Article 2 in S2CT's Supply Chain Technologies Imagination Series

Imagine If You Could Monitor, Track and Remotely Manage Assets With a Simple US$25 Device and No Additional Monthly Fees

By Jim Davis and Eric Lam, Ph.D.

Imagine if you could track the location of any asset: containers, chassis, trailers, gensets, forklifts, pallet jacks, toolboxes, literally any asset. Imagine if you could also monitor important aspects of your mobile assets operational status: available cargo space, doors sealed, tire pressures, fuel level, power on or off, running PTI, tool box open, anywhere in a terminal, freight yard, warehouse, shipping depot, retail center, etc. And finally, image if you could remotely manage these assets: power-on, power-off, start PTI, set temperature, change airflow, etc. Fig: Asset MonitorImagine you could do all this with a simple, battery-powered device that can cost less than US$25.

S2CT's Asset Monitors and Long-Life Asset Monitors are microcontroller based with application memory to support its HME Sub GHz Communications Protocol(1) and Near-Field Magnetic Inductance(2) communications and custom embedded applications. Asset Monitors also have integrated non-volatile storage for logging the data they collect over time. These devices inherently support HME Sub GHz communications for communicating with other HME Sub GHz compatible devices. Asset Monitors primarily connect to the wide-area-network indirectly through other HME Sub GHz devices that support wide-area-network communications, like an S2CT Communications Hub(3). Asset Monitors also inherently support Near-Field Magnetic Inductance for in the field "touch" association with other devices and the assets they are intended to monitor. Asset Monitors can inherently communicate with other HME Sub GHz devices, Communications Hubs, multiple tire pressure sensors, fuel level sensors, and a wide range of other devices. Customers design their own local-area-networks of HME Sub GHz devices and count on them to seamlessly integrate and work.

Asset Monitors can also support Wi-Fi for direct connection to available Wi-Fi wide-area-networks. Asset Monitors can support a broad range of integrated sensors like temperature, humidity, light, sound, tilt, motion, vibration, gases, metal proximity, etc. Asset Monitors are primarily battery powered devices with battery life ranging from 1 to 3 years or even longer depending on the size of the battery packs housed within each device's enclosure. S2CT uses Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl2) primary cell batteries in either AA or C size format with circuitry to augment the peak current they can deliver. Asset Monitors can be designed to utilize AC/DC power, opportunistically when it is available to supplement their battery power or as their primary source of power with batteries for backup.

These devices can be permanently attached to an asset or magnetically attached to an asset and easily moved from one asset to another, from one container to another, to a genset or chassis, etc. When equipped with an integrated magnetic metal detector, these devices can detect when they are attached to and detached from a metal superstructure and be programmed to communicate those events to the wide-area-network when they occur.

Asset Monitors can be deployed on mobile assets along with a wide-area-network communications device, a Communications Hub for example, or on their own. In a deployment with both, the Communications Hub collects data from its own integrated sensors and its geospatial position from the available GPS System and data from the HME Sub GHz devices it's connected to and securely communicates all that data to a programmed IP address. The Communications Hub communicates its data on programmed time intervals, every two hours for example, or in "real-time" should it or one of its connected devices raise an "alarm".

In a use case where the Asset Monitor is deployed by itself, with no accompanying wide-area-network device, it depends upon randomly encountering a wide-area-network connection to send its data, including "unsent" alarms. Random is perhaps too strong a term as these types of devices are designed to be deployed on "managed" assets that remain in an area with compatible wide-area-network coverage, a shipping terminal or warehouse for example, or move between such areas with regularity. Asset Monitors collect and store data in their integrated data logger storage until they encounter and connect to a wide-area-network. Asset Monitors can connect to the wide-area-network indirectly through an HME Sub GHz connection to a wide-area-network communications capable device, like an S2CT Communications Hub, or directly through a Wi-Fi connection to a compatible Wi-Fi Access Point when Wi-Fi is enabled. Simply put, an asset, equipped with a low cost Asset Monitor, continuously collects and stores its data until it encounters and connects to a wide-area-network and successfully sends it. This is the most cost-effective method for monitoring and tracking an asset; purchase and install a $25 Asset Monitor, install it on the asset, use it within an area covered by HME Sub GHz Infrastructure or manage its movements between compatible wide-area-network connections.

