Most people think of Uber when they hear about custom mobile apps for the transportation industry. But this industry involves much more than just providing people with taxi services.
Transportation services account for a significant portion of the mobile app market, especially in the area of logistics. Many businesses in this sector are currently investing heavily in the development of mobile apps and related services.
Mobile apps that perform logistics and track cargo hold great attraction for logistics companies since they can reduce costs, increase productivity and improve client satisfaction. These benefits facilitate the retention of existing customers and increase the probability of acquiring new ones.
The reasons for logistics companies to use mobile apps are primarily dependent upon the functions they need to perform. These functions may be grouped into the following categories:
- Asset tracking
- Location tracking
- Traffic information
- Fleet management
Asset tracking, also known as property management, is especially important to logistics companies due to the great need for controlling stock. In the case of transportation, stock includes cargo, freight and load-carrying units. Businesses frequently need to track these types of assets separately, even if they’re part of the same vehicle.
For example, tracking a tractor-trailer on a journey requires information on both the trailer and its cargo. The combination of inventory management and vehicle location in this case can be used to determine which items are on which vehicles. Mobile app software can then use this information to determine the physical location of a particular item.
Logistics companies use a variety of technologies to track assets, which may generally be classified into barcodes and electronic communication.
Tracking Assets Using Bar Codes
The Quick Response (QR) code is the most common method of tracking items and is a type of barcode that provides certain information about the associated item. A QR code consists of a white, square background with black squares arranged on a grid. It may use any of four encoding modes, including alphanumeric, binary, kanji and numeric. QR codes may also use extensions on these modes to increase their storage efficiency.
An imaging device such as a smartphone or a specialized reader may then read the QR image. Software performs error correction on the scanned image until it can interpret it appropriately. The software then extracts information from the horizontal and vertical components of the image.
Tracking Assets With Electronic Communication
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the most popular method of Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) in logistics. This technology uses electromagnetic fields to identify and track a tag that’s attached to an object. This tag includes an antenna to receive signals from an RFID reader and memory to store information electronically.
An RFID tag may be an active or passive type. An active tag uses a power source such as a battery and may be readable at a maximum range of 100 meters. Passive tags rely only on the energy of the radio waves transmitted by an RFID reader, and their maximum range is about 25 meters. The primary advantage of RFID over a barcode is that the tag doesn’t have to be within the reader’s line of sight, so it can be embedded within the tracked object
Near-field communication (NFC) is a set of communication protocols that’s also used in logistics. It allows two electronic devices to communicate at a range of about four centimeters. A user holds a reading device such as a smartphone next to a tag, which allows the tag to execute an app on the reading device. The tag can then transmit information on the tracked item to the reader.
The methods for tracking vehicles may generally be classified into cellular and satellite techniques. In addition to physical location, these methods may also provide other information on the vehicle such as remaining fuel, engine temperature and oil pressure.
Cellular methods rely on the same networks that cell phones use, so they’re most useful in populated areas. A transmitter on the vehicle sends its geographical coordinates to a server through a cellular network, which can track the vehicle’s location in real time. The transmitter can also store data in memory when the network isn’t available and transmit it once the network is available.
Satellite-tracking techniques require the tracked vehicle to have a Global Positioning System (GPS) device. This may be a specialized device installed on the vehicle or a mobile device with GPS capability. The GPS tracker receives it geographical location from a satellite and sends it to a server through a transmitter such as a satellite modem, mobile network or radio. Additional equipment may be needed, depending on the transmission method. For example, a satellite modem may also require an antenna and frequency converter.
A mobile app may be able to combine the information from a GPS and other sources to derive information on traffic conditions and driving behavior. For example, the app could access services such as Google Maps to obtain historical traffic data to predict the traffic at the vehicle’s location. Google Traffic can increase the accuracy of this estimate by considering factors that affect road accessibility such as accidents and construction.
Logistics companies can obtain traffic information by using generalized driving apps or an app that’s customized for their particular needs. This approach is particularly useful for companies that want to create a live traffic ribbon for their drivers or embed this capability within the app.
Using Mobile Apps For Fleet Management
Mobile apps can also include fleet management tools, which can automate fleet management and increase the efficiency of fleet operations. These apps can greatly improve a company’s overall fleet performance.
Platforms such as KeepTruckin allow drivers to track their time with a mobile device. They also generate driver logs, which fleet managers can use to analyze driving trends. For example, KeepTruckin can track a driver’s driving time and automatically warn them when they’re at risk of committing an hours-of-service offense.
Furthermore, apps like this can track vehicle inspections and notify managers when an inspection is due. Additional capabilities may include tracking repairs so that managers can determine when a problem has been fixed. Fleet management needs often vary depending on the size of the fleet, the industry, and other factors.
In many cases, a customized fleet management application is the best option for complete fleet management that covers all the areas you deal with on a regular basis.
How Much Do Logistics Mobile Apps Cost?
The development cost of a logistics mobile app is determined by many factors, some of which are under the client’s control. The feature set is one of the factors that have the greatest effect on the cost of developing a logistics mobile app.
For example, an Uber-like app for taxi services will generally be more expensive because it requires two interfaces – one for the drivers and one for the passengers. The size of the development company also affects development costs, since larger firms will often charge more to cover their greater operating expenses. The physical location of the developers will also have a significant effect on an app’s development cost.
Is your logistics or transportation company ready for its own mobile app? Contact NS804 at 804-292-2637.