THE MAGAZINE

GPS Tracks Journey

By Marta Roberts

When Journey Security Services security guards witnessed a car accident while on patrol, they didn't have time to verify their coordinates and call 911. Instead the guards made a phone call to their supervisor, who tracked their precise location in seconds using the GPS tracking device in one guard's cell phone. The supervisor was able to call for an ambulance while the guards focused on helping the victims.

This type of organized response would have been impossible a few years ago when Journey relied on roving supervisors to oversee guard patrols. The supervisors had difficulty observing each patrol unit and were not able to perform other quality-control monitoring, such as reducing time wasted and ensuring that guards weren't speeding.

Journey began looking for a system that would let it track guards in real time. The company also wanted a product that was user friendly enough that supervisors could manipulate it without the assistance of IT. At the time, the company was switching from Verizon Wireless to Nextel cell phones, and they were interested in finding a GPS product that could work in conjunction with Nextel's products.

After evaluating several products that required complex installation and conversions before they were compatible with the Nextel phone, Vice President of Operations Johnnie Shepherd chose Xora GPS Time Track. Xora has partnered with Nextel to offer its GPS chips in various Motorola phones, which are sold directly by Nextel and retail from between $89 and $200.

To begin the service, Journey simply authorized Nextel to enable the Xora chip. Xora's $11.99 per phone monthly monitoring charge is included in Journey's monthly phone bill.

To access the GPS information, authorized personnel log onto a Xora Web site with a user ID and password. The system allows users to create defined parameters, such as setting a patrol route that each employee must follow.

At Journey, each guard is given a precise amount of time to patrol the assigned location. "It's very critical to know where your manpower is and to be able to verify that they're living up to their expectations," Shepherd says.

If the guard deviates from the route, an e-mail or a pager notifies the supervisor immediately. Additionally, records from each patrol are kept indefinitely by Xora and can be referenced by Journey at any time.

These features were extremely important to Shepherd, whose guards are often required to travel long distances between patrol locations. "When you're in a fixed site, or facility, it's pretty easy to use the wand or the tour system, but when you're using patrol vehicles--and the patrol vehicles are running in a radius of 200 miles--it becomes very difficult to verify if John Q. Officer actually checked a facility," he notes.

Shepherd says that the Xora system helps to ensure customer satisfaction because there is a permanent record that the guards performed their required tasks.

Because the monitoring is Internet based, no software was installed at Journey. The only hardware required were the phones and an Internet-enabled computer. Shepherd says that he purchased wireless Internet-connected laptops for each of his supervisors, giving them the ability to monitor guards from any location. Because supervisors were no longer needed to roam the field, Journey saved money on personnel, gas, and vehicle upkeep.

A key feature of the product lets users change patrol parameters instantly. This has been extremely helpful when, for instance, an accident has occurred that delays traffic, says Shepherd. In this type of circumstance, guards may need to take a different route to their assigned locations. The guards call the supervisor, who then logs into the Xora site and changes the patrol route to reflect the detour.

Journey has found some creative uses for the product. For example, high-profile celebrities and executives for whom Journey is providing executive protection have often tried to give the security detail the slip in public places like a mall. The tracking system helps them deal with that type of situation.

In one case, a client went on a shopping trip with Journey guards. The guards knew the client would try to evade them and, before entering the mall, gave the subject a phone and asked the person to call if they got separated. The subject did not know the phone had GPS and couldn't figure out how the guards knew exactly where he was at all times.

In addition to the phone, Journey has installed a separate Xora product in each of its patrol vehicles, which allows the company to track their location and speed. Unlike the cell phone product, the vehicle chip is encased in a black box that runs off the vehicle's battery. A mechanic with knowledge of the car's wiring installed the product.

Shepherd's guards are required to travel at least five miles per hour under the posted speed limit. If the guards travel between one and four miles per hour over the allotted speed, the Xora black-box system generates an e-mail notification that is sent to their supervisor. If a guard is more than four miles per hour over the limit, the supervisor is paged immediately.

Shepherd says the systems were very easy to operate, and Xora's customer service has been very responsive. Xora trained each member of his staff and helped them set up passcodes for the system management. "We never had any problems with support," Shepherd says. "When we call, they give us an answer."

(For more information: Xora, phone: 866/MAP-XORA (866/627-9672); email: info@xora.com.)

--By Marta Roberts, staff editor at Security Management

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