Googling Your Worker’s Location

Corporate “Chief Location Officers,” whether you live in the product, technology, ops or IT organizations, are both delighted and worried about mobile workers. And for good reasons. There will be 1.3 billion mobile workers within 3 years.  Small wonder that Google introduced a new business service, Google Maps Coordinate. It’s a workforce management app for companies who want to track their workers and share location data. But will a Google/Android wkforce tracking service really cut it for business managers?

Google has big plans, saying that an iOS version is in the works and that plans include support for iOS 6. Will Google rely on Apple's map technology? It’s not clear yet from either company.

But even if Google and Apple cooperate to launch workforce tracker apps, there’s a deeper location challenge for any business-grade workforce management tool. The trade press is ignoring it, because it’s easy to bend to the Google-press juggernaut. Contrary to Google claims, Google’s workforce management app is not a first-of-its-kind product. A number of companies, both public and private,  have been using mobile location to aide workforce management for years.

CLO took a look under Coordinate’s true offering and one glaring assumption stood out. Google’s app is 100% based on “device” location. GPS and WiFi. CLOs know that those location technologies have benefits, but also limitations.  So I thought a quick mini-compare of device- vs. network-based location might be of value. Below are four commonly-compared facets of location technology.

 

  Device location for workforce management Network location for workforce management
Does it locate devices               indoors or outdoors? GPS will work outdoors only, and less reliably in urban areas, where an urban canyon effect is created; Wi-Fi usually works indoors, as well as outdoors Works equally well indoors and outdoors, and in urban canyons
What type of device does it work on? Works only on GPS- or Wi-Fi-enabled devices (smartphones, tablets) Works on any device with a cellular signal (smartphones, feature phones, tablets, etc.)
How does it          affect battery life? Like other location-enabled apps (e.g. GPS for navigation), device-based location can drain battery life in hours Battery life is affected on the same scale that happens when a cell tower pings a phone for a phone call location
What’s the cost? Less pricey More pricey

 

CLO Take: Before you can coordinate your workforce, you must be able to locate your workforce. Google’s foray into this business app is a sign of more things to come, and no doubt they will plug holes and add features. But at the core is a network-technology issue: Google is not a wireless operator.  Google cannot do what an AT&T and Verizon do on mobile networks. Serious businesses will ask hard questions of their workforce app providers: is locating my workforce possible with limited location areas, devices and battery life? Which use cases does a device-centric appwork where network-based location wouldn’t work much better?  How will you stop my employees from spoofing their location?

We are locked on Google’s Coordinates on this one.