Remote Monitoring of embedded devices

Started by Mike V. November 3, 2004
I have an application where I there may be several automatic
pedestrian doors (the sliding and swinging doors you see in airports,
supermarkets, department stores, etc.).

Each installation shall be able to communicate to some
gateway/logger/concentrator/router, whatever you call it, whether it
be via CAN, RS232, and one day, even wireless, to the gateway. This
gateway then will communicate certain alarms and status announcements
to a remote workstation, whether it be via GSM/cellular, broadband,
website, fax, dialup, e-mail, pager, you name it.

I know such an app is technically feasible, but...
For those who have such remote monitoring applications, what are the
challenges in getting your customer to adopt it? For example, I don't
think a customer would always be willing to give you access to their
intranet/internet to get the messages across.

Also, say I go the GSM/cellular route -- is there a subscription
service meant for such applications?

Is the gateway best to be its own standalone device with a web server
and  capable of its own communications? Or better to keep it simple,
and just let the gateway/logger talk to a PC, which then assumes the
actual gateway functions to the outside world. I'm sure a customer
would not want to buy his/her own PC dedicated solely for my remote
monitoring solution.

The only places I see such solutions are in ESP magazine - I have yet
to see vending machines, washing machines, etc. adopt a remote
monitoring solution. Who knows, maybe because of privacy issues?
Costs?

Anyone with opinions or experiences in remote monitoring of embedded
devices, please chime in.

Thanks,
Mike
"Mike V." <valemike@yahoo.com> wrote in message 
news:8188616d.0411030440.6f248c4b@posting.google.com...
>I have an application where I there may be several automatic > pedestrian doors (the sliding and swinging doors you see in airports, > supermarkets, department stores, etc.). > > Each installation shall be able to communicate to some > gateway/logger/concentrator/router, whatever you call it, whether it > be via CAN, RS232, and one day, even wireless, to the gateway. This > gateway then will communicate certain alarms and status announcements > to a remote workstation, whether it be via GSM/cellular, broadband, > website, fax, dialup, e-mail, pager, you name it. > > I know such an app is technically feasible, but... > For those who have such remote monitoring applications, what are the > challenges in getting your customer to adopt it? For example, I don't > think a customer would always be willing to give you access to their > intranet/internet to get the messages across. > > Also, say I go the GSM/cellular route -- is there a subscription > service meant for such applications? > > Is the gateway best to be its own standalone device with a web server > and capable of its own communications? Or better to keep it simple, > and just let the gateway/logger talk to a PC, which then assumes the > actual gateway functions to the outside world. I'm sure a customer > would not want to buy his/her own PC dedicated solely for my remote > monitoring solution. > > The only places I see such solutions are in ESP magazine - I have yet > to see vending machines, washing machines, etc. adopt a remote > monitoring solution. Who knows, maybe because of privacy issues? > Costs? > > Anyone with opinions or experiences in remote monitoring of embedded > devices, please chime in.
Where I used to work (we made people counters using a passive IR imaging array) I developed a prototype GSM interface for the people counter which allowed a customer to monitor the unit remotely using a PC with a standard modem. I shall be continuing work on this project, for the original application and for other similar applications. Leon
> Where I used to work (we made people counters using a passive IR imaging > array) I developed a prototype GSM interface for the people counter which > allowed a customer to monitor the unit remotely using a PC with a standard > modem. I shall be continuing work on this project, for the original > application and for other similar applications. > > Leon
I see. So there would be a PPP connection between the GSM modem and the standard 56k modem from the remote PC? There are GSM/cellular service providers that provide bulk subscriptions for this sort of application, right?
valemike@yahoo.com (Mike V.) writes:

