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Stay on Track

GPS-equipped cell phones are the latest way to keep tabs on mobile employees.

If you could check on the location of your employees, would you? GPS-equipped cell phones make that possible--and they're more affordable than fixed GPS systems. Nextelis the main provider, but expect other carriers to get onboard this year.

Brian Gratch, principal at wireless consulting firm Gratch Associates in Evanston, Illinois, refers to these capabilities as "track and trace." Growing businesses with delivery drivers or workers in the field will find this technology appealing. "The attraction for small businesses is in productivity, cost control, the ability to optimize a route, and accountability," says Gratch.

That latter attraction is particularly important. GPS-enabled phones can help businesses keep track of mileage for tax purposes and verify employees are where they're supposed to be. But employees may feel like Big Brother is watching. Gratch recommends that you carefully spell out why you're using the devices and how they work. Employees should know when they're being tracked.

If you're using these devices for compelling business goals, adoption is bound to go more smoothly. Features such as driving directions can be a boon to workers who are on the road. Gratch says some businesses may still be better off with a fixed GPS system, so evaluate the cell phone form factor and capabilities to determine the best solution.

This story appears in the March 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »