An armoured car and ATM service company says it will save $5,000 a month in cell phone charges by switching its dispatch system to wireless access.

In a few weeks, Universal ATM Services Inc. will replace its interactive voice

response (IVR) dispatch system with the Airix wireless platform from Nextair Inc., based in Toronto. Airix will wirelessly-enable the Astea Dispatch-1 application the company is using and its homegrown Fortress dispatch solution. The upshot is that service workers in the field will be able to receive service calls on Research in Motion BlackBerry devices — as well as confirm receipt of the call, request a service history for a particular ATM and make notes about repairs. All of this information is currently conveyed using expensive cell phone air time.

Toronto-based Universal ATM maintains bank machines across southern Ontario. President Dwayne Biggs estimates the company makes 8,000 service visits a month and as many as five phone calls per visit.

“”The software means that they can basically be a standalone service crew without having to talk to dispatch for information,”” explains Biggs. “”They can basically download that to their RIM (devices).””

Biggs considered building a wireless bridge in-house, but it proved too costly and time consuming. “”We just don’t have the expertise to build that program,”” he says. “”The Nextair program handles all network protocols . . . all of those things that, if you’re developing a wireless application, you have to think about.””

Airix, which is also used by Fuji Graphics and Compugen, didn’t really start out as on obvious money-maker for Nextair, according to its founder and director of marketing Steven Hulaj. “”Airix wasn’t something drawn on a whiteboard and created from scratch. It was part of several business solutions,”” he says. “”It’s a technology that we had used to wireless-enable our own vertical applications, all of which are business applications that target mobile workforces.””

Hulaj saw the product’s potential and began marketing it outside his company. Based on XML, it will work with any browser-based platform, including RIM’s BlackBerry.

Universal ATM has been using BlackBerry devices for about three years, but primarily for e-mail capability. The switch to wireless access means that new devices will be issued to crew members — ones that have been configured to handle instant access to the dispatch system.

“”Instead of a person seeing their normal e-mail programs they will see a Nextair-developed application. It’s a clone of our IVR system,”” says Biggs.

Biggs opted to stay with the RIM devices for their ruggedness and easy-to-use keyboard. He has considered using laptops or PDAs, but they just won’t stand up to the wear and tear they are subjected to in the field. “”Anything with a flip (lid) we break within about 30 seconds.””

The new RIMs will be on a Bell Mobility plan, which will arrive in a few weeks. Biggs is switching over Rogers AT&T’s Mobitex plan because Bell offered competitive pricing and potentially better coverage across southern Ontario.

Using BlackBerry devices rather than cell phones means that Universal ATM won’t have to worry about problems like lack of signal or digital service shortcomings. But, says Biggs, service agents will still carry phones in the field since it’s a job requisite that they’re always reachable by voice.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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