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Freight Stream

, 1 Sep 2013 CPOL
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Innovating the ways of Cargo Couriers and Consumers

Please note

This article is an entry in our AppInnovation Contest. Articles in this sub-section are not required to be full articles so care should be taken when voting.

Introduction and Overview

This is an entry into the App Innovation Contest.

Freight Stream is a Windows 8 Desktop application specifically designed for the tablet market.

It will be an end to end solution that will streamline the way in which Freight Couriers receive, plan, store, dispatch and track cargo hauled by them and communicate this effectively to the client.

By using the technology now available on these tablets we can enable this industry to be more transparent and much more effective in their daily operations, automating much of the manual tasks that exist currently and providing a modern approach to shipping, handling and tracking goods.

Platform

Freight Stream will target the Tablet platform.

Category

Freight Stream will target the Retail category.

Background

The Freight and Shipping industry has existed for as long as man has had ships to sail and ox-wagons to transfer goods on land with. The central idea has remained the same: Freighters offer their ability to ship a client's goods in exchange for money.

There have always been a couple of obstacles in this industry:

  • To be profitable the couriers generally need to fill their vehicles or vessels close to capacity
  • The more they haul per load, the bigger their profit

But the above two points now need to be evaluated in context with the below goals:

  • The quicker they can deliver, the better their image thus more clients
  • More regions covered leads to more clients but can lead to a loss if the vessels on the routes are not filled
  • Departing more often rather than waiting longer for more goods has the risk of emptier vessels

It is these facts that have made the freight industry risky and difficult to run, requiring intense planning and quick decisive decisions to be made in order to sustain a profitable company.

Together with this we are in a modern age where clients demand real time information on the status of their shipments. They also want to be enabled to manage more of their shipments and dispatch them with ease.

We have also engaged with industry pro’s in this sector to get some input into what could be beneficial in their world.

Where can Freight Stream and Tablets help?

  • Tablets are smart
  • They can take much more factors into consideration and thus plan more effectively
  • They can provide real time decisions whilst managing risk
  • They can iterate through various plans to get the best plan and adapt this in an instant
  • They can report and provide transparency through various tracking methods

There is thus a huge market where tablet technologies can come to the play in this industry, hopefully in the form of Freight Stream.

Description

Freight Stream is about enabling the Freight Industry to operate more efficiently.

It will be an end to end solution and the initial version will only focus on Freight by Land, catering for the complete Freight Process including the stages below:

  • Collection or Receipt of packages by Shipping Company
  • Tracking and Tracing of the packages as they flow through the process
  • Routing, Packing and Dispatching of packages to be delivered
  • Delivery and confirmation of delivery

The solution will consist of the following main modules and features:

  • Freight Check-In for Clients
  • Route Planning with Real-Time Updates
  • Package Tracking in Real-Time
  • Space Calculation and Efficient Packing Algorithms
  • Quick Drop Delivery Management and Assurance
  • Security Features including Route Perimeter, Truck Trace and Truck Cam.

Freight Check-In

A client will have four options to check in their packages:

  • Deliver the package to a hub
    • The client will deliver the package in person. The package will be checked in as per the check in process described below
  • Request package pick-up via Tablet app
  • Request package pick up via Webpage
  • Request package pick up via Telephone

For the last three options, simply the channel will change. The process will remain the same and will start with the client requesting the delivery. The system will then calculate the urgency of the package to be picked up and assign it to the most appropriate on route vehicle if optimal. The package pickup will then be added in the correct sequence to the driver’s list. If the calculation indicates that the package will make more sense to pick up the following day, it will be added to the list.

For all the above, when the package is physically received by the driver the following process will be followed:

  1. Driver scan’s identity document of client.
  2. Client is identified from system or specifies identity which is entered on the system
  3. Driver sticks on pre-printed ID barcodes stickers
  4. Driver scan’s ID barcodes on box to link delivery to job
  5. Driver takes images of the package for proof of condition
  6. Client signs off package on screen with stylus.

Route Planning

The route planning will innovate the way in which current regions and routes are used. It will take stock of all the packages that need to be delivered giving precedence to the ones due first. It will then calculate the optimal route and pick packages optimally for that run by balancing space available in vehicles with distance between delivery points, packages sizes and backlog of packages to be delivered soon.