> Each installation shall be able to communicate to some > gateway/logger/concentrator/router, whatever you call it, whether it > be via CAN, RS232, and one day, even wireless, to the gateway. This > gateway then will communicate certain alarms and status > announcements to a remote workstation, whether it be via > GSM/cellular, broadband, website, fax, dialup, e-mail, pager, you > name it.
> I know such an app is technically feasible, but... For those who > have such remote monitoring applications, what are the challenges in > getting your customer to adopt it? For example, I don't think a > customer would always be willing to give you access to their > intranet/internet to get the messages across.
*Any* feature is a hard sell if the customer wants a product without it. If they don't care, that'd be one thing, but they're likely to care about anything involving any flavor of WAN wiring or any sort of radio that must be installed or used.
> Also, say I go the GSM/cellular route -- is there a subscription > service meant for such applications?
There are "bulk plans" for fleets of nodes, but you may yet have a cost problem. Certainly standard connection-oriented cellular data is relatively expensive. There are specialized wireless offerings for low-rate telemetry applications. Typical offerings are satellite-based, or built atop traditional pager networks. These tend to have broader coverage and lower costs than regular cellular. Some offerings are built using "extra" control channel space in cellular networks. These have at least lower costs than regular cellular data, and different, sometimes deeper, coverage than satellite. Here are links to some representative offerings plucked at random from google: GSM control channel: http://www.tlxt.net/ Satellite/pager: http://www.pagemart.com/telemetry/index.html
> Is the gateway best to be its own standalone device with a web > server and capable of its own communications? Or better to keep it > simple, and just let the gateway/logger talk to a PC, which then > assumes the actual gateway functions to the outside world.
You were making a door? Electronic door locks are traditionally done from a central controller, typically managed from a PC connected to the box via serial, USB, whatever. There would be security implications to making the PC be Internet-connected, but a WAN connection in general would be a) easy and b) useful. Such products do indeed sometimes have WAN features. OTOH, last I knew mere hydraulic doors are not wired to anything except power and perhaps the fire alarm. However installations experienced with fancier door systems might be convinced of some benefit to a centralized controller for some sort of safety, security, or efficiency purpose. I'd say that your gateway would indeed be best done as a standalone box; at least if it's expected to run unattended for long periods of time. It's unclear from your feature description what, if any, customer or technician interface you should provide. You can easily obtain gateway box hardware with flexible network support; the world is full of white-box network appliance hardware vendors.
> I'm sure a customer would not want to buy his/her own PC dedicated > solely for my remote monitoring solution.
Undoubtedly; this also makes you a vendor of Windows PC software, which is an unfortunate thing to have to be if the software is not central to your actual business. It may be feasible for you to supply a preconfigured PC, however PCs are also awkward to sell/support/etc. Usually this is only worthwhile if the PC is more or less "embedded", as for test equipment and the like. You don't seem to have a product where embedded Windows functionality is necessary.
> The only places I see such solutions are in ESP magazine - I have > yet to see vending machines, washing machines, etc. adopt a remote > monitoring solution. Who knows, maybe because of privacy issues? > Costs?
Cost and coverage. Wires are a royal pain, and wireless often fails to work - especially for things like the machines you listed, all of which are frequently located in basements or internal corridors. Basically, there's no magic box that "just works anywhere" such that your widget can phone home at whim. Only you can determine if the cost and hassle is worth it for the features gained. -- Grant Taylor Embedded Linux Consultant http://www.picante.com/
"Mike V." <valemike@yahoo.com> wrote in message 
news:8188616d.0411031445.2acd6306@posting.google.com...
>> Where I used to work (we made people counters using a passive IR imaging >> array) I developed a prototype GSM interface for the people counter which >> allowed a customer to monitor the unit remotely using a PC with a >> standard >> modem. I shall be continuing work on this project, for the original >> application and for other similar applications. >> >> Leon > > I see. So there would be a PPP connection between the GSM modem and > the standard 56k modem from the remote PC?
No, it's a standard 9600 baud ASCII connection, just like the old days when sending 9600 baud over the phone line between computers.
> > There are GSM/cellular service providers that provide bulk > subscriptions for this sort of application, right?
Most ordinary monthly payment mobile (cellular) phone accounts include this type of data, although there are cheaper data only tariffs available. Leon
valemike@yahoo.com (Mike V.) wrote in message
news:<8188616d.0411030440.6f248c4b@posting.google.com>...
> I have an application where I there may be several automatic > pedestrian doors (the sliding and swinging doors you see in airports, > supermarkets, department stores, etc.). > > Each installation shall be able to communicate to some > gateway/logger/concentrator/router, whatever you call it, whether it > be via CAN, RS232, and one day, even wireless, to the gateway. This > gateway then will communicate certain alarms and status announcements > to a remote workstation, whether it be via GSM/cellular, broadband, > website, fax, dialup, e-mail, pager, you name it.
Z-World/Rabbit Semiconductor has a variety of hardware and software solutions that may be of interest to you. GPRS/GSM Application kit: http://zworld.com/products/GPRS_App_Kit/index.shtml WiFi Application kit: http://zworld.com/products/WiFi_App_Kit/ Secure Embedded Web Application Kit: http://zworld.com/products/WiFi_App_Kit/ The last one bundles SSL and our new Rapid Aplication Development tool for creating web page interfaces in embedded web servers. These are live demos: http://www.rabbitsemiconductor.com/products/dc/demos/index.shtml I know we have some unreleased CAN drivers lying around too. Microprocessor core modules: http://www.rabbitsemiconductor.com/products/CoreModules/ SBCs: http://zworld.com/products/SingleBoards/
> I know such an app is technically feasible, but... > For those who have such remote monitoring applications, what are the > challenges in getting your customer to adopt it? For example, I don't
I mayn't tell you anything about details that you wouldn't find in advertising literature, but there are off-the-shelf solutions to your type of problem, and there is zero need to persuade the customer to do anything about it because they are the ones asking for the functionality. I.e., COTS security and access control/fire safety systems will, if configured correctly, do exactly what you're talking about above. They typically offer the following communications methods: 1. direct-dial DTMF over POTS. 2. Wired Ethernet (usually this supplies both an inbound to-panel Web interface, which requires the customer to setup firewall rules, and also an outbound email interface, which works transparently behind most firewalls without special configuration). 3. SMS using vendor-supplied GSM modules. 4. various cellular protocols, country-specific. In the USA, CDMA is an option, but there are other networks that specialize in this kind of ultra-low-bandwidth monitoring, e.g. a system that uses unutilized capacity on the AMPS/D-AMPS (TDMA) control channels. There are even standalone modules that do nothing except monitor a few hardwired zones and communicate their status directly to a central station. I can't point you to specific products because I don't want to talk about my employer nor point you to a competitor's products. All I can advise generically is to search Google with a search string like "contact id dtmf central station sia zone reporting gsm". You'll find what you're looking for.