Asset management and temperature logging

Hi all, need a little guidance on designing a solution.

Problem: A deep freezer manufacturing and ice cream distribution company requires a solution to manage it's freezers spread across whole country (on retailer shops). 3 requirements are there:

  1. Get real-time location of all their deep freezers on a cloud server.
  2. Replace the barcodes placed on DFs with some other thing so that the sales team (order takers for retail shops) do not have to use barcode scanners to identify the deep freezer. Instead they want a smartphone based solution.
  3. Log the temperature of deep freezers and get on cloud server.

Each deep freezer's ID, location and temperature log should be available real-time on a cloud server. Now the question is, what sort of sensors/controllers should be used? how to transmit data from a DF over broadband? How to establish communication between the DF and sales person's smartphone?

Any equipment can be installed within the DF during it's manufacture.

Thanking all in anticipation and looking forward to some nice discussions on the possible approaches.

What exactly do you mean by "deep freezers"? Are these trucks travelling around, or stationary machinery?

Let's split this task into pieces. One piece is the data base on the cloud server. Dunno about current internet access technology - GSM? Do we have to take deat zones into account? The ID is configured for every item - IP address? Position can be obtained from a GPS module. Temperature logging should not be a special problem. I'd add high-temperature alerts to the regular log.

Protocols have to be specified, for updating the data base from the deep freezers, and for retrieving information on a smartphone.

Great project.

How will these devices be powered? From the DF’s power supply? And if so are there any real limits to the power that can be used?

I ask because the availability of power makes the design a lot easier.

DrDiettrich: What exactly do you mean by "deep freezers"? Are these trucks travelling around, or stationary machinery?

Let's split this task into pieces. One piece is the data base on the cloud server. Dunno about current internet access technology - GSM? Do we have to take deat zones into account? The ID is configured for every item - IP address? Position can be obtained from a GPS module. Temperature logging should not be a special problem. I'd add high-temperature alerts to the regular log.

Protocols have to be specified, for updating the data base from the deep freezers, and for retrieving information on a smartphone.

stationary machinery. domestic deep freezers (big bros of refrigerators) placed on retail shops.

yes GSM can be an option (SMS or even 3G/4G). but do we have any other option too? asking because inclusion of a third party, the telecom operator, and the handling/registration/maintenance of the SIMs seem to induce some complexity. so if we can have any other option then feasibility of both can be compared.

yes, static IPs or even MAC addresses can be made the IDs.

Graynomad: Great project.

How will these devices be powered? From the DF's power supply? And if so are there any real limits to the power that can be used?

I ask because the availability of power makes the design a lot easier.

Well, they can be powered with batteries too but off course from client's point of view it will be better if we get them powered by the regular power supply of the DF itself. Though it will induce another task of deploying a DC inverter in between.

One thing left: "Replace the barcodes placed on DFs with some other thing so that the sales team (order takers for retail shops) do not have to use barcode scanners to identify the deep freezer. Instead they want a smartphone based solution." how this can be done? how will the smartphone recognize the DF? by connecting to its MAC or IP broadcasted via SIM's GSM?

Doesn't a smartphone have bluetooth connectivity? Then a BT module could be used to transmit the ID to a near by smartphone, eventually more for diagnostics... The BT range should be small enough, so that only the closest device of a row will connect. A blinking LED could identify the connected device. I wonder why this is considered more favourable than a barcode label, which already shows the ID also in human readable form.

Eventually a WhoAreYou message/SMS can be sent from the smartphone to all deep freezers, upon which they try to connect to a near by BT device.

Can a smartphone read matrix barcodes, instead of linear barcodes?

DrDiettrich: Doesn't a smartphone have bluetooth connectivity? Then a BT module could be used to transmit the ID to a near by smartphone, eventually more for diagnostics... The BT range should be small enough, so that only the closest device of a row will connect. A blinking LED could identify the connected device. I wonder why this is considered more favourable than a barcode label, which already shows the ID also in human readable form.

Eventually a WhoAreYou message/SMS can be sent from the smartphone to all deep freezers, upon which they try to connect to a near by BT device.

Can a smartphone read matrix barcodes, instead of linear barcodes?

Since barcodes are placed externally, they get worn out quite frequently. So the cost and hassle of replacing them bothers the manufacturer. Secondly, their handheld devices are not very capable as compared to a smartphone application which can have unlimited features as and when required.

BT can be an option. However, pairing induces a bit complexity and BT consumes a lot of power too. (keeping in mind that BT will always be own...24/7, 365 days a year). I was thinking more about NFC tags? Placing anti-metal NFC tags within the DF body and placing a mark on the DF body to put the smartphone here in order to detect the NFC tag...You see any trouble in that?

