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GCN : July 2014
CLOUD COMPUTING The 88,000 residents of the town of Cheektowaga, nestled in upstate New York near the Canadian bor- der, have an advantage when it comes to deploying services that even their larger neighbors might envy. Downed trees are quickly cleared from roadways. Snowplows never leave anyone behind. Damaged street signs and water- way hazards are quickly dealt with. That's because as soon as any problem is reported, the closest crew equipped to handle the job is efficiently dis- patched to fix it. But that wasn't always the case. Mike Lamadue, deputy highway superintendent for Cheektowaga explained that for many years, the 400 miles of road and waterways the town maintains were managed using a manual, paper-based system. And that sometimes meant a long delay before a problem like a downed tree lying across a street could get fixed. Cheektowaga needed a more ef- ficient way to manage the 72 em- ployees and 63 vehicles in its highway maintenance fleet. Managers looked at several different solutions, including one with dedicated wireless devices, like a sup- plemental radio, which could be dropped into vehicles. But signal problems along the Canadian border and interference close to the town's airport eliminated most of those options. In the end, Cheektowaga choose the Verizon Field Force Manager software, which com- bines standard cell phones operating on the Verizon network with a suite of cloud- based mobile management tools created by Xora, a ClickSoftware company. The software, delivered as a service, has many components, giving towns and mu- nicipalities the option to deploy it in stages as their needs evolve, said Howard Latham, Xora's vice president of sales and customer success. Modules include GPS tracking and vehicle trip auditing, mileage manage- ment, job dispatching, mobile forms pro- cessing, a proof of delivery application and electronic time card management. Costs vary, but they generally range be- tween $15 to $25 per worker, per month. Although the Verizon-branded ver- sion of the Xora software in Cheektowaga works on the Verizon network, the plat- form can be deployed with any wireless carrier's phones. Cheektowaga has so far set up GPS tracking and geofencing. From his office computer, Lamadue can see where all the vehicles in the fleet are currently lo- cated and exactly where they have been. Although the entire town has imple- mented the program, Xora is able to break larger data sets down by department or group, allowing Lamadue to track only the vehicles and people who work in his department. "We deployed it as a cell phone that is inside a lock box in the vehicles," La- madue said. "We love the system. It's like having 1,000 eyes all over town." Another way that Lamadue uses Xora is geofencing. There are 25 different routes snowplows take through town when clearing roads, and during this last harsh winter, they were all used quite a lot. Xora kept the trucks on their correct routes and allowed on-the-fly changes to be made based on conditions. For ex- ample, if one truck finished its route early and others were having trouble, the free truck would be directed to help out without any overlap or du- plication. Even just using the base module, the highway department estimates that it's saving $100,000 a year by streamlining employee travel and by completing jobs more quickly. Given the simplicity of the user interface, Lamadue doesn't anticipate any problems if more Xora models are brought online. "Everything is very user friendly," he said. "You don't really need any training to make it work." • Looking for a better way to manage its highway maintenance fleet, Cheektowaga, N.Y., turned to cloud-based mobile management GPS drives highway department ef ciency BY JOHN BREEDEN II We deployed it as a cell phone inside a lock box in the vehicles. It's like having 1,000 eyes all over town. -- MIKE LAMADUE, DEPUTY HIGHWAY SUPERINTENDENT, CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. GCN JULY 2014 • GCN.COM 29