Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cellular to Wireless Zigbee

An interesting new market we are moving into is cellular access to wireless mesh (Zigbee as example). In some sense it's a supply-chain dream come true. Imagine you supply a product to customers and EVERYONE (except the customer's IT department) want you to be able to see what the stock level is and auto-schedule deliveries.

The customer benefits because they can treat the product as a 'utility' - turn the tap and there it is.

You benefit because you can minimize emergency truck-rolls - no more angry, panicked customers demanding you send a truck over two-thirds empty because someone forgot to schedule a special delivery because the customer needed to use 60% more product for two days. Of course as a supplier the cost of the truck, fuel, and driver are critical parts of your margin/profit. You desire to only send out full trucks which return gracefully empty!

So we are now working with several of the largest chemical suppliers in the world to enable:
  1. drop in a powered cellular unit at the customer site
  2. drop in powered or battery tank sensors
  3. log levels hourly, for the supplier to upload daily (reduces cellular data charges) The supplier uses this as their 'secret-sauce', their own proprietary value-add to predict when trucks need to roll to maximize efficiency
  4. enable alarm call-out if the levels hit unexpected low-low levels
How this works varies by suppliers. The one I'm working with is using Modbus/TCP to pull up the logs daily. Some other suppliers are having SMTP clients push emails back to the supplier with XML formatted reports. The next supplier I might work will wants the binary logs to be compressed (ZIP'd) and then pushed upstream once a day by FTP, where their accounting system will convert from binary to XML to import and issue bills on product usage per MINUTE.

Of course key to all of this is the wireless drop-in-network concept. The supplier doesn't want to invest thousands of dollars pulling wires through SOMEONE ELSE'S PLANT - especially when the supplier's contract might end in a few months.

Wireless sensors aren't new; cellular data access isn't new; supply-chain systems which auto-detect product levels aren't new. What is new here is the merger of many technologies which reduce infra-structure costs, and thus increase ROI.

3 comments:

Kevin Roth said...

FYI - your blog's home page still has "rel=alternate" links embedded in it to your old blog. If I try to auto-discover your RSS or ATOM link by e.g. giving NewsGator the address http://iatips.com/blog, it ends up subscribing me to your *old* blog at blogspot.com!

Lynn August Linse said...

Thanks Kevin. Either http://blog.iatips.com/ or http://iatips.com/blog is new.

Since Blogger wraps tons of code around my blog, I'll see if I can discover where this is.

Lynn August Linse said...

Okay - think I have it. Correct feed was at http://iatips.com/blog/atom.xml

Was a setting in the dash-board; hopefully this solves it.