Thursday, 06 October 2005 -- Redlands, California-Sears Holding Corporation (SHC) now deploys a wireless field geographic information system (GIS) solution that provides 10,000 SHC home services technicians with an in-vehicle navigation and mapping system. Developed by SHC and ESRI Professional Services, the solution leverages onboard GPS, satellite and terrestrial data communication, verbalized directions, and ruggedized laptop technology that makes available a touch-screen interface.
“Sears had the vision to deploy a digital toolbox with wireless workforce management, library information, and mapping and navigation system,” says Daniel Bowman, Sears Smart Toolbox program manager. “We wanted to provide this technology to our field service technicians to enhance their ability to serve customers and repair merchandise. Technicians were still using paper map books and manual data tracking. If these paper-based methods could be replaced with digital information tools using a simple yet effective interface, technicians could work more efficiently and have greater flexibility in their daily activities.”
Known as the Sears Smart Toolbox (SST), the application launches automatically when the ruggedized Itronix laptop, also known as the GoBook, is powered on. The entire suite of technologies runs within an Internet Explorer browser. When the vehicle is stationary, the users have the option to view their daily routes, view their current progress along the route, geocode new stops, and make some modifications to their routes in the local database. When the vehicle begins to move, the mapping component switches into navigation mode and takes over the entire screen of the GoBook. In navigation mode, the application displays the vehicle’s current position on the route along with turn-by-turn navigation symbols and verbalizes voice directions as the vehicle approaches turns. In navigation mode, the technician is prevented from interacting with the application for safety reasons and must stop the vehicle to do so. The mapping and navigation functionality allows technicians to get to their stops more efficiently, saving time and money and providing greater value to SHC customers.
“Sears saw the need to enable their technicians with technology that allows them to do their jobs with better quality, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately to be more efficient, which reduces operating costs,” says ESRI project manager Dave Lewis. “They assembled a suite of technologies, known as SST, and deployed these tools using mobile computers that technicians take into the field and homes where they perform their duties. The mapping component allows technicians to immediately know the location of their next destination, add additional destinations as necessary, optimize travel routes, and schedule their day more efficiently.”
ESRI used ArcObjects software components based on ArcGIS to create the customized wireless field application. The ArcObjects functionality was extended by ESRI Professional Services to provide the required navigation and tracking capabilities. A nationwide Tele Atlas dataset more than 1 GB in size is used in each vehicle. Street data is updated every three months. ESRI's Spatial Data Compression format provides the storage capabilities for such large datasets. This eliminates the logistical hurdle of deploying different geographic datasets to different regions of the country.
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