IoT Solution Leverages Experience

IoT Solution Leverages Experience

By Bill Lydon, Editor, Automation.com

There is a frenzy around the Internet of Things (IoT) with newcomers constantly entering the field with the newest connected devices. Some are fresh-faced startups, while others have deeper experience in the industry. One such experienced company is Bsquare and I had a discussion with CEO Jerry Chase and Director of Products Dave McCarthy about the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) offering DataV and related services.  The company was founded in 1994 and has a history working in embedded design with a focus on connected applications starting with early remote monitoring, M2M (Machine to Machine), and most recently Internet of Things (IoT) with the company’s DataV offering.

Bsquare is a public company (NASDAQ symbol: BSQR) with over $100 million 2015 revenue, based in Bellevue, Washington.   In addition to North America, the company has a presence in Asia Pacific and Europe.  The scope of Bsquare offerings includes: hardware engineering & design, platform software development, application development, quality assurance, testing, licensing services, training and support.  Bsquare works with leading operating systems including Android, iOS, Linux, Microsoft Windows Embedded, and QNX.  M2M Foundation

Bsquare is a fascinating story in the industry, since it has a history of design experience spanning the evolution from early remote monitoring to IoT applications, over a number of years.  Jerry Chase noted the company’s experience includes working with Coca-Cola since 2006, when the R&D began for the project that became the Coca-Cola Freestyle touch screen soda machine introduced in 2009. The machine features over 125 different Coca-Cola drink products and custom flavors, allowing users to select from mixtures of flavors of Coca-Cola branded products, which are then individually dispensed.  Further, they developed a comprehensive web-based telemetry system, extensions to the user interface, and web-based options for the Costa Express bean-to-cup vending machine that prepares a beverage comparable to one made by a skilled barista. The scope of the project included design and development of an embedded board level device through user interface.

DataV

Bsquare’s recent IoT offering, DataV, is based on the company’s experience working with OEMs, developing solutions where they recognized similarities, and productized their knowledge to deliver solutions more efficiently.  Dave McCarthy described how they extended IoT functionality beyond simply exposing data to back-office information systems for transmission.  “The DataV architecture enables users to achieve higher asset utilization, asset optimization, more efficient supply chain utilization, and greater uptime,” said McCarthy.


DataV Architecture

DataV is described as a complete IoT software stack, comprised of modules that can be used together, or independently, in mixed-vendor implementations. These modules include:

IoT Device Enablement

Bsquare is a proponent of driving more intelligence and processing to the edge of the network, whether as a gateway inside of a facility, or on the device itself.  DataV includes modules for device connectivity, but also provides small-footprint, on-board monitoring and business logic modules to analyze and refine data. This ensures optimal device performance in disconnected or response time-constrained states. DataV has an embedded rules and analytics engine that can run in edge devices.  McCarthy explained DataV implementations can be much more effective leveraging edge computing to provide greater information integrity, while reducing bandwidth requirements.

Real-time Processing

DataV cloud-based monitor and automation modules provide real-time tracking, and rule-based event processing, that automate actions and workflows. In most instances, scaling and accuracy requirements make it insufficient to merely display quantitative information on dashboards. What is required is the application of business logic to device data, and automatic orchestration of prescribed actions.

Data Analytics

DataV provides holistic, multi-domain data analytics and predictive reasoning that can optimize performance and uptime over large sets of devices. In addition to predicting future conditions, DataV analytics can be harnessed to dynamically modify business logic, in order to ensure increased accuracy, and prevent rules from drifting out of alignment with actual conditions.

Data Driven Diagnostics

Data-driven diagnostics reduce Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), while cutting service and warranty costs.  One DataV strategy used is incorporating historic equipment repair information to make correlations that rank the highest probability root causes.  Knowing the highest probability root cause for problems provides an informed understanding of repair parts required and estimated labor.

Applications

On March 28, 2016, Bsquare announced the successful conclusion of proofs-of-concept (PoCs) implementations using DataV. A manufacturer of equipment for electric utilities can use DataV to provision and manage an array of software applications, embedded in large populations of meters, spread over dozens of utilities. As more and more intelligence is pushed into these devices, often over narrowband network connections, IoT device management becomes an exceedingly critical aspect of an IoT system.

A large commercial truck manufacturer was using dashboards to monitor semi-trailer truck tractor units at a central location, with experts watching for error conditions, and quickly learned this was an overwhelming task.  Reacting to raw dashboard data resulted in a number of trucks being called in for service with no problems was found.  A number of other units on the road had problems that were not apparent from simple monitoring.   Working with Bsquare, the user implemented a system which correlates multiple data points and historic repair information, and in doing so, yields a significantly more accurate assessment of the condition and maintenance requirements of trucks.  The application of DataV provides them a means to manage more units, as well as to improve asset uptime, reduce warranty exposure, drive down service costs, and improve future product design.   By extracting data from large fleets of trucks, this user will be able to accurately predict failures before they occur, and the repairs required to prevent them. Service technicians can be given precise, data-driven remediation steps and this information can be tied into warranty claims systems, ensuring prompt and accurate payments.

A manufacturer of candy and operator of vending machines is able to use DataV to better manage inventory, ensure jurisdictional tax compliance, increase asset uptime, and reduce service costs. In this case, Bsquare partnered with Intel, Microsoft, and AAEON to deliver an "intelligent vending" solution for a global confectionary company.

IoT Dilemma

Even with the promise of great benefit to increase efficiency, save money, and generate additional revenue, Dave McCarthy believes the market is not embracing IoT applications at a faster rate, because piecewise solutions are too difficult for potential users to understand and deploy.  “Many organizations are trying to understand the various hardware and software available, from a range of suppliers, to determine if they can create their own IoT solutions,” said McCarthy.  “The Bsquare approach is to have the technologies and services to deliver a complete IoT solution, so organizations can avoid that extra researching effort.  DataV is modularly enabling an entire IoT solution of modules that can be used with other systems and cloud offerings.”  McCarthy explained that very few companies have IoT-ready products, and Bsquare has the knowledge, know-how, and experience to provide customization, applications, and other services required to acquire and leverage information acquired from machines and field devices. 

McCarthy also suggests that anyone considering IoT implementations should approach it in the way Bsquare has found successful: work to understand the business motivation and operating environment before defining any solutions. 

IoT System Approach

Jerry Chase describes DataV as a complete Internet of Things (IoT) software stack with a singular focus: driving better business outcomes. DataV accomplishes this by efficiently extracting data from vital business assets. This data is used to drive a range of actions in an automated fashion; provide the basis for advanced analytics predict events and prescribe remedial action; and, in the long term, truly optimize device performance, business processes, and business outcomes.

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