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2009 Mobilizer Awards: Best In Field Service
By William Atkinson

Our Kids of Miami-Dade / Monroe uses mobility to solve the most pressing issue in foster care

Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. (Miami, Fla.) is a non-profit local agency for child welfare serving Miami and the Keys. Its mission is to oversee and lead a coordinated system of care for abused, abandoned, and neglected children and their families.

When the agency decided to outfit caseworkers with electronic communication technology as part of its OK Connect project, it first held focus groups to learn what users wanted.

Caseworkers were presented with a dozen different devices. Ultimately, they opted for a two-device solution -- a PDA phone and the lightest-weight laptop available.

The agency selected Samsung Blackjack II Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphones on AT&T's 3G network and Panasonic Toughbooks with Windows XP Pro. By November 2008, all 250 caseworkers were equipped with the solution. The Samsung phone can be tethered to the computer, giving each caseworker 3G data connectivity for the Toughbook.

The components of the OK Connect solution together provide 24/7 remote access to Florida State Families Network (the statewide automated child welfare information system).

The phones are equipped with digital cameras and the Xora GPS tracking solution, as well as PDA-based calendars, contact lists, and email access.

The smartphones are managed using Microsoft Mobile Device Management (MDM), which allows the IT team to provide full remote support.

The solution enables foster care families to be in constant contact with their caseworkers, and vice versa. It also eliminates the need for paper files. Highly mobile caseworkers access all of the information they need at the touch of a button while on the road.

A key component of the solution is the ability for caseworkers to take photos of children during monthly home visits that are stamped with GPS, date, time, and identity. The photo and related documentation, which is transmitted to a secure website, prove that a visit took place and that the picture was taken in the child's home.

"A simple mobility solution has solved one of the most pressing problems in foster care in this country," says Pat Smith, CIO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

Other features are also important. For example, if a caseworker presses a panic button on the phone, it immediately notifies the supervisor that the caseworker is in danger. GPS provides their exact location so that assistance can be sent.

All OK Connect devices are equipped with end-to-end encryption. If the units are stolen, the HIPAA-protected information cannot be deciphered. In addition, all Toughbooks are equipped with Computrace LoJack, so they can be found if they are lost or stolen. Using the Microsoft MDM solution, the phones can be remotely wiped clean if lost or stolen.

The initial cost of the OK Connect program was $578,000. Recurring cost per child is $92 a year. The initial solution required separate air cards and subscription service for every laptop. By deploying the Microsoft MDM solution, and tethering the phone to the laptop for data connectivity, the agency was able to save $386,000.

The program has been so successful, according to Smith, that it is being rolled out statewide. "Our governor just allocated another $6.3 million toward the project," she says.

Honorable Mention
By restoring 20 minutes per job, mobile solution proves its worth for Roto-Rooter

Roto-Rooter, Cincinnati, OH, is the largest provider of plumbing and drain cleaning

services in North America. The company realized that its 1,900 field service technicians, saddled with cellphones, pagers, and reams of paperwork, were losing hundreds of billable hours each year just by reporting their daily tasks.  

Technicians would collect customer information on paper after each job, phone dispatch, and relay the information from the customer's invoice, as well as credit card information to process payment. The process took an average of 20 minutes per job. In 2007, it deployed a wireless and Web-based mobile workforce management solution from Sprint and Gearworks etrace 6.0 software to all of its 50 company-owned branches. Workers use Motorola i605 and i615, with push-to-talk capabilities. Application cost (excluding cellular costs) ranges from $10 to $60 a month per worker, with an additional $10 a month per worker for wireless data.

The solution has saved Roto-Rooter some $500,000 in credit card fee transactions per year, plus $140,000 a year in paper form elimination. "We feel very comfortable that we are getting our ROI," says Steve Poppe, CIO. "One is from a cost standpoint. The other is the publicity we have received, which is good for marketing."


Honorable Mention

Mobile app, handheld computers streamline processes for cash logistics firm Loomis

Houston, TX-based cash logistics firm Loomis US operates a fleet of 3,000 armored and other vehicles from 200 locations with 8,000 employees. The company provides secure transport, ATM services, cash processing, and outsourced vault services for banks, financial institutions, and other businesses.

Loomis had been using a manual, paper-based process to track pick-up and delivery of coins and paper money. It wanted a mobile solution that would provide real-time visibility into activities of field couriers to reduce risk and cost, improve accuracy, track performance against service level agreements (SLAs), and increase accountability.

The mobile application was developed in-house and runs on the Windows Mobile v.5.0 operating system. Microsoft BizTalk 2006 middleware connects the mobile app to the Oracle E-Business suite. The solution, rolled out in March 2008, runs on Motorola's handheld MC70 Enterprise Digital Assistant (EDA). AT&T provides voice and data services.

Loomis reduced the time employees spent at each drop-off. Communications to and from field teams is streamlined, and customers receive accurate, real-time information about money deliveries. Proof-of-delivery requests that previously took four days now take five minutes. While the company's SVP/CIO Wayne J. Sadin declines to disclose deployment costs or ROI figures, he says the system will pay for itself within the next two years. "In addition to eliminating data entry and improving our data quality and accuracy, our driver 'stops' are accurately time-stamped, and the data is available in real time," says Sadin. "This has opened up all sorts of new benefit possibilities for us and our customers."

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