I interviewed Vijay Parmar who discussed Tracking Multimodal Passive Assets.
It’s nice to speak with you today, Vijay. I’d like to hear your views on tracking multimodal passive assets. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Okay. My name is Vijay Parmar. I am the CEO for a company called Rezolt Corporation. I have been in technology for the last 25 years, the last 10, 12 years in Internet of things and machine-to-machine communications, starting with a company called Gainspan, where we invested in a Wi-Fi solution for embedded devices, what was called wireless sensor networks at the time and now known as Internet of things. At Rezolt we are building system products and solutions for Internet of things and machine-to-machine communications, focusing on wireless connectivity.
That’s interesting. Can you talk first about what is involved with tracking multimodal passive assets?
Let me just start with explaining a couple of key words. We have coined this term called multimodal passive asset management for the specific category of assets and a specific type of tracking. Passive in this terms implies an asset that’s unpowered or doesn’t have ready access to line power. This contrasts with fleet management, where you have units that sit inside a truck cabin with ready access to easy power. They’re always on, they have sufficient power, and the vehicle is being driven. Contrast that with assets like shipping containers, truck trailers, rail cars that don’t have access to easy power. That’s passive. Multimodal is a term that’s used a lot in transportation and logistics, as in assets that go from ships to trains, to trucks and some more of transportation. We expand that to also include other modes, other states. For example, whether the container is locked or unlocked; whether the templates inside the container are too high or too low; sensor shock, lock status, all of those are on my modes, so when you talk about multimodal passive asset management, you're talking about tracking passive assets through several different types of modes that they go through.
What are some of the challenges involved?
The biggest challenge is the passive aspect of these assets. They don’t have line power access, so they must survive on batteries. It’s possible, in some cases, to use rechargeable batteries, but those present their own challenges because you have to have line power to recharge the battery. The good news is that many of these assets still need to be tracked in real-time, so, as in a cabin unit that’s used for tracking a truck needs to send location and other data very frequently, maybe once every 30 seconds or once every minute. In the case of a truck trailer or shipping container, you could send the data once every hour and that’s good enough. If it’s not moving, then you could send it up once a day just as a heartbeat.
The important thing is that these assets need to run on batteries for a very long time. Our belief is that the best solution is primary batteries that allow these units to run for one-year or two-year, five-year time periods. That’s one of the key challenges. The other challenges are, typically, these are installed on assets that experience with a harsh environmental condition; think about containers and truck trailers. Not just environment, but, otherwise, as the containers are placed on ships or taken off ships, they get banged around, so you need units that are protected, you need units that are installed in a way that they can withstand these environmental and other harsh conditions. Those are probably two of the biggest challenges.
There are other challenges like making sure that you have a high probability of carrying GPS signal, a high probability of carrying a cellular signal so you can talk to a network and you can figure out where you are. That’s hard; that makes it a little more complicated. We solved some of those problems with some creative positioning of the unit on these assets, as well as using alternate technologies, like Wi-Fi.
Can you talk about how you overcome these challenges?
The first one is the usage of primary batteries and managing the duty cycle so the end customer gets useful tracking information when he needs it and, at the same time, implementing good power management that allows the unit, the tracker unit, to extract high amounts of battery life in years, because, obviously, if you need to send a guy to replace the battery every month, then that defeats the purpose.
One of the things we’ve done is implement fine-grain power management that really takes into account behavior of the key communication in the places that are involved—GPS, GSM, GPRS, 3G, Wi-Fi—to make sure that we find ways to have these in the places available when they absolutely have to be available, but at the same time, conserve power as much as possible. That’s one of the things that we’ve done, is to implement our management that allows us to achieve battery life that runs for two years. As far as the environmental conditions, there are two things.
One is designing the unit with enclosures that meet IP67, IP68 specifications that allow the unit to withstand high water submerging specs and essentially be able to be used in containers and trailers that are exposed to these elements. Second thing is to find ways to install this unit on containers and trailers and other assets that protect the unit from getting banged around as these assets get installed, get moved around. We’ve studied these assets and found places where there are best ways to install this unit, and that is one of the key problems in tracking these kinds of assets.
Thanks, Vijay, for sharing your views today on tracking multimodal passive assets.
You’re welcome. Thank you for your time as well.
About Vijay Parmar