RFID Platforms Becoming IoT Platforms
RFID has been an important element of the Internet of Things1 for a long time. Some RFID solution providers have been broadening their portfolio and vision to go beyond just RFID to become wider IoT platforms. Examples include Tyco and their TrueVue platform, GlobeRanger’s iMotion platform, and OAT System’s Foundation Suite. A more recent and intriguing example is Mojix’ announced acquisition of TierConnect. Their ViZix™ platform marks a major new software capability for the firm, representing a broader and deeper plunge into the world of IoT for the company. It also has some key architectural attributes, such as its foundation as a complex event processing system (CEP),2 that differentiate it from some of the other IoT platforms.
Mojix Makes Their IoT Platform Move
Mojix has been known for over a decade for their STAR system that provides RTLS3 over a broad local area using passive RFID tags. Now they also have ViZix, an IoT development and execution platform that connects data from a variety of sensor types (beyond RFID) and devices (e.g. GPS, mobile phones, streaming WiFi data, etc.) to a Complex Event Processing engine and provides some impressive development tools that allow those who may not be proficient at coding to configure the system. In addition, they gained TierConnect’s existing customers in Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Healthcare, Sports and Entertainment, and other industries.
ViZix is a cloud-based platform that can connect RFID and RTLS readers, GPS, mobile devices, Bluetooth, various sensor devices, printers, and other devices, as well as enterprise systems such as ERP and supply chain. It takes in streams of real-time data, potentially comprising millions of events, and looks for patterns or specific combinations of events, such as “this specific shipment just went outside this geofence,4” or “this temperature reading went beyond the threshold X, AND this pressure reading went above threshold Y simultaneously” — basically any set of rules the user can configure.
Visualization – Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
The platform provides visualization — the ability to load multi-level 2D maps of geographies and/or structure — with the ability to then overlay specific events and assets on the diagram. An example demo they showed us was a mustering application for an oil rig where, in the case of an emergency, the location of each worker on the rig is displayed, along with a color code for each worker’s icon that changes from red to green once each worker enters the mustering area.
ViZix also has dashboard capabilities so that data can be displayed in graphical and tabular form that may be the best way to sort through larger quantities of data and events.
Scalability is Key in IoT
As a CEP system, the platform has been architected to handle high volumes of real-time data. It uses the latest in big data technology to provide a distributed database capability, aiding scalability for capture, storage, and playback of historical data. Unlike many other CEP systems, it has both centralized and edge processing capabilities — i.e. it can run rules in edge devices near the data sources for a more distributed approach, while at the same time evaluating combined data streams for more complex events, an architectural attribute that is useful for many IoT applications.
Tools for the Non-Programmer
Also unlike some other CEP systems, it was designed to allow the setup and changing of attributes, rules, alerts, and new reports by non-programmers. It provides a graphical environment for creating new sensor types and associated business “objects of interest,” along with their properties, creating rules, setting up filters on data, defining zones, modifying the display (such as how to graphically represent events of interest), and defining reports that can be delivered via email.
The multi-tenancy of the platform extends beyond the typical true-SaaS model of single multi-tenant instance run by the SaaS provider. ViZix allows multiple levels of multi-tenancy.For example, a customer of Mojix who provides services and solutions could set up a white-labeled site that can then be used by multiple ‘tenants’ who are the customers of the service-provider. Each of the customer’s customers has their own separate data, security, and administrative tools — and they in turn can set up multiple tenants under them (for example by geography or facility or business unit).
The Expanding IoT Platform Battle
Several key RFID platform providers have been moving into the IoT space, and thereby competing more directly with the pure-play IoT platforms, such as ThingWorx and others. Mojix is the latest RFID player to make its IoT move and they appear to be a serious contender. Each provider brings their own strengths and weaknesses — now we’ll get to see what the market decides.
1 Occasionally we hear the opinion that RFID tags are not part of the Internet-of-Things because RFID tags do not have an IP address. That is an ironic stance, considering that by most accounts, the term Internet-of-Things was coined by Kevin Ashton in the early days of MIT’s Auto-ID Center where the term was used extensively to help describe the concept of pervasive passive RFID attached to objects. There are compelling technical arguments for why RFID tags are part of IoT as well. — Return to article text above
2 Complex Event Processing systems ingest massive amounts of streaming event data and look for patterns in real-time. — Return to article text above
3 RTLS = Real-Time Locating System — Return to article text above
4 A geofence defines the boundaries of a geographic area. For example you may define a geofence corridor along the route that a truck is expected to take and want to be alerted if the truck deviates from that expected route when it goes outside of that geofence. — Return to article text above
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