solutions providers wanted to take another crack at last month's problem.

The Problem

Dozens of solutions providers wanted to take another crack at last months problem. Here, once again, is a summary of the challenge: Acme Treats ice cream trucks have routes in several counties within one state. Each truck sells various types of ice cream to local residents. The company wants each truck to provide daily sales and inventory information to a central-office server. The system need not be real time, because truck operators will likely update sales and inventory information only once per day. Please make your recommendations.

My Solution: Steve Robinson

Director of Marketing
Meritage Technologies

Meritage, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a solutions provider that has partnerships with IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, among others.

Meritage Technologies proposes a simple, yet multifaceted real-time solution for Acme Treats.

Our solution uses a Java2 Micro Edition (J2ME)-enabled mobile phone serving as the client and a combination of Apache Tomcat, IBM DB2 and IBM WebSphere Voice Server as the server component. Java2 and VoiceXML serve as the core technologies leveraged throughout the solution.

Meritage believes that its proposed solution meets Acme Treats current needs while also positioning the company to easily scale the system, as business growth dictates.

Meritage proposes that each ice cream truck driver be equipped with a J2ME-enabled mobile phone—such as Nextels i85s—to facilitate daily updates of sales and inventory data. This phone will serve as the only mobile device needed and is currently available for under $200.

Resident within each phone will be a J2ME midlet application developed by Meritage, which will provide a simple user interface for drivers to enter their daily sales and inventory information. This application will communicate in real time with Acme Treats central-office servers via the data network provided by the phones wireless carrier.

In addition to the J2ME application, Meritage proposes to develop a VoiceXML application that drivers can leverage when out of range for wireless data communications. Or, if drivers prefer, they can use natural speech instead of data entry.

The truck drivers would use their mobile phones to simply dial a dedicated phone number at the central office to access the application. Once connected, the driver would interact with the VoiceXML system via natural speech and the phones keypad. This application would be developed leveraging the VoiceXML 2.0 standard, Java servlets and a voice-enabled app server like IBMs WebSphere Voice Server.

The proposed back-office system comprises an application server, a relational database like IBM DB2, and a voice server such as IBM WebSphere Voice Server.

The application server will manage the JavaBeans, Java servlets and database connectivity objects required by both the J2ME and VoiceXML applications. Additionally, the VoiceXML application will need to interact with a voice server to provide speech recognition and text-to-speech functionality.

Leveraging Meritages Business Partner relationship with IBM, the proposed solution provides Acme Treats an ideal remote-access system that can be extended to support instant messaging, e-mail, dispatch, emergency truck service and traditional voice communications.