Live updates of packages that need to be picked up will continuously check if the pickup is close to the route and if space will be available in the vehicle. If these checks pass the route will be adapted and the pickup added as a work item for the driver in the correct sequence, updating any routing information as required.

Package Tracking

Vehicles on the move will relay their GPS coordinates to the cloud in regular intervals. The system will thus have knowledge of vehicle location and packages on board. Various reports and search functionality will be added enabling both the Shipping Company and Clients to track their packages.

Space Calculation and Efficient Packing

The system will calculate the volume available per vehicle and delivery run based on volume of items queued and volume of vehicle and taking thresholds into consideration will add or remove items to delivery runs to try and establish the most effective package-route combinations.

Quick Drop Delivery Management and Assurance

When the driver reaches the destination the tablet will automatically detect that the vehicle has stopped close to the destination GPS coordinates and the view will switch to display delivery information including the Package ID, Contact Numbers and specific delivery instructions.  The driver can tap on the phone button to dial the number via VOIP if required to inform the client that the delivery is on premises.

An image of the actual package will also be displayed and the driver can zoom with multi touch to show a full size image, making the package easy to track between all the other packages.

The driver will proceed to remove the package from the vehicle and will take an image of the Package Barcode by tapping and holding the Scan Barcode button.

Upon reaching the client the driver will ask for verification documents and take a photo of the document by using Tap and Hold on the Scan ID Document image on the screen.

The driver then hands over the package and then Slides over the Complete Delivery button to bring up a signature line on the screen. The client then signs on the line using the Stylus and rates the service received by tapping a radio button (Excellent, Satisfied, Not Satisfied). 

The driver then uses a multi touch gesture (bringing five fingers to each other) to finalize the delivery and the delivery status will be updated in the cloud.

The next delivery directions will automatically be updated on the screen and the above process repeated for the next delivery.

Security Features

The devices and included abilities enable a new approach to security and trip monitoring.

Route Perimeter will indicate to operators that a vehicle is out of bounds of the route planned. This could indicate hijacking or driver malpractice.

In the case of suspected hijacking the operators can enable a video feed from either of the two cameras to enable a view of inside the canopy as well as to the road. This could be useful in case of gunpoint hijackings and take-overs where the drivers are forced to indicate everything is fine over the phone.

The gyroscope and accelerometer will be used to measure trip steadiness and will indicate to the operators if a driver is driving recklessly or dangerously with the goods.

Development Approach

The development approach that will be followed is based on the Scrum agile framework.

An overall idea of the end to end solution will remain in place and could be adapted as progression is made in development. A list of main features will be added as Stories in the beginning.

There will be a weekly Sprint in which the most important outstanding main features will be added as well as any bugs or changes required that can be handled.

As soon as the sprint is complete, it will be tested and available as a build.

Sprints will include the following for any feature, request or bug that is included in that sprint:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Integration
  • Final Build

Coding Language

  • C#
  • WPF
  • WCF
  • MSSQL
  • Intel XDK
  • WindowsAzure.Net platform for hosting

History

Version 1.0 - Initial Submission

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Charl Lamprecht
Software Developer (Senior)
South Africa South Africa
Software and Database Developer Super Dad. (SDDSD)
 
Self motivated natural leader.
Likes challenging projects and concepts and being on the forefront of technology and its expansion.
 
More than 8 years experience in Software Development including small to massive scale projects:
- Database design and optimization
- Modernization
- Windows services
- Web and desktop based systems
- Communication systems
- Invoicing and stock management systems
- Integration
 
Technologies:
- C-Sharp (C#)
- SQL (MS SQL, MySQL, DB2) + SSRS, SSIS
- MEF (Microsoft Extensibility Framework) + Prism
- WPF
- ASP.Net, Classic ASP, HTML
- MVVM, MVC
- Biometric device integration
- IBM Stack (Websphere BPM, MQ, MQFTE)
- XML

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionHow's app development going? Will you be submitting on time? PinstaffKevin Priddle22-Oct-13 10:35 
AnswerRe: How's app development going? Will you be submitting on time? PinprofessionalCharl Lamprecht23-Oct-13 0:43 

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