Case Study: Animal Collection Company

Animal Tracking & Collection System

Synopsis: In 2007, Synapse Studios was approached with an interesting project: The owner of an animal collection company wanted an easy way to assign agents in the field to animal pickups while offering the solution to other animal collection companies. The solution provided required groundbreaking innovation with online web-based software and its ability to gracefully handle a lost connection without losing data. It also featured a front-facing, publicly accessible component that allowed users to search for their animals based on details provided.

Problem | Solution | Results

The Problem

The existing animal tracking system was built into an aging Microsoft Access database that required a company operator to man incoming calls from their municipal clients throughout the day. These calls were then relayed to agents in the field over the phone as well, who would then attempt to track their pickups on paper. Incomplete data and poor routing were the result.

  • The system needed to be made accessible by the operators of municipal clients—since many cities receive the calls requesting pickups, we could remove the need for a company-side operator by allowing municipal operators to access the system directly
  • Agents in the field required the ability to access a map of pickups through a laptop or tablet PC in their vehicle
  • Pickup reports needed to ensure that Agents completed required data fields
  • Existing system database data would need to be imported into the new system and accessible
  • Companies would need to be able to establish contract-based billing rules that dictated the costs of a given pickup on various criteria as configured by each individual company
  • The invoicing system would need to automatically apply any active billing rules when generating an invoice
  • No software could be installed on any client PCs, including those of the field agents making use of the system
  • The system needed to provide a comprehensive user management system that allowed administrators to create and manage collection company accounts and which further needed to allow collection company managers to create customer accounts and agent accounts, each with different levels of access to different components of the system
  • System also needed to be able to provide its users with relevant reports when invoicing and to track progress and performance

The Solution

Synapse Studios scoped the entire project and designed a system that lets municipal users quickly file pickup requests and further lets agents monitor and complete incoming requests.

Because the system needed to be useable by agents from their vehicles, we built a solution that would work with EVDO wireless broadband, which is available across most the country through Sprint and Verizon. We recognized the system would still need to be tolerant of areas with patchy connections, however, especially if a pickup required an agent to leave their coverage area.

We further recognized that requiring agents to install any software would be a significant barrier to entry, especially if the agents were working on municipal systems. We developed a completely innovative connection manager that works entirely in the browser and is able to detect and handle gracefully a loss of network connectivity.

During periods of lost connectivity, agents are still able to record jobs as completed; they are simply unable to receive new jobs. Once connectivity is restored, the application automatically uploads all completed reports. This removes the need for paper even as a backup and ensures accuracy and completeness in the data by agents who might otherwise forget important details.

Further, the software prompts if a user is about to leave the application without having committed their latest reports, preventing data loss. This all works without installing any additional software.

The system also provides the following innovative features:

  • An intelligent sorting system allows users to see where they are relative to open jobs by the use of GPS-enabled laptops
    Project Screenshot
  • An intuitive interface with an interactive, context-sensitive help system reduces the learning curve and typically has users familiar with and utilizing the system within 2 hours without the need to train users in person
  • A convenient, at-a-glance Dashboard which breaks down all active items of interest and provides fast links to a given user's most used features of the site
  • Billing rules allow a company to apply discounts or additional fees on a number of criteria or any combination of that criteria
  • Customers are able to create data entry accounts which allow operators to place and track pickup requests but not view invoicing or billing details
  • The system makes advanced use of the Yahoo! Maps API for GIS (geographic information system) data and other map-based data streams
  • A implementation of the aforementioned reporting system is used to provide users with statistics and billing-specific reports
  • Since the system is web-based, no software needs to be installed on any municipal (or other) computers. The system has been tested and is completely compatible with the latest versions of both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, ensuring a consistent user experience without the need to check for updates and without draining system resources

The Results

Application is in use by several municipalities for reporting collection requests with highly accurate data and reduced overall costs.

As the most recent project completed by Synapse Studios, the animal tracking system has recently finished final testing and implementation and is growing in its adoption. Our client's own collection company has begun to use the software with three mobile-outfitted field agents able to track incoming requests and file completed pickup reports from the field.

The system works and ensures accurate data for public searching and reporting. The billing system allows for easy invoicing and collection even with complex billing rules applied.

Municipalities benefit by requiring fewer operators to deal with animal pickups and by receiving more accurate invoices. They can also manage their accounts largely without any intervention.

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