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Accenture control display
Sensor telemetry is getting a tryout at consulting firm Accenture's R&D arm, which is working on ways to "embed intelligence in common objects"--combining sensor and RFID technologies to gather information.
Pictured here is the control display of a freight-tracking system that can be used to manage the movement of railway cars, their whereabouts and the status of their cargo.
"Some companies take ownership of the cargo. If you don't deliver expensive cars on time, you lose money," said Robert Hasson, business development leader for communications at Accenture, "but if it's fish getting old, you have a bigger problem."
RFID and model train
Not just a toy for children, these trains have RFID tags in each carriage that send signals to "reading points." A mesh network based on the ZigBee wireless specification handles communications between the wagons so that the cargo can be monitored. Sensors that monitor the status of the cargo can be embedded on the Zigbee board.
"If you are transporting sensitive materials, you can monitor the temperature," Hasson said. "Some plastics tend to fuse at a certain temperature and cannot be melted again. That can be catastrophic," he added.
Accenture's Robert Hasson"A light sensor can tell you if a door's been opened," which is useful in deterring theft or when handling light-sensitive materials, Hasson said. "You can also have weight sensors to see if the carriage has been unloaded. Once it has, you can bill people earlier, and see an immediate return on cash."
For a chemical company client, Accenture used satellite communications with a network of cars, solar-powered communications devices and temperature probes.