Google Maps Coordinate: organization of a mobile workforce

Google has unveiled a mapping service tailored to the needs of businesses whose area of work primarily takes place outside of an office building. The app, which is called Google Maps Coordinate, allows office managers to coordinate their resources: namely mobile and field workers. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that there will be more than 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015.[1] The app uses information from Google Maps. Thereby, the aim of the app is to improve the working efficiency of employees stationed outside of the firms’ offices. “As the number of mobile employees continues to grow, so does the need for a location sharing solution that works in real-time,” says Daniel Chu, Google Maps senior product manager.[2] Google therefore aims at a relatively wide spectrum of different industries from telecommunication services to logistic providers.

Connecting employees to jobs

So how does it work exactly? Imagine you are in charge of coordinating your employees. It is your job to decide where an employee must be at what time in order to carry out a specific task. This is the kind of set up Google Maps Coordinate was designed to make easier – for employer and for employees. From the employer’s perspective, Google Maps Coordinate visualises all mobile resources via the Google Maps layout. On its enterprise blog[3], Google uses the example of a call centre operator at an electric utility company who has to deal with a broken power line somewhere in the city. With the app, the responsible person can see which mobile worker is closest to the power line and hence send him/her to that very place within seconds. All other employees are notified of this action and can react accordingly: for example join to help or stay where they are. Workers can thereby also notify other workers to support them. Managers may set up teams and make specific employees part of specific teams. This can be advantageous when you have a team of dispatched workers that are specialised for a task.[4]

So the main and apparently only purpose of the app is to increase office efficiency, but somehow you get the impression that there might be more to it. Of course the app cannot be run secretly as every employee has to install the app on his or her Smartphone. They can turn the app off at any time or set a time for it to shut off automatically. There is also an invisible mode.[5] But (and it’s a huge but): the manager will always know when a user has gone invisible. Even though businesses will be trained by Google how to use the app properly, it still leaves an uneasy feeling. Will everyone really play by the rules?

The app has its price

One catch is that all your employees will actually need a smartphone with the app installed otherwise it doesn’t work. By the way, the app costs 15 Dollars per employee per month and so far there is only an Android version. Furthermore you need to sign a one-year contract with Google. So the app can quickly become a very expensive affair. So if you have a large team of dispatched workers using the app it can cost you several thousand Euros or Dollars per year. If you’re interested but unsure you can make use of Google’s 30-day free trial download.[6]

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