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Nicom Builds Enhanced Container Tracking Web App

Earlier in the year, Nicom put into production for the Port of Halifax an “Enhanced Container Tracking” web application, which answers the question definitively, “Where is my container?”. That seems to be a simple enough question, but if the answer is “over there, see, under that stack of other containers,” then that doesn’t do you much good.

Or if the answer is “right here, see, but it’s being held up by customs,” that’s no good either.

What’s needed is a place where people can see not only where their containers are, but also when they’ll be ready for pickup, and what’s their status in terms of held and released.

That is what the system—part of the Halifax Gets it There portal, also built by Nicom—will do. After a container has arrived in Halifax, every phase of its journey is tracked—it’s been taken off the vessel, it’s now on a rail car, it’s left the terminal, etc. See http://halifaxgetsitthere.com/en/shipping-tools/EnhancedContainerTracking/ContainerQuery.aspx.

In order to be able to do its job, the portal takes feeds from many sources and generates a schedule. Users can register to the system and get notices via text or email whenever the status of a container they are interested in changes.

What’s next? Nicom is now doing a design for an “Operational Dashboard”, which will make other logistics information more visible. Stay tuned.

The Lowly Hyperlink

Did you ever think about online links, and how dependent we are on them? We don’t really think about it much, but we all link dozens or maybe even hundreds of times a day. (In fact, you just clicked on a link to get to this article.)

We call them links, but the correct term is hyperlink. I recently landed on a CBSNews article from 2002 where British Telecommunications PLC wanted to enforce their 1976 patent on hyperlinks and was suing a U.S. internet service provider named Prodigy Communications Corp. The article doesn’t say how much money was at stake, but states that BT wanted to get paid every time someone clicked on a link. I’m pretty sure BT lost that one because we all click numerous times a day without any fees.

All this made me go back and check on the history of hyperlinks. Apparently the concept goes way back to 1945 and was originally conceived as a way to link one piece of microfilm to another, so you could have a thread of related microfilm information that you could follow.

I don’t know that the microfilm linking but was ever developed, but I do remember seeing a demonstration of HyperCard, a database system for Apple Macintosh computers whereby you could click on a link to go from one piece of data to another. At the time—late 1980s—I didn’t see the real value of it, but when the World Wide Web came about in the early 1990s, their usefulness became quite apparent.

So we click here, click there, as something very natural. Someday we’ll look back at how revolutionary that little linking thing was.

Five Basic Goals for any Website

We’ve just started re-building the website for a new client in the seaport business. So many websites out there need the same basic fixes, and that drives our goals for this project:

  1. Understand your target audience. In order for your website to be of value to your target audience, you need to understand what they are interested in. All aspects of your website should be driven by the needs of your target audience.
  2. Be easy to find, and have visitors landing on the right page. People rely on search engines to find what they are looking for, and they want to land not only on the right website, but in the right spot on that website. The trick is to make it be your website.
  3. Be mobile friendly. People expect a positive user experience on all types of devices and not just a desktop computer.
  4. Be interactive. This is where it pays for us to have programmers working with designers. More and more, websites and online business apps become one and the same thing, and that’s a good thing.
  5. Be easy to maintain. Having your website built on a user friendly content management system will give you the power to easily keep your content up to date. This will result in added value for users and improved search engine performance.

There’s more, but I believe those are the five big ones. Take care of those and the website will reach a larger audience, and the right audience.

Email Campaigns Essential Part Of Marketing Strategy

Last month Halifax hosted the annual conference of the American Association of Port Authorities and wasn’t it a first class event! The Cunard Centre was packed with delegates from throughout North America, and from as far away as Brazil and Africa, for a week of business sessions and Maritime hospitality.

Since my company sells IT services to seaports and given that a large part of our export marketplace was coming to our home town, it was natural that we would be a sponsor. We needed to prepare for this conference in advance because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of visitors to our booth and events.

My colleague Alexandra Fricker, an expert in Internet marketing, took the lead in that regard and came up with a very effective blend of online and traditional marketing, and I was blown away by how effective it was.

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Tracking Software Boosts Seaport Business

When I first met Chris Lambie, the new Herald Business Editor, I explained that I always strive for my column to be about real life business situations where technology plays a part, and to speak from personal experience as opposed to secondary research.

Why not then write a story about my company and something it has done for the local community, suggested Chris.

“You can do that?” I asked. I’m just a computer guy, not a journalist.

You can do whatever you want, explained Chris, provided you give full disclosure. So here goes:

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