Riding The Rails With RFID

by Woody Myers 18. May 2011 01:18

Railroads shoulder a signifcant burden in the infrastucture of the American economy.  Rail-based transportation is responsibile for moving almost half of all intercity freight and of one-third of the country's exports.  According to the Association of American Railroads, freight railroads generate nearly $265 billion in total annual economic activity.

We created a pilot program for a midwestern bulk logistics company that transports liquids and chemicals via trains that allows them to have a snapshot of all their possessions at any time.  The customer required us to come up with a solution that takes an Intermec CN3e paired an Intermec IP30 RFID sled to read the AEI tags which appears on every rail car that travels through the United States.  The AEI tags are passive RFID tags which are required by the government and contains data such as: 

Carrier Initial, Car Number, Side Indicator Code, Length (Feet-inches), Number of Axles, Bearing Type Code, & Platform Identifier Code

Our proposed solution to the client entails scanning the AEI tags and Barcode tags on Railcars as they arrive at their rail yards. The CN3 with the IP30 sled will read, record and GPS time stamp both tags and, at end of day, the accumulated data is uploaded to a centralized data location.  The client now has a daily digital snapshot that gives them visibility across their US Railyards, instead of handwritten tallys on paper.

To see if this industry-leading solution is right for you, contact a product specialist at 1-800-446-1991.



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applications | RACO Interactive | complete solution | data collection | Intermec | rfid

We Can Grow With You

by Woody Myers 22. March 2011 08:25

Sometimes our sales people feel like proud parents when dealing with certain customers.  Often, these blossoming businesses call RACO Industries with basic needs like a single product or a few boxes of labels or printer ribbon.  Down the road, we help with eventual growing pains with product upgrades as well as hardware and software integration.  When they're ready for the big time, we'll be standing by to help their company take off.

Like the time we received an order from a small company in Kentucky that produces roller bearings for the railroad industry.  Our relationship started a few years ago with a simple order for an Intermec PM4i industrial printer and some media supplies.  They were hand writing inventory orders and reports and, based on the size of their operation, that was fine.  For a while.

We've heard from this company again recently as they are now thinking about expanding their use of bar codes into tracking their products as they’re put on trucks going out of their facility.  They use QuickBooks and would like to generate some reports to make their manufacturing/record keeping more streamlined and efficient. They know they can do much more with an automated system.  They just need some direction in figuring out what exactly they can do with bar codes and data collection.   So they came to us.  Again.

Our solution for them this time is a Z-Space Inventory Management multi-user license with QuickBooks Interface powered by a couple of wifi-enabled Intermec CK3 mobile computers that work great inside the four walls.

This solution is working well for them for now.  But as they grow and evolve, their needs will change.  When that happens, they know they can pick up the phone, dial 1-800-446-1991, and talk to a product specialist about how to overcome the next major challenge their business faces.



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barcode | data collection | Intermec | scanners | RACO Interactive

Bluebird Certified For Mobile Workers

by Woody Myers 8. April 2010 02:16

The unique Bluebird BIP-1300 is an all-in-one handheld mobile device which incorporates a barcode scanner, magnetic stripe reader, thermal printer, CMOS camera and IC card reader into a single tool.  The device is perfect for Field Sales & Service, Retail, Logistics, Hospitality & Entertainment or any other mobile point of sale application.  It works great in the field thanks to full radio capabilities (CDMA-1X or EVDO, GSM-EDGE), Wifi (802.11b/g), Linear Imager, 2M pixels CMOS Camera, and Windows Mobile 5.0 or Win CE 5.0 operating system. 

We were excited to hear that this device was recently PTCRB certified which means it’s approved to be on the RACO Wireless network.  Any device that has a cellular modem in them have to have PTCRB certification as one of the requirements to use it on any carrier’s network.  With the help of RACO Wireless, we can get you a Bluebird and activate service for this impressive all-in-one device.  Just contact a RACO product specialist at 1-800-446-1991.

 



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announcements | barcode | scanners | t-mobile | video | wireless

Rugged vs. Non-rugged Mobile Computers for the Mobile Worker

by RACO Industries 29. June 2009 09:38

We get asked all of the time about justifying the cost of a rugged mobile computer over a non-rugged or a consumer-grade device. Depending on the product, there can be a large cost differences between the two product types. There are three points that we like to make when justifying the cost difference:

1)      Ruggedized mobile computing devices like the Motorola MC55 is designed to resist damage from drops, humidity, misuse and other environmental issues. Consumer- graded devices are not designed this way and after-market cases only provide minimal protection. To put it simply, you drop it….you break it.

