Ford is working towards a new objective with it's "Work Solutions" package. Instead of simply providing customers with four wheels, a motor and maybe even a chassis, Ford wants to develop what they're calling "solutions." Yes, that certainly sounds like something that came straight from an MBA program someplace, and we're generally dogged cynics when it comes to such claptrap. But this here "solution" is actually pretty darn neat. Ford has teamed with Microsoft (yet again—hello, Sync fans) to create new hardware and software for contractors to use to manage work sites. The system begins with RF tags you can add to any tool—hammer, screwdriver, level, circular saw, all the contractor doo-dads you can imagine—then adds bed scanners that detect the presence of those RF tags. The system can tell you before you leave a work site whether or not you've left something behind. Add to useful feature a few others: the ability to surf the net anywhere, using integrated wimax hardware by Sprint; and a vaguely UPS like "Crew Chief" system, which combines GPS with the tool sensing to determine the best crew to do a job at any given call. Of course, this is all targeted at Ford's commercial customers, but we can't help but wonder where the system could go when adapted to the consumer market. Parents could tag toys. Surfers could tag boards. We'll never lose anything ever again! Not as long as Ford has a "solution"...
CHICAGO, Feb. 6, 2008 — Ford is further expanding its 'smart' features for truck customers, announcing today a collection of industry-exclusive technologies for F-Series trucks and commercial E-Series vans that will help make business owners more productive and successful.
Ford Work Solutions delivers four innovative features:
* An in-dash computer developed with Magneti Marelli and powered by Microsoft Auto that provides full high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network and navigation by Garmin. It's the first broadband-capable in-dash computer in production. This system allows customers to print invoices, check inventories and access documents stored on their home or office computer networks - right on the job site.
* Tool Link, a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) asset tracking system developed
in partnership with DEWALT, the industry leader in professional power tools, and ThingMagic, the industry expert on embedded RFID technology. This enables customers to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools or equipment stored in the pickup box.
* Crew Chief, a fleet telematics and diagnostics system, which allows small fleet owners to efficiently manage their vehicles, quickly dispatch workers to job sites and keep detailed vehicle maintenance records.
* Cable Lock security system developed in partnership with Master Lock®, the industry-leading lock manufacturer, to discourage theft of expensive tools too large to fit in the cab.
"Our truck customers are smart - and they work hard," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of
The Americas. "Ford Work Solutions provides truck customers new technologies and tools
to help them work even smarter and further boost their productivity."
F-Series has been the best-selling truck in America for 31 years. Two out of every five commercial trucks sold in the U.S. wears a Ford oval.
For years, truck capability has been measured in maximum towing and payload ratings. The new 2009 Ford F-150 builds on that kind of industry-leading capability, offering the most 'smart' features that make towing and hauling more flexible, easier and safer. Ford Work Solutions adds still another dimension of capability for commercial truck owners.
"Ford Work Solutions takes productivity to a new level by bringing the office to the job site in
an integrated, seamless way that only Ford could deliver - with a strong network of industry-leading partners like DEWALT, Microsoft, Garmin, Master Lock®, Magneti Marelli and Sprint," said John Felice, general marketing manager, Ford Division.
Ford Work Solutions features were developed through hands-on research with contractors and skilled tradespeople in multiple markets around the U.S.
All four Ford Work Solutions will be available this fall on the new 2009 Ford F-150 XL, STX, XLT and FX4 trucks; F-Series Super Duty XL, XLT and FX4 trucks; and all 2009 E-Series vans. Transit Connect vans join the lineup in mid-2009. In time, several of the features will be available for dealer installation to upgrade Ford Trucks already in service.
Online On the Job Site
Ford is delivering fully integrated mobile office functionality into F-Series trucks on the job site - an industry first.
An in-dash computer, developed with Magneti Marelli, transforms the new 2009 F-150 or
F-Series Super Duty into true mobile offices, capable of linking into the business owner's main office computer network or a home computer via a cellular broadband connection.
