"With Afaria and its optimizations, such as checkpoint restart and byte-level differencing, United Utilities maximizes the use of any type of connection inspectors have out in the field."
United Utilities, providing power and water to northwest England, needed a solution to manage the laptops of more than 200 clean water inspectors in the field. With SybaseŽ technology, United Utilities ensures its inspectors have all the information they need to keep the water pure and its customers satisfied.
- United Utilities now maximizes the use of any type of
connection inspectors have out in the field thus improving visibility
- Provides freedom and flexibility for inspectors
- Delivers immediate access to schedules, job batches and information
- Eliminates data entry from paper forms
- Updates and closes jobs in real time
- Consumer Services
United Utilities employs over 200 clean water inspectors who are required to test water around the region and diagnose and correct water quality problems. Extending up to the southern borders of Scotland, this region includes some of the most scenic—and rugged—country in the U.K.
United Utilities first implemented a mobile data solution in 1996 using RemoteWare, from Sybase's iAnywhere subsidiary, to manage the data and software on field inspectors' mobile devices. In 2003, the company saw the benefits of extending this implementation to include a new central work system, a new customer contact system and improved support for field workers to improve business efficiency.
Afaria Chosen for Ease of Use and Bandwidth Optimization
The new deployment, called Connect, provides an integrated suite of solutions for the entire company using Afaria from Sybase's iAnywhere subsidiary. United Utilities chose the solution because of its ease of use and bandwidth optimization. Before Afaria sends updates to devices, it first identifies whether the updates are really needed. If they are, Afaria optimizes the transmission, maximizing the use of the connection and minimizing time to complete the updates.
The new system allows United Utilities to push map updates out over the GPRS network, totaling only 2MB per week by just transferring changes. Workers now have access to digital maps for the entire region instead of having to carry paper maps for their regions. This means that if a worker is called to an unfamiliar area, he or she can drive straight to the area instead of first driving back to the office to get another map.
Other data that is distributed by Afaria to mobile workers includes updated addresses and content, such as health and safety information, as well as patches and applications for the laptops. Since standard anti-virus updates can have a significant effect on system performance, United Utilities also uses Afaria to control when they are sent. Typically, updates occur once per week at night, but can also occur intermittently when needed.
Afaria also helps United Utilities keep track of laptops and applications out in the field, automatically collecting which inspector is logged onto each device, as well as the device SIM and IMEI and a list of the software currently installed.
United Utilities relies on GSM and GPRS communications with ruggedized laptops, which are ideal for use in the field because they are resistant to water, dust and vibration, and they maintain visibility in bright sunlight.
In addition to the original 200 users, about 100 wastewater inspectors have recently been added to the mobile system. After the central work system is completed, United Utilities expects around 1,000 mobile workers to use Connect, including field technicians from the electric power side of the company.
Making the Most of Time in the Field
Prior to the first mobile implementation in 1996, United Utilities used an all-paper system that required the inspectors to travel to the depot each day. Today, the inspectors only go there on a weekly basis, which improves their efficiency and gives them additional flexibility and freedom. Additionally, United Utilities has improved its visibility with its customers, since inspectors have more time to spend in the field.
Inspectors have immediate access to multiple applications including works scheduling, job batches, job information, Outlook Express email, maps and the corporate intranet for HR systems and time sheets. This has eliminated data entry from paper forms, while also improving the timeliness of information from corporate to field levels. Also, jobs can now be updated and closed in real time.
With Afaria and its optimizations, such as checkpoint restart and byte-level differencing, United Utilities maximizes the use of any type of connection inspectors have out in the field. During these connections IT can update software, data and content, including addresses, health and safety information and map updates, ensuring that United Utilities' inspectors have all the information they need to serve their customers effectively.