EasyLogic’s Track and Trace middleware (ETT Server) is our enabler of RFID or Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions. Basically RFID and IoT allow a customer to keep track of physical items in the real world, and ensure that they are accurately represented in their IT landscape. Additionally the RFID or IoT tag can contain sensors (temperature, humidity, location through GPS, accelerometer, vibration, stress) with which additional data can be collected.
The RFID or IoT tag can operate using a variety of techniques, often involving radio technology, an area in which EasyLogic is specialised. For example:
- Low-frequency (LF) RFID, at 125kHz, frequently used in dirty or wet environments, for example agriculture, livestock or laundries
- High-frequency (HF) RFID at 13.56MHz, short distance, used in Mifare cards, Near Field Communication, ticketing, access control, or production lines in factories
- Ultra-High-frequency (UHF) RFID at 868MHz (or 912 MHz in the US), used for stock control, warehouse management, logistics, supply chain and retail
- Bluetooth beacons and sensors, for people identification, indoor location systems or machine monitoring
- WiFi beacons, for indoor location systems and tracking of people
- Tags using other radio technologies such as Lorawan, Sigfox, NB-IOT for outdoor use
- Tags using Zwave or Zigbee for indoor use
Each of these technologies have advantages and disadvantages which means that depending on your application, physical environment and business case one approach may be preferable over another, or a mix of multiple techniques may be needed.
There is a whole range of tags available, such as labels, stickers, on-metal tags for usage on metal objects, in-metal tags, washing labels, and tags for clothing that can be ironed or pressed.
All of these techniques use different devices, with different operating characteristics. For example, reading a LF or HF tag yields just one result. An LF or HF reader is frequently connected using a serial interface or USB interface. A UHF reader can read thousands of tags per second. Turning it on can result in a constant stream of reads of tags, frequently sent via Ethernet. Many fixed UHF readers have embedded Linux systems on board, on which intelligent filtering applications can be installed.
Then there are mobile devices, handheld terminals. Different brands have different programming interfaces, even if they read UHF tags. There can be programming stations or RFID capable printers where objects are tagged or ‘instantiated’ (born).
For Bluetooth, WiFi and all the other active technologies mentioned above a variety of proprietary solutions exist, all implemented slightly differently with different control protocols and/or server based solutions.
So our ETT middleware handles this variety of equipment, allows them to be provisioned and controlled. We employ clever filtering algorithms and other ‘tricks of the trade’ to ensure that we only keep track of those events that are important to your business processes. These algorithms help deal with adverse physical conditions (caused by reflections of radio signals, interference, wetness), motion detection, presence detection.
The common denominator in all these systems is that we want to know about, and track events at locations. A Location is what the customer requires. It could be a shop, a warehouse, a vehicle of a service engineer, a laboratory, or even a shelf in a cupboard in a dispensary. Locations may be fixed, or mobile. They can be associated with an indoor physical location, an outdoor GPS location, or virtual. The customer can define a hierarchy of Locations themselves. The ETT Server keeps track of ‘Events’ at these locations:
- the ‘birth’ or instantiation of an item (with an RFID tag or an active transponder)
- arrival of an item at a particular location (Arrivals, Goods-In, Purchase, Returns)
- departure of an item at a particular location (Sale, Transfer, Shipping)
- take an inventory of items at a location
- the ‘death’ of an item, i.e. the tag or transponder is decoupled and can be reused or discarded
ETT supports programming of RFID tags, for example
- According to the GS1 international encoding, or
- According to a customer specific definition.
Our ETT middleware records the lifecycle of a tag or transponder, including all movements between locations. We keep our middleware as generic as possible, so we keep track of basic object details but not everything. We do have rules based alerts (such as: this item has been used 10 times and now needs to be sent to a location for preventive maintenance). We can keep track of sets of items (e.g. a box with a left and a right shoe, or an instrument which requires a particular probe) and alert if these sets are not complete or broken up.
Together with you we analyse your business processes, what events and rules and alerts are important to your processes, and we build transactional interfaces to your software systems such that they always have an accurate representation of what happens in real life.
Also remember that e.g. RFID is a technology where each item is individually identifiable. With a barcode a stack of shirts will all have the same EAN or SKU code (article number or stock-keeping unit). So many ERP systems will only track that you have 20 of these items. With RFID each shirt will have it’s own code (in which the SKU is encoded). Our ETT keeps track of movements of each individual item, but may exchange aggregated information with your ERP system.
Our ETT middleware is implemented on a Windows Server with a Microsoft SQL Server database. We use MQTT to exchange details of events and to integrate different devices. And, using MQTT you can subscribe your systems to certain events. The ETT middleware is mostly used as a cloud based, hosted service. A customer can log in on a webbased control panel and define locations and devices at these locations themselves. There are basic reporting facilities to report on items at locations, or movements and events for transponders.
We have a lot of experience implementing dashboards which show you what is happening in your business. And we have solved a lot of standard problems, for instance, if someone starts and inventory process at a warehouse with a handheld terminal, additional people can ‘join’ the same inventory process with further handheld terminals, speeding up the process.
We have built interfaces to a lot of different systems in our clients businesses. Sometimes these interfaces are batch oriented (exchanges of CSVs or direct SQL access), sometimes they are on-line SOAP or REST interfaces. Because we have a lot of experience we can quite accurately predict how much effort is involved on our side to develop an interface. And how much time is required for testing.
We have interfaced with:
- ERP systems such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Maximo, Exact
- Warehouse management systems
- Asset management systems such as Ultimo
- Manufacturing control systems
- Laundry management systems
- MQTT publish/subscribe
The use of ETT middleware offers you as a customer a number of benefits:
- proven, high performance middleware in use with many customers
- no need to buy or maintain servers, a cloud based solution
- supports readers and devices from Zebra, Nordic ID, Impinj, TSS, HID Global, Bluvision, HP Aruba (location based services), Cisco (Unified Wireless Location Based Services), Ultra-Wide-Band beacons
- use of standards and avoid vendor-lock in
- a predictable and reasonable start and implementation fee for the ETT systems
- we can very accurately predict and implement business transactions to your ERP or warehouse system for a fixed price
- predictable yearly licence fees per attached device and a fee for hosting, maintenance and support