2)      Battery life is a very important factor for mobile computing. Ruggedized devices are intended to work for a full eight hour shift with options available to extend this time. This does not just include voice communications – it also includes data transmissions, scanning, image capture and all of the other functions needed for a mobile worker. The battery life for consumer graded devices will die out after only a few hours if used in this way.

3)      The costs for IT to support consumer-graded devices are nearly three times as high due to the increased failure these products. We ask a very simple question…do you want your valuable IT personnel to spend their time on IT projects or troubleshooting broken smartphones? 

For detailed information about the total cost of ownership for mobile computing, view Venture Development Corporation’s white paper. For more information about the value of ruggedized mobile computers, contact a RACO product specialist or visit www.racoindustries.com.

 



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Blackberry App World Gives Users Access to Downloadable Applications

by Christian Bucholtz 14. May 2009 07:20

Blackberry has recently released “Blackberry App World” to assist Blackberry users in customizing their handsets with downloadable content. Similar in format to Apple’s App Store, Blackberry App World offers a wide range of applications – from Virtual Office Assistants to games. My top 5 free applications are as follows:

 

Pandora (Pandora Media, Inc.) – This application has been described as 'addicting', 'precise' and 'nothing like it'. What is it..? Pandora is an intuitive internet radio and media player which learns your musical tastes and preferences quickly. It has several 'stations' in which various musical genres are played – old to new. You also have the ability to rate songs, create a new station and other fun and addicting musical features. It does use lots of data, so make sure you are on the unlimited BB data plan..!

 

Poynt (Multiplied Media Corporation) – Ever wanted to find the best Thai restaurant in Boston? Need to know when that movie starts? Poynt will help you through it – even provide GPS turn by turn directions to your destination. It is the fastest way to locate nearby gas stations, restaurants and other destinations with a few clicks of your trackball.

 

Quick Search with Google (Research in Motion) – Another well constructed search engine by Google – this app can be easily accessed by its own application button and features all the power of the desktop version with a quick route to your browser and speedy access to information.

 

Iheartradio (Clear Channel Broadcasting) – iheartradio is a streaming audio media player, which features talk radio, rap, country and any other genre that you are interested in. Great for the devoted sports talk radio traveler, who is out of their city for the big game.

Facebook (Research in Motion partnership) – Post your status, connect with old friends, post pictures and remember everyone’s birthday – all through this social networking tool.


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UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) from T-Mobile

by Don Mech 16. April 2009 04:28

T-Mobile's UMA technology 

Make or receive mobile phone calls without utilizing my minutes? Browse the internet or send wireless e-mails without worrying about the amount the data I will use? All of this while receiving near flawless voice reception? Yes, this is all possible and the technology is readily available and easy to begin using today.

It has been over a year since T-Mobile has released its UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) technology for mobile phones and mobile users have yet to truly take advantage of this amazing technology. Very simply, mobile phones with UMA, like the BlackBerry Curve and 8900, allow the user to send and receive phone calls over a WiFi network. Data transactions including e-mail access, WAP and internet browsing can also occur. This gives the user the unique ability to receive near flawless reception while not utilizing minutes or data from their wireless plan. As long as as you have access to a WiFi network, you can begin taking advantage of this technology with a few, easy setting adjustments. This can take place at home, at work or anyplace where you can access a wireless network regardless of the quality of the cellular signal. The mobile device will even remember previous networks and automatically connect your mobile device as long as the settings have not changed.

Unlike wireless SIP, VoIP or Skype smartphone applications - UMA allows a user to seamlessly transition back to the GSM network when talking out of WiFi range.  This allows a user to start a phone conversation at the workplace or home where a 802.11 b/g  network is available and continue the conversation, uninterrupted, when walking or driving out of range.

Want to learn more? Contact a RACO Wireless sales representative to learn about T-Mobile's UMA technology and how it can improve your mobile needs.