Users can access existing files on an office computer miles from the job site, open a word processing document, a spread sheet or their business accounting program, make updates and print them in the truck on an available Ford-certified, on-board, Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered inkjet printer.
Powered by Microsoft Auto, the system provides high-speed Internet access via the Sprint Mobile Broadband Network. It works with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, offering hands-free calling with push-to-talk voice recognition, access to user phonebooks and the ability to receive text messages.
The in-dash computer also includes navigation by Garmin, which comes standard with features like re-routing due to construction or traffic congestion and points of interest including local gas stations and their fuel prices, restaurants, Ford dealerships and Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers.
The computer is integrated into the vehicle's center stack, filling the same space normally occupied by the standard radio. It is equipped with a 6.5-inch, high-resolution touch screen,
two gigabytes of memory, a secure digital slot for additional memory, a USB port and
includes a wireless keyboard and mouse. A stylus, stored next to the CD slot, is included for use on the touch screen.
The computer is 'Built Ford Tough' - designed and tested to the same stringent standards as the other parts on the truck.
Ford F-Series trucks offer customers the most flexible, most accessible pickup boxes in the industry, thanks to class-leading hauling capability, industry-exclusive features like tailgate
and box side steps - as well as a unique technology like Ford Work Solutions Tool Link.
Developed with DEWALT and ThingMagic, Tool Link offers owners the capability to mark and scan high-value tools, safety equipment, material inventories and other important assets using RFID tags. When the vehicle is running, a pair of RFID antennas, mounted in corrosion- and impact-resistant housings on the inside of the pickup box, scan the box for the items on a pre-programmed inventory list.
The data is transmitted to a reader mounted inside the cab and displayed on the in-dash computer screen, alerting the driver if any inventoried tools are not loaded on the truck.
"Tool Link increases productivity and saves money," said William Frykman, Ford Work Solutions product and business development manager. "It helps contractors and tradespeople guarantee they show up at the job site with the right tools for each job- and that they don't leave equipment behind."
Tool Link comes pre-loaded with several standard tool lists that are easily edited to reflect specific types of jobs. The system uses industry standard second-generation RFID tags that can be fastened to tools or other items and can read and catalogue hundreds of tools or assets in just seconds.
Manage the Crew
Fleet owners and managers often need to dispatch vehicles quickly for service calls. Ford Work Solutions Crew Chief provides them a telematics and diagnostics system that delivers real-time vehicle location and maintenance tracking, allowing them to quickly respond to calls and optimally deploy their fleets.
The data is linked to a web-based application, which can be used by a fleet administrator in an office or anywhere there is Internet access - including a Ford Work Solutions in-dash computer.
As an added benefit, Crew Chief interfaces with the vehicle's electrical architecture and can monitor numerous diagnostic functions, including tire pressure or check engine light codes.
It also can be programmed to identify user-set alerts, such as unauthorized use of a vehicle or excessive idling.
The system will also provide fuel calculations and fuel tax reporting, helping fleet managers and business owners manage costs more effectively.
Master Lock Keeps Cargo Secure
"Secure, lockable storage is important for all customers," said Frykman. "That's why we worked with Master Lock to deliver the Cable Lock, a convenient way to secure items such as toolboxes, air compressors, generators or large power tools that may need to be in the pickup box when the vehicle is parked."
The strong, eight-foot, 10 millimeter steel cable is wrapped in a protective plastic sheathing and is easily woven around toolbox handles or through and around items and then locked to the truck with a cuff-style clasp.
The clasp can be attached to any of the items in the box, any of the tie-down cleats, or simply clamped back onto the cable itself. The self-retractable cable is stored in a corrosion- and impact-resistant housing mounted to the inside wall at the rear of the pickup box. The unit is spring-loaded and uses a friction mechanism that will gently retract the cable when not in use. Cable Lock is easily installed on virtually any Ford pickup truck.