Truck Tracking

For the last few weeks, I’ve had all sorts of random ideas about how I would try to organize the logistical and communication efforts surrounding the Katrina recovery effort. Here’s one:

Ever heard of ScoutPal? It’s a combination hardware/service product that involves a bar code scanner, a cell phone, and an Amazon lookup service. The basic idea is that you can cruise through crap at a garage sale, scan anything that looks interesting, and you’ll know instantly if there’s an online market for it. (Amazon Japan does something similar, but it’s even slicker — it can interpret a picture of a barcode sent via your cameraphone, and send back a price-check.) Anyway, phones with bar code capability is step one.

Step two is GPS. Ideally, this would be in the phone as well, such as Nextel units. (Last I checked, Nextel was the only manufacturer that allowed software programs to access the phone’s location hardware.)

So now the plan begins to take shape — using scanner-equipped Nextel handsets, you could place volunteers anywhere there’s coverage. What are they going to scan? Why, trucks of course. Before your major retailers, your aid agencies, your volunteer groups set off, ask them to visit a special website to fill out some simple information: what are you bringing, what amount, and where are you headed. The site could then record the information and spit back a PDF with a big barcode. The trucker could then slap that barcode on the side of his/her rig.

When a truck hit an important checkpoint — main intake center, disaster perimeter, destination, whatever — a team member with a phone could just run up and scan it. Instantly, the truck’s serial, location, and time could be recorded and beamed back (via SMS) to the mothership (and therefore to whomever else needed it, such as on-site professionals and the home organizations that originated the shipments.) It’s like FedEx/UPS tracking, but on the fly, and for all sorts of goods.

Of course, it depends heavily on available cell phone coverage, but I have ideas for that as well…

One Response to “Truck Tracking”

  1. moogsyqueefbone Says:

    or get little kiddies to do it for free:

    i hear nerds used a similar product by wiping the memory or something. i’m not nerdy enough to figure it out, but perhaps you could use one of these for a prototype (and kill the monsters at the same time!)

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