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A rising New Zealand app developer spent a week driving around the streets of Amman in the Middle East to find out what technology couriers really needed.
Christchurch LWA Solutions chief executive Atta Elayyan wanted to know what Jordan’s courier drivers required to be hi-tech equipped before pitching to a major multi-billion Dubai-based company Aramex.
With 13,900 employees at 354 locations across 60 countries, Aramex is the largest logistics and transport services company in the Middle East. Earlier this year Aramex bought New Zealand courier firm Fastway, with a global network of 63 regional depots and 1500 courier franchisees, for $125 million. Fastway has turnover of $500m a year. Parent company Aramex is listed on the Dubai Financial Market and in January 1997 became the first company from the Arab world to list on NASDAQ stock exchange.
Elayyan says, with support from Microsoft, LWA Solutions won the pitch to re-invent Aramex’s Windows Mobile e-courier solution. They had to replace expensive, rugged devices in the field with a smartphone based bring-your-own-device (BYOD).
“To better understand the problem space we spent a few days as Aramex courier drivers. observing their daily routine gave us immense insight into the task at hand. Before embarking on this project, our design team had little knowledge on what a courier driver’s daily routine was or what their task management software should look like. It also didn’t help that we were the first team in the world to attempt porting such a solution to low end smart phones. But we did it.
“We found their tasks relied heavily on the speed and efficiency of the infrared scanner hardware. Packages were also being scanned under various lighting conditions and had a reflective surface which posed a real challenge for pixel based barcode detection. We needed to think of clever ways of making the smart phone scanning experience accurate and ‘feel’ as fast as possible for couriers to adopt the solution.
“Drivers would commonly park up, scan a package, pull up customer details, manually input customer phone number into mobile, call customer and ask for directions. We consolidated all those steps with a click of a button via the smartphone.
“We leveraged Microsoft’s Xamarin cross-platform framework to deploy this solution on Android, iOS and Windows Phone based smart phones. The app even runs on Aramex’s existing Intermec devices so they didn’t lose any of their initial hardware investment.
“The huge win for Aramex is they don’t even need to supply their couriers with hardware anymore, they bring their own device. This completely transforms the way Aramex can scale their business as they are no longer tied to issuing hardware and dealing with massive hardware related costs. This solution also lays the groundwork for Aramex’s future vision of ‘Uberising’ their courier workforce where anyone with a car or motorbike can use the app to deliver packages."
The app was announced last week by Aramex chief executive Hussein Hachem at the company’s annual conference in Dubai. The impact of this solution will soon be felt in New Zealand and Australia as Aramex begin rolling out their apps to Fastway.  
Elayyan’s Christchurch company has been nominated for the New Zealand Windows app developer of the year for Microsoft New Zealand's annual awards.
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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