Asset Tracking

Intelligent loading, smart machine maintenance - so you always know where and in what condition your good is

Decayed fruit, damaged shipping goods, stolen goods: In times of increasing quantities of goods, logistics faces great challenges. Because which freight forwarder wants to explain to his customer that he does not know what happened to the load. In industry, too, the question of how one's own assets are doing and where they currently are plays a major role. Thanks to the right technology and the right technology partners, modern asset tracking is already in use today.

 

The technical term asset tracking refers to a method in which the position and, more recently, the current condition of a commodity or object - the so-called asset - is continuously tracked. Until now, mostly passive RFID tags have been used. RFID stands for "Radio Frequency Identification" and operates in various radio frequency bands. The disadvantage of passive solutions is the very limited range of usually only a few meters. In addition, RFID cannot be used to track the condition or treatment of a good.

 

Miniaturisation brings more possibilities

Thanks to increasingly highly integrated microelectronics in the smallest space, tags can now be produced that, despite their small size, offer sufficient computing power to enable more than just position determination. Solutions that are based on established standards are important, explains Klaus Rupprecht, commercial director of SYS TEC electronic GmbH:

 

No one needs unusual solutions that require complicated special electronics to be integrated into their own infrastructure. This is why, as specialists for hardware, electronics and software development, we rely among other things on the Bluetooth wireless standard. The low-energy version "Bluetooth LE"

is particularly suitable for this purpose.

 

Dipl.-Ing Klaus Rupprecht, Commercial Director, SYS TEC electronic GmbH

Bluetooth LE allows the development of extremely energy-efficient circuit boards that manage with a minimum energy source. The short-range radio standard is also not limited to point-to-point connections, but can be integrated into mesh networks. For example, several correspondingly equipped boards can span a network and establish a connection across several network nodes to an upload. The data can thus find their way to a server or to the cloud as easily as possible.

 

When developing solutions for asset tracking, it was clear to us right from the start that a sustainable and widely applicable solution can only be created if we bring partners on board. We need an ecosystem here based on portfolios of various sensor manufacturers.

For this reason we have entered into a partnership with the Finnish manufacturer Wirepas. Wirepas has developed a software stack that is programmed into the Bluetooth modules.

Now we have the possibility to use a whole variety of sensors for our customer requirements and customer projects also with partner companies.

The miniaturized microelectronics with Bluetooth-LE radio module and matching software stack as well as its own small energy source produce tiny circuit boards - the so-called beacons and tags. Beacons are primarily devices that transmit actively themselves. tags act passively, with the boundary between the two becoming increasingly blurred.

 

We integrate various sensors into these beacons or tags, such as sensors for temperature, humidity and air pressure and accelerometers - these are classically the simplest sensors.

 

Dipl.-Ing. Ronald Sieber, Technischer Direktor, SYS TEC electronic GmbH

Asset tracking also in industry

We also offer sensors that can be docked to industrial interfaces. Standard current interfaces with 0 to 20 milliamperes and voltage interfaces in the range -10 to +10 volts or 0 to 10 volts can be operated. We want to build bridges to industrial plants.

 

In addition, SYS TEC electronic uses more specialized sensors - including PIR sensors, for example, such as those used in alarm system technology. These sensors are able to receive signals emitted via infrared radiation and can be used, for example, to detect, count and track people on areas. GPS receivers are also used, with which the beacons can determine their own position, as well as light and brightness sensors. Light detection enables us to create exciting scenarios for logistics.

An example: We have a truck or a container carrying sensitive fruit. Of course, we measure temperature, humidity and the movement via the accelerometers. The light sensor also enables us to detect if and when the doors have been opened without authorisation. The corresponding beacon is not in the container or truck, but in the transport box itself.

Smarte Daten lokal und in der Cloud

The smart gateway sysWORXX CTR-700 plays a central role both in mobile asset tracking and in stationary asset management. The CTR-700 is a freely programmable controller with its own computing core and cloud connection, which enables pre-processing of data and the conversion of a wide variety of protocols and bus types in a minimum of space.

 

With the sysWORXX CTR-700 and a software for goods localization from the partner Wirepas, it is possible to calculate the localization of assets locally on site. You no longer always need a hundred percent stable connection to an external cloud server to calculate the location. In addition, the sysWORXX CTR-700 is designed for the MQTT protocol, which allows even small amounts of data to be transmitted very efficiently and energy-saving with little overhead. MQTT is also an established standard for data transmission to cloud servers.

 

Sticking point energy

The energy supply of the beacons is one of the challenges in asset tracking, especially if the beacons are to be used over a long period of time. If such a beacon is to send data every day for several years, the battery is the determining link in the chain. In the end, it also determines the entire size. Standard batteries such as the CR2032, a lithium battery with a long service life, are used. Future developments are to supply themselves with energy via energy harvesting or photovoltaics. There are already high-performance solar films available today that are suitable for use in asset tracking with sufficient solar radiation. Systems that harvest their energy from their "carrier" are being tested and developed. With regard to the example of department store logistics, these could be industrial trucks. It means things that move. And as soon as something moves, we have acceleration times. That means, it is started, it is braked and exactly in these changes of state one can of course also absorb energy or use these accelerations and convert them into electrical energy.

 

The future of Asset Tracking

The future scenarios being worked on at SYS TEC electronic go even further. Klaus Rupprecht describes miniature systems based on smart intelligent sensors - for example in the area of predictive maintenance. It is conceivable to use noise analysis systems that can be attached to the bearing shells of machine tools, for example.

In addition to the usual parameters such as temperature, pressure and humidity, the sensors also monitor the status of the machine. Tiny structure-borne sound microphones are integrated into the beacons for this purpose. "When such a bearing shell in a machine reaches the end of its life, the beacons will hear that," explains Klaus Rupprecht. Because when the balls in a ball bearing or the rollers in a roller bearing run, the surfaces wear out. The further the wear progresses, the more the background noise changes. This means that the sensor records different noise signatures, depending on the bearing condition.

Frequency analysis can detect the connected systems when the end of life is approaching and inform the maintenance department, which can then prepare for the exchange with time and spare parts.

In the near future there are plans to integrate lighting into the tracking systems. Data transmissions coded in light to beacons and machines would be conceivable.

Your Salesteam from SYS TEC electronic

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