BT consumes a lot of power too

What about BT low energy (BLE)?

I assume (but don't know) that NFC won't work through steel, but if there are non-ferrous parts of the DF body maybe.

Graynomad: What about BT low energy (BLE)?

I assume (but don't know) that NFC won't work through steel, but if there are non-ferrous parts of the DF body maybe.

Hmm ok I will also look in BLE thing. Regarding NFC, yes the tag doesn't work through steel. However, a non ferrous part (most probably the inner side of the door) can be used.

Can I suggest that this a problem requiring a professional solution, and unless you are sure of your capabilities it might be better to employ a local consultancy.

regards

Allan.

No wireless transmission will work through steel.

allanhurst: Can I suggest that this a problem requiring a professional solution, and unless you are sure of your capabilities it might be better to employ a local consultancy.

regards

Allan.

Dear Allan, Off course it requires a professional solution and that is why I am consulting with you guys here. As the other half of the project is the software part for which our software developers will be readily working. Once the approach is sorted out, then testing and hardware integration will be planned. As far as other consultancy services are concerned, there are some solutions already in market but they are also deploying the same approach. A GSM gateway along with required sensors.

DrDiettrich: No wireless transmission will work through steel.

If you talking about NFC, then I have already mentioned that a non ferrous portion can be used. Apart from that, your point takes me to the question that what about GSM gateway? Will it work if enclosed by a steel body?

Of course not - GSM is wireless at 900 and 1800MHz.

regards Allan.

arslanzaidi: If you talking about NFC, then I have already mentioned that a non ferrous portion can be used. Apart from that, your point takes me to the question that what about GSM gateway? Will it work if enclosed by a steel body?

Welcome to the world of "test it before you make a million of them".

And , just for fun, I can't think of any practical signalling system which would work through a panel of 18-gauge steel.... not even ultrasound - the reflections would be horrific unless the data rates were very slow..

forget it.

regards

Allan.

Actually ... a thought.

There must be holes in the casing where the pumped heat is dispersed - a condenser, or a louvred panel through which air is circulated...

you might be able to hide a wireless device in these with reasonable efficiency.. .. not very good, but maybe acceptable.

Be nosy - find out how your competitors do it. If I were your consultant I'd certainly start there!

I'd think about using the mains lead as an antenna - that could work.

regards

Allan.

ps I spent some years as a consultant designing the RF parts of GSM mobile phones. My consultancy rates are reasonable!

Thread packets via the Earth cable?

Possibly. You'd need an rf trap to isolate the line from the fridge , capacitor feed to the lead as an unknown impedance transmission line, a matching network depending on the measured impedance of the line ( vector network analyser required for this), then a further trap up the lead to terminate..

and of course, for two bands, which makes it more complex.

I'd use HFSS for simulations.

regards Allan.

the DF must be powered by a plug. no reason that you cannot drive your bits with mains power. no reason you should not have a backup battery and alert when powe fails. put on a temperature display in simple LED behind a plastic bezel and your antenna in/behind that. most retails stores should have wifi of some sort, not sure if it will be password protected, depends on the stores. my shopRite has free wifi

My consultancy rates are reasonable!

As are mine :)

Dear All,

Thank you for the wonderful discussion. Sorry for a late reply, as I was doing R&D on my behalf.

As far as other competitors are concerned, I have not found anyone doing the same at least in Pakistan.

WiFi is not an ideal option as many of retail shops will not have that facility. Plus the more independent the sol. in itself, the better it is.

Yes, I already had that in mind that a hole can be used. After all, the compressor is placed in an exposed place so that it gets the air. If that place still doesn't give enough signals to our GSM gateway then using mains as antenna can be thought upon (however that will off course raise the cost of solution).

Regarding your consultancy offers! :-) thats interesting to know! and I am definitely going to connect with you guys if things get further mature from my client's end. Please leave me an email on arslan.zaidi@idealideaz.com so that I can contact you whenever the time comes.

The thing is, as is the problem with every client in the universe, he needs to see a demo first to be convinced. So, what I was thinking is to build a demo on Arduino using GSM shield, GPS shield and a temp. sensor. Plus, use an NFC tag (off course installed behind a plastic wall, not steel wall).

Q.1) Am I right in my supposition that this demo can be made using the above technique? Q.2) If after demo, we get to design an independent device and get it manufactured from China...what will be the estimated cost of the product? Any ideas? Q.3) What will be the estimated design cost? (Allan and Graynomad you can email me your charges if you feel like) Q.4) Gray, do you really live permanently in a truck?