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Our Town

AS MOBILITY CONTINUES TO PROVE itself useful in bolstering productivity and efficiency, it has begun to find a footing in the municipal arena, a space often faced with federal funding cutbacks and limited options for improving services. Offering cellular applications to local governments is a new frontier for savvy dealers who can offer answers to their unique set of issues.

We are a solutions provider, so we focus on current problems and bottlenecks, and look to see how we can help, says Dan Gillison, national director of state and local public safety at Sprint Nextel Corp. We see some voice applications, but its mostly data that these cities are looking for.

In municipalities, an overarching theme is doing more with less. City managers and officials consider the tax base and attempt to provide the highest level of service at a maximum efficiency level, out of a minimum amount of resources and money. Also, theres always scrutiny and inspections of any initiative, from boards and city councils, the media, constituents, businesses and so on, Gillison says. So the question is, Wow, how do I improve the quality of the services I provide amidst all this? The cost of gas is going up, but I can only pay so much. Theres a potential pandemic from the avian flu, and I am very concerned about delivering services to everyone from the aged to infants, and the workforce, in the event it happens. I also have an increasing number of virtual and mobile workers, so Im faced with a many hurdles and challenges.

To address some of these concerns, dealers should look for unique applications that bolster efficiency and further the public good. For instance, Xora Inc., an application provider, won a contract to install GPS applications in Jacksonville, Fla., and Chicago to track vehicles and people. In Jacksonville, 62 building inspectors were given the means to clock in and out from the field via cellular devices, instead of driving all the way into the office to clock in, then turning around and going back out to the field. The initiative resulted in an increase of 22,500 more building inspections per year and $264,000 in annual savings, the company says, allowing the city to avoid raising permit fees.

The application also allows the city to track where workers are. If a constituent complains that an inspector never showed up, the system can provide feedback to the citizen, such as who was there and at which time.

The application also is useful in the compliance area. If an inspector in the field notices a house doesnt conform to building codes, such as having cars parked outside the driveway, the inspector can enter information directly into GPS-enabled phones or BlackBerry devices.

In Chicago, the city was concerned about Big Brother watching, notes Gillison, when the application was first vetted to track field employees. Sprint was the network partner on that deal. But employees dont want to do someone elses work, and they want the playing field leveled. This application ensures the work is fairly distributed. And, we commit that we dont turn it on til the business day starts and we turn it off at the end of the business day.

The accountability aspects of tracking people increases the quality of life for the inspector because projects are managed for competencies and skills, Gillison notes. And, its much more efficient. … If a director of building inspections finds a collapsed building in the southwest part of the city, in the past it would have been the first available crew to go in. Now, they can dispatch whoever is in the area. The time to incident is faster and it minimizes time and gas.



Xoras application allows GPS tracking of people and things.

Tracking fleet vehicles is another hot application in the muni space, and one where cellular phones can provide a better alternative in terms of cost than a laptop-based solution. Babylon, N.Y., on Long Island, began tracking fleet vehicles with TeleNav Inc.s cellular application, TeleNavTrack. Instead of buying modems and installing laptops, the city bought GPS phones with a softphone, saving $500 per vehicle. Now, the city has a way of efficiently dispatching vehicles for snow emergencies and other public safety incidences.

Speaking of public safety, this agenda also is top-of-mind for most municipalities, opening the door for creative thinking on the parts of dealers and applications providers. For instance, Mobile Awareness offers a broad range of safety and security products specifically designed for safety in and around motor vehicles, such as fleet-tracking monitors, in-vehicle camera systems, black box data loggers, reverse-backing sensors, GPS navigation and lane departure systems.

Mobile Awareness is about saving lives and helping businesses reduce their risks and operational costs. … We are fighting for a worthy cause: safety, says Gary Rothstein, president of Mobile Awareness, which has brought together engineers, researchers, government agencies, safety organizations and distribution, to find cost-effective, practical solutions. Rothstein adds, Currently we are in design of a proprietary safety device that will help save lives and keep our roads safer for everyone.

Wallace Wireless is an applications provider that focuses on continuity of government or operations (CoG or COOP). It offers a tool for cellular devices that tracks emergency processes and information (such as who does what and when), call trees, impacts, which critical assets must stay open and which can shut down. It lets users manage chain-of-command changes, quality assurance, resource allocation and crisis planning. It also provides hazardous materials information. If theres a vehicle collision with a chemical spill, city responders can look at the placard symbol on the side of the truck and get relevant information, like a disposition on how to treat the substance (e.g., should they clear a 10-mile area, or simply use caution?), whether its an irritant or something worse, and so on.

Another initiative for city governments is improving employee retention. Once you train someone, you want to retain them, says Gillison. So you give them flexibility to care for children, or elderly parents. We have broadband wireless cards to allow them to work from anywhere.

In the potential pandemic scenario, such functionality plays into the response plan. Theyre looking at how many employees they have, and how many can work virtual, and can they increase that number? says Gillison. If a pandemic hits, there will be quarantine. Will the facilities be overwhelmed?

From efficiency to public safety to emergency response, the municipal space has many concerns to address. Smart dealers will approach this market with network partners and applications in his or her pocket, in order to put together an appropriate solution. Its all about understanding what they need and providing an appropriate solution, says Gillison. Simple as that.

Looking for more? Find out where to look for RFPs, how to competitively bid on contracts, what solutions are in demand and more at the workshop entitled, Securing Government Contracts, on Friday, Aug. 25, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Fall 2006 Channel Partners Conference & Expo.
www.channelpartnersconference.com


The Sales Process

Selling to state and local agencies is a different animal than most enterprise sales, dealers should be advised.

For sales partners, this is a good fit, says Dan Gillison, national director of state and local public safety at Sprint Nextel Corp. They benefit from a local connection if they belong to the Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club, etc., the leaders of the municipality are threaded in there, too, so dealers are trusted, respected citizens of the community and buyers know they will see them in a week at this or that event. But its a process.

First off, selling direct is almost unheard of. A channel partner must first find a contract vehicle or purchasing agent, which is essentially a buyer that acts on behalf of the government, offering contracts and managing approved lists of vendors. There also are Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts, under which public sector agencies can order services through pre-awarded contract vehicles at pre-determined fixed-price labor rates. There are specific buyers for local entities and in every state. Once an appropriate contract is identified, a company has to write a proposal in response to the RFP attached to the opportunity.

The evaluation process is lengthy as well, with long sales cycles that may include pilots and feasibility studies.

Once a contract has been awarded, it must then be funded. In the public sector, money for anything has to be written into the budget every year, even if the project is ongoing. And the money likely wont be allocated until after the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30 in most places. After allocation, it may be an additional quarter or two before the funding is actually released.

Most cities have approved vendor lists, so you have to find out what they are and, can you do business with them without being on that list, says Gillison. Also, do they allow companies to bid without submitting an RFP? So there are some intricacies in calling on these accounts.

Links
Mobile Awareness www.mobileawareness.com
Sprint Nextel Corp. www.sprint.com
TeleNav Inc. www.telenavtrack.net
Wallace Wireless www.wallacewireless.com
Xora Inc. www.xora.com

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