Across industries, the world is moving towards on-demand work powered by gig-workers and on-demand labor. While this is clearly visible in areas like ride sharing and grocery delivery which we all interact with as consumers in our daily lives, the same trend is playing out in traditional industries like health care, home repair services, industrial services, sales, and more. On-demand is the preferred model for businesses and workers alike.

To manage such a workforce, businesses need to build new tech for fleet automation. Live location is at the heart of such automation as it is needed to match orders to workers, track order progress, verify completion, detect potential fraud and automate business processes like payouts and customer surveys post completion. While live location is important, using it to track work in the field can be a double edged sword because with great power comes great responsibility.  

When gig workers sign up for work, it is reasonable to expect they will be tracked to assign them nearby jobs and track order completion. However, the implicit expectation between the worker and the organization is that they will be tracked only during working hours. When organizations fail to track location responsibly, it leads to tracking workers outside of working hours which violates privacy. Further, location tracking, if done excessively, can lead to high phone battery drain causing gig-workers to uninstall or kill their apps and look for better options.

The Purpose of Live Location Tracking for On-demand Labor and Field Service Teams

To build the right tracking technology, we first need to understand the purpose of location tracking. For a gig worker fleet, the intent to track can be for either of the following use cases:

  1. Assigning orders: The worker is available for work but not yet assigned an order and the business needs to know their live location to offer relevant jobs in the area
  2. Tracking orders: The worker is assigned an order and their fulfillment needs to be tracked.

Each of these cases requires different handling on the server. For order assignment, only the worker’s last known location is important and historical location can be forgotten. However when tracking orders, the entire order lifecycle through to completion needs to be tracked to update end consumers and ops teams and calculate relevant metrics like actual distance traveled. The tracking also needs to be persisted for potential remediation purposes in the future. All these requirements need to be supported across the plethora of mobile device types in the industry each having their own unique quirks.

Building Live Location Tracking Capability in Mobile Apps

Live-location tracking for the on-demand use case is a complex and critical problem for businesses to win in the new economy. HyperTrack builds technology to offer this via APIs, without having to manage the complexity of location tracking. The key features we have built to support this are:

  1. Tracking intents: We support tracking for ‘availability’ and for ‘active work’ differently. Technology builders can control the intent for different use cases. For instance, when gig-workers are open to work, they can be set as `available` so only their recent location is tracked and not their distance, duration or places visited. This reduces privacy concerns when they are not actively working but simply available. Similarly when a fleet member is actively working, they can be set to `tracking` to ensure their location is tracked through to order fulfillment and history is persisted. For details, read the section on Managing Driver Availability in our reference docs.
  2. Tracking rates: While starting tracking may seem like a trivial job that can be easily started, in reality, tracking can fail to start due to a number of reasons ranging from OS specific restrictions to permission issues. To measure the effectiveness of tracking, we have defined a new metric called tracking rate which measures the total time an order was successfully tracked over the time it was intended to be tracked. To improve tracking rates, we maintain 35+ reasons for tracking outages which can be actioned as listed in the docs reference article on how to handle outages here.
  3. Tracking controls: To reduce the risks of tracking outside of working hours, HyperTrack orchestrates tracking of drivers in the context of work and stops tracking when work is completed. Technology builders can therefore focus only on the aspects that relate to managing work like dispatching and completing orders and let HyperTrack do the heavy lifting of starting and stopping tracking, generating live-order tracking views, and monitoring risks. Take a deep dive on this in the reference docs section Managing Tracking Permissions.

These key tracking innovations help companies become more efficient and intentional about managing the needs of customers, ops teams and workers in today’s on-demand environment.  As I wrote this article, I was reminded of the quote from Angela Duckworth’s book on Grit - “For the beginner, novelty is anything that hasn't been encountered before. For the expert, novelty is nuance.” This has been HyperTrack’s journey understanding the nuanced needs of tracking work by fleet across field services, field sales and flex-work. In the world of on-demand labor, the road between novelty and nuance is punctuated with pitfalls and time consuming distractions. Luckily, businesses can avoid this complexity and jump straight to expert level by partnering with HyperTrack. Get started today!