A key truck/driver component of Tracker is the Android tablet installed in the truck. That tablet is dedicated to running a customized Tracker application.
However, that has presented problems:
- How do you easily load/deploy an app on many tablets?
- How do you configure new tablets to all be the same?
- Can a customer lock down the devices so no app can run except the one Tracker app - no YouTube or no browsing on the side?
- How does a customer ensure their tablet apps are all kept updated to their specific software release?
- Rather than spend time debugging, how quickly can a customer install a new tablet or refresh an existing tablet?
One important feature of our application are customizations and collecting data specific to each customer. This means that each customer has a different application to install/maintain and loading unique applications for each customer on the Google Play Store is not the solution. Even then, we have customers that run ‘standalone’ and their tablets are not connected to the internet but they still need to be maintained and updated.
All of the above have presented a huge challenges. These are exactly the types of challenges well suited to Rockpile Solutions. I’m excited to share what we have built so all of these issues are addressed and managed by the backend system with minimal customer effort and involvement.
Here are the major steps we’ve taken to simplify tablet deployment, ensure consistency, lock out undesired usage and ensure that every truck is running the same customized application:
Everyone running the same application
We store the current version of each customer’s application in their own Tracker server. This can be located in the cloud or in their private network. All tablets are loaded from the customer’s account – one source that is always their official code level.
As a safety check the customer can see every tablet connected to their system and which software level it is currently running.
Mass updates are not always a good thing. When updating to a new version the customer may not want every tablet to update at the same time. We provide the tools to force one tablet to update, verify the results and then decide when to update the next tablet(s). This reduces risk and it may also give time to communicate with drivers if you want them to follow new procedures with this update. Both mass deployments and individualize deployment models are now supported.
Drivers: Run our app and don’t play with the tablet
We now have a Tablet Controller service which “locks down” the tablet so the one Tracker app is all a driver can see. If they quit Tracker then it starts up again. If they reboot, it starts up again. They cannot get to Settings or any other app on the tablet. Drivers can only run the one dedicated app you want them to run.
Oh my – how do I set up this new tablet?
Tablet’s should be common, everyday commodity devices. Each one can cost from $200 up to $600 if you want something more rugged. We could have deployed dedicated hardware but that is not as cost effective as you being able to select the right tablet with the right communications features at the price point best suited to your needs. The point is that you want to take advantage of this freely available, low cost device. However, you still want to deploy and manage it as though it was designed and dedicated to your use. Our new provisioning process takes low cost, high quality and consistent, rapid deployment to a whole new level.
If you’ve ever started a new Android tablet you know about all the questions to answer, accounts to add, all the circusware you need to remove etc. It’s a lot to do.
However, this is our new process:
- Boot the new tablet
- On the first screen, tap it 5 times. It will ask for your wifi name/password.
- Then after a few seconds, it will turn on the camera and prompt for a QR code.
- Show it the QR code which is on your Tracker portal screen (or print a copy and keep it with you in the field).
- The tablet will automatically:
a. Download/install the Tablet Controller service
b. Adjust all of the tablet settings to your standard
c. Install the current version of your customized Tracker app
d. And finally, lock dedicate the tablet to your Tracker app
That’s it! Tap the screen, enter wifi info, show a QR code and the rest is automatic! In fact, if you are ever concerned that a tablet is not working properly we suggest doing a factory reset and following the new setup steps. Its so fast that “debugging” one tablet issue is not worth the time. And its just as easy to do it in the truck or in the office – your decision.
You can see why we’re so excited now. A fully customized tablet from boot to deployment with only 5 taps, a wifi id/password and showing your dedicated QR code. And its locked down so the entire fleet will remain exactly how you want them configured. Then you control the rate of future updates – all devices at once or a targeted approach. With our new tablet provisioning, the controller service and customized updates coming from your local server the entire fleet is remains consistent and within your control.