A container with an Asset Monitor installed on it can collect data from its integrated sensors monitor a door-seal installed on its doors, and the fuel level of its integrated genset while traveling on the road. When the container arrives at a shipping terminal, the terminal's Gate Asset Monitor establishes an HME Sub GHz connection with the asset's Asset Monitor. The terminal's Wi-Fi enabled Gate Asset Monitor communicates the connection with asset's Asset Monitor to the terminal's Asset Management Cloud, registering its arrival at the terminal. The terminal's Gate Asset Monitor offloads the asset's Asset Monitor data and delivers it to the terminal's cloud where it is sent, in its encrypted form, to the asset owner's IP address. The S2CT architecture moves all data between devices in encrypted form from its source to its designated IP address final destination, where its DNA(4) is authenticated, it is decrypted and stored in that private cloud's Asset Management Database. The asset's Asset Monitor data includes data specific to the health of the Asset Monitor device itself, which is continuously monitored and reported over the lifespan of the device. Selected data, including device health data that might warrant attention at the terminal, can then be shared with the terminal operations. The S2CT solution architecture accomplishes this with its Secure Private Data Sharing Network(5), cloud-to-cloud, business-to-business. The container itself moves along and is taken to an arrival area in the terminal where it begins its journey through the terminal's workflow and eventually to a loading area from which it departs the terminal. The terminal has a terminal Infrastructure HME Sub GHz Network in place, a number of communications nodes deployed in specific areas of interest or throughout the terminal to achieve 100% HME Sub GHz coverage. These nodes communicate with many HME Sub GHz devices within their field of coverage and bridge them all to the terminal's cloud server for disposition of their data. These communications continue for as long as an asset's Asset Monitor remains in the terminal's coverage area.

Terminal operations can monitor a customer's asset, while in their terminal, to the extent possible based on the data shared by the asset owner and generic ping data from the asset's Asset Monitor. Terminal operations might augment this data with data from a Terminal Operations Asset Monitor, temporarily attached to the container along with terminal operation's peripherals while it is in the terminal. Note that the container's Asset Monitor is aware of this second attached Terminal Operations Asset Monitor and records its presence in its data logger. Using the container's Asset Monitor and the temporary Terminal Operations Asset Monitor, terminal operations is able to monitor and track the container as it moves through the terminal and the terminal's workflow. The container's specific location within the terminal is determined by the terminal's communications nodes pinging its specific Asset Monitor, with its unique ID, and then triangulating on the container's Asset Monitor's ping reply. The container can only be in proximity to terminal communications nodes that receive a reply ping from the container's Asset Monitor. Further resolved is determined by triangulation algorithms using the known position of the terminal communications nodes that receive a reply ping from the container's Asset Monitor and the strength of their reply signals. Location by triangular can resolve an asset's location to within a few meters. Accuracy can be significantly improved to sub-meter levels with additional communications nodes, some of which might just be low-cost Terminal Asset Monitor Nodes deployed only to achieve this higher accuracy in specific areas where this is important. HME Sub GHz and low-cost Terminal Asset Monitor Nodes can guarantee that even Asset Monitors installed on containers in the middle of a row and the bottom of the stack can communicate with the terminal's Infrastructure. Using this data, terminal operations can track and monitor a container from its arrival, as it moves through the terminal to its departure.

Upon departing the terminal and its coverage area, the container's Asset Monitor either resumes wide-area-network communications with another compatible network or storing its data in its data logger until another compatible wide-area-network is encountered. Continuous real-time data coupled with opportunistic wide-area-network communications.

This is truly a remarkable capability that no logistics company can afford to be without. All of this technology is available today from Smart Supply Chain Technologies and its ever growing partner Ecosystem.

(1) HME Sub GHz is an Adaptive / Cognitive Communications Protocol designed specifically to achieve highly reliable wireless communications in highly metalized environments such as shipping terminals with thousands of stacked metal containers. HME Sub GHz is based on 433 MHz Radio Frequency, which is proven optimal for communications in these same highly metalized environments.

(2) Near-Field Magnetic Inductance is very similar to the technology that Samsung and others use for secure wireless payment transactions. Fundamentally, two magnetic fields intersect to form a continuity. In this use model, one field emanates from one device and a second field emanates from a second device. When these fields intersect they form a continuity that allows the devices to communicate with one another. Here, one device provides its ID to a second device. The second device, using some methods, verifies that ID is authorized for communications and associates it with its communications network for further communications.

(3) S2CT Communications Hubs are devices whose primary function is to manage secure wireless communications between a local-area-network of devices and the global wide-area-network. S2CT Communications Hubs inherently support HME Sub GHz for local-area-network communications and Global Mobile Data Network (2G,3G,4G, 4G LTE, ...) and Wi-Fi for wide-area-network communications. S2CT Communications Hubs also inherently support GPS geospatial position acquisition.

(4) DNA is a hybrid PPK security concept for devices to authenticate themselves before communicating data between themselves that is based on devices randomly changing their private keys continuously over time and sharing the new key with devices they have previously been associated with.

(5) Secure Private Data Sharing Network is a dynamically managed, ad hoc, network of registered private servers that, using DNA Security, securely share selected data.