PeopleNet announced this week that its mobile communication system is now fully integrated with commercial-grade rugged-handheld devices. Intermec devices can now run PeopleNet's software and the company will soon be integrated with Motorola rugged devices,
said Brian McLaughlin, PeopleNet president.

The announcement was made at the company's user conference, held in Boca Raton, Fla.

The integration allows point-of-work management capabilities for operations that need to capture data outside of the truck, such as signatures, package barcodes, proof-of-delivery or other information.

Intermec's Jeff Sibio said the integration is targeted to high-volume, high-value transactions where fleets need not only to "manage the boxes that come off the truck but also need to manage the truck." He said the integration allows a fleet to know in real time "which five boxes came off the truck, instead of just knowing that five boxes came off the truck."

While PeopleNet's tablet display terminal may be used to capture signatures and other information outside of the truck, there are some applications where the driver may need a device that hooks to his belt, or one that has quick scanning capabilities.

Intermec's handheld device would replace the PeopleNet in-cab display terminal but would use PeopleNet's onboard computer to send and receive data once connected to a cab-mounted dock. This eliminates the need for the driver to carry a separate handheld device for capturing signatures or scanning boxes as they come off their truck.

Once back in the truck, the handheld device serves as the mobile communication system's display terminal and can run all of the PeopleNet software applications with the exception of running training videos. All other functions, including messaging, navigation, eDriver logs and dispatch functions will run on the integrated handhelds.

McLaughlin said the integration offers customers another option for managing their fleet. He also said that PeopleNet will service the devices for their customers if there are any problems. "We want to be an end-to-end provider. If something goes down, our customers don't have to call the hardware provider or their cellular service, we take care of everything."

McLaughlin said the devices were particularly suited for food service and dedicated logistics fleets which may have more stringent requirements for delivery verifications. PeopleNet's software will run proof-of-delivery applications from several vendors.

The integration with commercial-grade handhelds continues a trend in the truck technology sector of increased integration between mobile communication, back office fleet management systems and third-party products such as in-cab navigation. For instance, PeopleNet recently announced its system could run navigation products from ALK and NaviGo. The company also announced at its user conference it had developed an app for the iPad that could deliver event alerts to fleet managers.

"I see the iPad as a great back-office tool," McLaughlin said, but it's not rugged enough to go on the road with drivers.

The fast pace of technology and customer demands are driving the integration, he said.

"Technology is moving so fast, no one can do everything. You have to pick what you do best" and work with partners to provide other solutions. "We have more than 100 integration points and partners and a team devoted to working on integrating third-party systems," he said.

And customers are demanding more ROI. "They don't want to wait for us to build everything but fleets don't want multiple screens in the truck and they don't want to have to pay for more than one cellular network. They want one network and one display."