: Michael Mudditt">
My Solution: Michael Mudditt
ThinAir, based in Montgomery, Pa., is a systems developer that ties Palm- OS solutions to enterprise systems. Additional partners include Broadbeam and Sybase.
Well make the following assumptions before recommending a solution: First, each truck sells about 15 items per stop; second, each truck is dispatched with known stock; third, the truck routes will vary by day, week and season.
With those factors in mind, we recommend Palm VII wireless handheld computers. Those devices have been selected for their low cost (currently $99 per truck), robust one-piece design and vast wireless coverage area.
Whats more, PalmOS intuitive interface is very suitable for blue-collar users who lack computer skills. (By contrast, some users describe Windows CE devices as "too complex and scary.")
The front-end applications also would allow truck drivers, products and routes to be created and named. Moreover, the app would provide data for standard business reports (volume per route, most popular products, revenue per driver, seasonal consumption, most valuable routes, product waste, etc.).
The trucks route, inventory and driver information would be held in a database on the Palm OS device. The user would interact with the database after each stop. The driver simply selects the stop, then the products sold, and enter the number sold. The device also would keep track of inventory.
While in transit to the next stop, the driver would send the results back to base wirelessly using our proprietary Oxygen technology, which transfers data from the Palm VII to the server for processing.
The mobile application works in a client/server arrangement. All back-end data would be stored in a Sybase iAnywhere 6 database running under Windows NT or Windows 2000 on a Dell Computer workgroup server (such as the Dell 1300) with integrated tape backup, a RAID 5 array for availability, 20GB of storage and 256MB of memory.
Custom C++ Win32 apps would enable feeding sales data to off-the-shelf accounting systems (such as Quickbooks and Great Plains).
A dispatch app would allow the user to apply a driver to a truck and a route for any given day. Once the truck has been "dispatched," the Palm VII device is hot-synced to the system.
The office database would know all truck inventory in real time, so shortages can be dealt with dynamically.
The remote-access system would use either a cable modem or a medium-speed DSL connection. However, an ISDN or dialup connection would work, as well. Data rates from the Palm are low, but wed be able to tune performance using our Oxygen technology. II