Cheaper field staff tracking services

New mobile telecoms services could help companies keep track of the location of their staff.

New mobile telecoms services could help companies keep track of the location of their staff.

Particularly useful for sales force automation or making better use of field engineers, the services need no extra investment in hardware and are much cheaper than GPS. However, they do not have the same accuracy.

Users type in the mobile phone number of a field employee on the provider's website and within 10 seconds get the location of the phone. Services can be tailored for specific business applications.

Early services on the market come from Fleetonline, which is concentrating on mobile staff, and Followus, which additionally offers asset tracking for vehicles and machinery. Fleetonline's service has no set-up costs and charging is per-use with fees - 21p for Vodafone, 27p for O2 - added to mobile phone bills. GPS units cost about £2,000 per vehicle.

The services take advantage of the requirement that from July mobile phone operators must make cell-based location information available to subscribers for specified mobile numbers.

Analyst Jeremy Green of Ovum said the service has limitations but is still an attractive option for some businesses. "Any company with field service engineers, a mobile sales force, or in the public sector, where the safety of social workers, for example, is an issue, could make use of this if they need to know roughly where an employee is but don't require the fine granularity of GPS."

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