Meshtech’s Cloud Tracker Described as “Game Changer” for Perishable Goods ManufacturingDecember 30, 2019 by Gary Elinoff
The new environmental tracker employs Nordic Semiconductor's cellular IoT and Bluetooth technologies and features a five-year battery life.
Meshtech has designed a new cloud tracker that is purposed to prevent the losses incurred in getting perishable goods to the market.
Meshtech Cloud Tracker. Image from Meshtech
The device continuously monitors the condition and the location of perishable goods and communicates those conditions using Bluetooth or cellular radio. Meshtech affirms that the cloud tracker can safely and automatically update its firmware and can auto-provision new trackers.
Meshtech's interim CEO, Preben Skretteberg, explains that this new cloud track is “a game-changer for perishable goods manufacturers.”
He continues, “It gives [manufacturers] environmental, data-driven insights into how their goods are loaded, stored, and shipped that could eliminate the majority of their compensation cost losses, which then become an unnecessary overhead."
Cloud Tracker Capabilities
The new unit is built to monitor temperature and occurrences of dropping or tilting. It is also said to track individual sub-packages within the consignment, note their order of loading, and record the location of the entire package anywhere in the world.
The Meshtech Cloud Tracker is designed to track both commercial and industrial perishable goods. Meshtech states that the device is available in a durable 113mm x 110mm x 19mm package that weighs 194 grams. It features a hall-effect magnetic sensor, a temperature sensor, and a 3-axis accelerometer.
Meshtech and Nordic Semiconductor worked closely in the creation of the cloud tracker. Image (modified) used courtesy of Meshtech
The device includes all the necessary antennas for both LTE and BLE communication and, critically, an embedded SIM (eSIM) card that can operate globally.
Five-Year Battery Life
While the device is continually collecting environmental data, it only “uplinks” information once every half hour.
This is how the reusable cloud tracker is able to stretch the life of its six internal 3.6V AA batteries five years or more. And, according to the company, that battery life is “road mapped” to extend to ten years on the same tracker hardware.
The Bluetooth and Cellular Radio Components
Like PRO DESIGN's FPGA-based prototyping modules—which are built on the shoulders of technological giants like Xilinx and Intel—Meshtech also avails itself on the cellular and Bluetooth radio technologies of a larger company: Nordic Semiconductor.
Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52811 and nRF9160, combined with other components in the tracker, enable Meshtech's device to locate the package anywhere in the world and position items within the package.
Nordic’s SoC, nRF52811
Nordic Semiconductor's nRF52811 SoC allows the Meshtech Cloud Tracker to communicate with other Bluetooth devices, specialist sensors, and Thread and Zigbee devices (if required).
The SoC is built around a 64MHz Arm Cortex-M4 CPU and supports PDM, PWM, UART, SPI and TWI interfaces. Nordic Semiconductor also claims that the chip offers an internal 12-bit ADC. An adaptive power management system minimizes the device's energy consumption as low as 0.3µA when off.
Pinpointing location with the nRF52811 SoC. Image from Nordic Semiconductor
The nRF52811 supports Bluetooth 5.1 direction-finding, which ascertains position by the direction, angle, and strength of a signal.
Nordic’s SiP, nRF9160
Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 is a system-in-package (SiP) designed to track assets using cellular IoT. It includes an Arm Cortex-M33 CPU, on-board flash and RAM, an LTE-M/NB-IoT modem, and an RF front end. Internal power management capabilities allow the unit to draw as little as 3uA.
Application circuit for nRF9169. Image from Nordic Semiconductor
The nRF9160 combines location data from the cellular network with GPS satellite data gleaned from its on-board GPS capability to track locations anywhere in the world.
Changing Perishable Goods Tracking
Meshtech has expressed confidence that the cloud tracking device, which employs Nordic Semiconductor's cellular IoT and Bluetooth technologies, may change the face of perishable goods tracking.
Skretteberg asserts that the feats achieved by Meshtech's cloud tracker were not "commercially viable before the advent of cellular IoT, which has made environmental asset tracking both technologically feasible and scalable in a way that wasn’t possible before now.”