A Feat for Connected Warehouses, Sensors Read 12,000 Bluetooth 5 Tags in 60 SecondsApril 22, 2020 by Gary Elinoff
In a quest for resilient supply chains, OnAsset Intelligence and Silicon Labs have achieved the "world’s largest industrial Bluetooth density test."
OnAsset Intelligence, a company focused on supply chain tracking solutions, claims to have achieved the largest-scale Bluetooth density test in an industrial setting.
OnAsset’s BLE-based asset monitoring tag. Image used courtesy of OnAsset Intelligence
The company, which is known for its global location tracking and sensor monitoring devices, nods to Silicon Labs' EFR32 Bluetooth LE SoCs for its success in this feat. This achievement showcases how Bluetooth 5 may prove to be one of the more effective connectivity protocols for dense industrial spaces.
12,000 Asset Tags Read in 60 Seconds
OnAsset strongly maintains that the impressive feat of reading 12,000 asset tags in 60 seconds was made under real-world conditions, not in a controlled laboratory environment.
In a realistic environment, resilient supply chains are built on two foundations: one is supply chain velocity or speeding the product along to its destination. The other is supply chain visibility or knowing the location and physical condition of the product every step of the way.
A Complete Tracking Ecosystem
Here's the basic breakdown of OnAsset's tracking system: Sentinel 100 monitoring tags are attached to an asset. Within a given vicinity, these tags are read by its "parent" Sentry 500 interrogation device. The Sentry then sends the amassed data to OnAsset’s server. From there, the totality of data can be accessed via the company’s own Enterprise API or through the customer’s own applications.
Dozens of "children" Sentinel tags can connect to a "parent" Sentry 500 at a time. Image used courtesy of OnAsset Intelligence
OnAsset Intelligence holds a number of IP patents, three of which stand out in terms of tracking technology. They include:
- an identification device that can read both active and passive tags
- provision for asset tags incorporating their own drivers
- an adaptable antenna system capable of reading RF tags inside containers
The Role of Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth Low-Energy SoC
The heart of Sentinel 100’s asset monitoring tag is Silicon Labs’ EFR32BG1—a Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) device that draws 8.7 mA during active mode and receives and 8.2 mA during active mode transmit (0 dBm). In deep sleep mode, it draws 2.2 µA. The device can wake up in 3 µS from off (EM3) mode.
These factors made it a straightforward choice for OnAsset’s industrial application, where low power consumption was a foremost concern.
The device integrates both sub-GHz and 2.4 GHz radio. When operating at 868 MHz at 2.4 kbps, the receive sensitivity is -121.4 dBm. The device incorporates an AES256/128 hardware crypto accelerator with SHA-1, SHA-2, and ECC, and a rich host of analog and digital peripherals.
Block diagram of EFR32BG1 series 1 SoCs. Image used courtesy of Silicon Labs
The EFR32BG1 features an onboard Arm Cortex-M4 plus a floating-point unit that can be clocked at speeds of up to 40 MHz. It draws 63 µA/MHz and includes up to 256 kB of programmable flash and up to 32 kB of SRAM.
The unit can operate from supply voltages ranging from 1.86 V to 3.8 V. It is available in QFN48 or QFN32 packages—7mm x 7mm or 5mm x 7mm—respectively.
Silicon Labs' Ross Sabolcik (VP and general manager of commercial and industrial IoT products) remarks, "With the best-in-class power efficiency and performance of our EFR32 Bluetooth LE SoCs combined with OnAsset’s determination to tackle the challenges of large-scale industrial-quality asset tracking, we look forward to our continued collaboration to push the envelope of possibilities.”
The End Result: A Connected Warehouse
Bluetooth is an excellent choice for large infrastructure because of its reliability, security, and interoperability. OnAsset’s solution is built on its Sentry 500 gateway, Sentinel 100 tags, and the enterprise API. It can provide start-to-finish supply chain visibility and can provide the input needed to improve supply chain velocity.
Sentry 500s can serve as fixed gateways to define separate warehouse zones.
Sentries can be useful in overall warehouse management, dock door management, and cold chain storage. Image used courtesy of OnAsset Intelligence
Once tagged by a gateway, an asset can report its condition, its location, and how long it has been in one place. OnAsset’s flexible solution can improve back door management, recording arrivals and departures and indisputably nail down chain-of-custody handoffs.
As explained by Adam Crossno, CEO of OnAsset Intelligence, “Most companies are offering products using consumer-grade designs not intended for these environments, and they simply can’t cope with use cases at this scale. Using Bluetooth in these extremely dense environments presents many challenges, and we believe we are the first company to successfully prove Bluetooth LE devices can operate at this scale using real equipment.”
Have you ever worked with technologies for a connected industrial environment? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.