Trends | 5 MIN READ

5 benefits of geolocation for your mobile teams and your company

 Dec 17, 2020

Photo credits: Cottonbro - Pexels

Always in the field, your delivery staff, installers, and technicians stand to gain far more from geolocation that they imagine. Your company as well! Everything depends on how you integrate it into your processes and application chains.

Geolocation consists in locating an object (or a person via an object) on a plan or a digital map from geographical coordinates obtained by GPS or via mobile telephone networks. By equipping your teams with business applications using real-time geolocation data, not only are you improving the overall monitoring of their activity and safety but also the wherewithal available to them individually for organizing their time and conducting their field operations more efficiently.

Safer and more secure when travelling and during callouts

No matter what business one is in, when you spend a lot of time on the road, you are never totally immune to a breakdown, incident, or accident. Being geolocatable, via one’s smart phone or a vehicle on-board system, enables the company to know the precise location of its co-worker who is in difficulty and, if he is unable to do so himself, to be quicker off the mark in triggering the intervention of a repairman or the emergency services by notifying them of the exact geographical coordinates.

Another problem, security-related this time, is that in the event of the vehicle being stolen it will be all the easier to find if it is fitted with a geolocation unit – which is why company fleet managers tend to fit this type of equipment as standard, and why certain insurance companies insist on it. This does not solve the problem of delivery vehicles filled with parcels being stolen, or drivers/delivery staff falling victim to assaults or hold-ups. Prudence therefore dictates equipping these staff members as well with an application from which they can easily send an SOS and be geolocated. This same type of device will also protect technicians attending installations or involved in activities that may pose a risk to their physical safety.

Non-intrusive monitoring

It is a known fact; route management tools using real-time geolocation are often seen by employees as a means of control, even snooping...However, if implemented in rigorous compliance with the rules to which they are subject (see below), this technology enables managers to monitor their colleagues’ activities on the ground less intrusively than calling them at the drop of a hat to know where they are, or by requiring them to call the company after each visit or call-out. The automatic sending of a notification when the technician gets back behind the wheel or when he closes the call-out in his business application is both quicker and less irksome.

As operations managers have better things to do than follow their teams’ movements minute by minute to ensure that they are indeed where they are supposed to be, they can instead only receive notifications indicating a significant slippage in the initial schedule that has repercussions for subsequent appointments. The customers in question can then be  warned by the company – by telephone call or SMS – of the delay in or postponement of the visit/call-out/delivery, as the case may be. This avoids technicians and delivery staff, on the one hand, from wasting time trying to contact customers themselves and, on the other hand, taking unnecessary risks on the road by trying to make up for lost time.

Greater responsiveness in case of an emergency

Continuous monitoring of field teams increases the company’s ability to respond to customer emergencies by minimizing disruption to established route plans. If the duty vehicles and/or technicians are geolocated, it is simplicity itself to identify on the map the team that can reach the customer soonest – taking account not only of distance but also traffic conditions and additional criteria such as the technicians’ skills, the presence aboard the vehicle of the necessary tools, and the anticipated duration of the current call-out. If team A is the nearest to the customer’s location but has just begun a call-out that is scheduled to take 1 hour 30 minutes, it will be better to assign team B, which may be further away, but which is just completing a maintenance call. Team B’s route plan will be automatically adjusted to incorporate this emergency, with the customer service department or call center being responsible for alerting the customers affected by this change. All the company’s customers being geolocated, the relevant team will be advised of the best route to reach the customer as quickly as possible from their current location.

Real-time information for customers

A customer who is faced with an emergency or accident, or who is waiting for a home delivery, will be less inclined to lose patience or to worry if he is able to monitor the vehicle’s progress in real time, and have a reliable ETA. This use of geolocation data is behind the success of consumer applications such as Uber and Deliveroo. The route optimization solutions developed by GEOCONCEPT enable all companies to access this type of functionality, not only to reassure their customers on D-Day, but also – as we were explaining in this blog post– to make sure in advance, typically by sending a reminder SMS the day before, that they will indeed be present at the stated time to receive the delivery driver or technician. Were this not to be the case, the schedules would be updated to avoid both idle time and wasted journeys.

More realistic route plans

The regular analysis of geolocation data uploaded by mobile business applications also enables the teams responsible for scheduling to refine the route calculation parameters. The comparison between the scheduled routes and those that have been completed will enable them to identify recurring difficulties attributable, for example, to an underestimate of certain journey durations at certain times of the day owing to congestion. Knowing the travel time between two call-out locations, the team’s arrival time at and departure time from each site, as well as the types of call-out performed, the schedulers will also be able to revise up or down the theoretical duration of each category of call-out. The routes calculated using these new parameters will take better account of operational constraints than the previous ones and will enable field teams to be given realistic schedules, minimizing travel time, taking account of the actual call-out durations, hence avoiding delays in reaching customers and extended working days.

These types of outcome can only be achieved with optimization and field tools that communicate well with each other and which are able to use geolocation data both in real time, for adjustments on the fly, as well as subsequently, with a view to continuous improvement.

Highly regulated use

The setting up of a geolocation system within a company, inter alia for the purpose of rationalizing and optimizing employee activity, is regulated by the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority), the GDPR, labor law and increasingly numerous legal rulings. As an employer, the company is required to:

  • Define what the geolocation is for. It is prohibited to use it to check on whether employees are complying with speed limits, to monitor sales representative working hours, or to check on employees’ movements outside their working hours when they are using a company vehicle equipped with a geolocation unit in a private capacity. Also, it must be possible for the employee to deactivate the unit outside his working hours. Geolocation of employees’ personal telephones is completely forbidden.
  • Consulting employee representatives and the social and economic committee (SEC) for their opinion. It should be noted that a negative response by the SEC does not preclude the introduction of the geolocation system.
  • Individually informing all employees concerned before the system is introduced (letter, email, memo, or information meeting). The introduction of geolocation may be the subject of an amendment to the employment contract.
  • Declaring geolocation in the company’s GDPR register, explaining the objectives, what data is being collected, the recipients of this data, what processing is planned and the length of time for which this data will be retained, which may not exceed 2 months.
  • Ensuring the security and confidentiality of the data, from its acquisition to its destruction, as for any other personal information held by the company.

As can be seen, employees are much better protected against the misuse of geolocation than is the case for their private use of certain consumer applications that geolocate them for highly dubious purposes but whose terms and conditions they have accepted without batting an eyelid – and of course without having read them…

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