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Ask The Wireless Guru: Converged Networks & WLAN Roaming

by Jason Yoder 6. March 2009 04:05

Wireless Guru,

My company has twelve 802.11b/g wireless access points installed throughout a 185,000 square foot facility.  We recently deployed a large number of WiFi enabled mobile computers running the Windows Mobile 6.0 operating system.  We've encountered issues where devices freeze up regularly and lose their IP address.  Many times, the devices require a restart in order to reconnect to the WLAN.  We've verified that the signal stregnth is adequate throughout the building and all devices are configured correctly, what could be causing this?  Please Help.

Initially here is the problem that I think you are running into with your wireless infrastructure.  Though it may seem like a converged network, the stand alone access points/wireless routers will not communicate together and will therefore never negotiate a handoff or roam from one access point to another.  Each access point is broadcasting the same SSID and quite possiblly the same channel, and know nothing about each other.  Therefore there is a huge disconnect between what the handheld expects and what the multiple networks can deliver.  Bottom line, if a device ever roams correctly it is not by design but by chance and luck.  Whenever a device does have to roam it will have to disconnect from the network and then reconnect again, and that will only work if every access point is setup exactly the same.  And even if they are setup correctly you will still not be able to effectively roam.  In this setup each access point is a completely separate network.       Now you did not mention DHCP, but each of these units could be acting as a DHCP server, however in practice you never want to have more than one DHCP server and one in this scenario, will not work.

The solution to the problem is a converged network, a central controller which then controls all of the access points.  The controller has all of the network configuration and it manages all of the access points.  The controller will also manage all of the roaming and ensure that devices are always connected to the wireless network.    

To avoid the problems you are experiencing, centrally controlled or mesh is the only way to go in a multiple access point environment.  These type of networks are something we do have a lot of experience with, either troubleshooting or design and installation.



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Top 5 Considerations Prior to Installing a Wireless LAN (WLAN)

by Jason Yoder 18. February 2009 09:48

If you intend to design an Enterprise Wireless Network that performs well, detailed planning is critical.  Today I'm going to examine 5 key things to consider before moving forward with an Enterprise WiFi installation.

Site Survey      Do I need to get a site survey?   The answer depends on the expected use and performance of the WLAN. A site survey involves two different things - spectrum analysis and coverage mapping.  The spectrum analysis checks to see if there is any interference with other frequencies.  The coverage mapping simulates the access point placement to ensure proper coverage requirements.   Can a wireless system be installed without a site survey?   Yes, however proper coverage and optimal functionality can never be guaranteed.  Imagine building a model car in a dark room, it is going to take longer and you really don’t know what it looks like until the light is turned on.  A proper site survey allows you to see what you’re working with before, during and after the installation.  Also, it is important that a site survey be conducted during a normal working environment - with machines, forklifts and or people moving around - to ensure the operation will be properly scrutinized. 

Usage   What type of data will be going through the wireless network:  small data collection transactions, phone calls (VOIP/SIP), and or large file transfers?  Will users require the use of the wireless network while moving from one area to another?  Each of these types of questions corresponds to important design requirements.   For instance, if users will be moving around then 100% coverage will be required to and from each of these areas and the system must be capable of roaming users between access points.

Coverage    What are my coverage needs?  Do I need to cover the entire building/facility?  Can this change in the future? This will answer how large the wireless system needs to be initially and does it need to be scalable enough to facilitate the rest of the building or another building entirely in the future. Planning in the beginning will save future costs in time, performance and money.  

Cabling       Each access point will need a CAT5e/6 network cable run from it to the nearest IDF (Intermediate Distribution Frame).  These are commonly referred to as wiring closets.  The cable length is limited to 100 meters or roughly 330 ft.  If an area cannot be reached via cable, it is possible to connect an access point to another access point via wireless, through the concept of meshing.  Several manufacturers’ access points have this capability: Motorola’s AP-5131 and Cisco’s AP 1500 to mention a few.

  

Area Layout and Obstacles   The thing to remember here is that metal is the enemy; it can completely block signals as well as create multipath, which can confuse access points.  Special considerations need to be taken when looking to install wireless infrastructure in an environment that contains a lot of metal – including the building’s construction.  Water and other liquids can present problems as well. Since the human body is composed of mostly water, people can also obstruct wireless signals and limit the utilization of a WLAN.

If you are looking for additional assistance, contact RACO's Advanced Solutions Group (ASG).  RACO's team of network engineers are certified in both Motorola and Cisco wireless networking technologies and have integrated these components into a multitude of corporate networks.



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UPS Goes Green with the sp400 all-in-one from HP

by Chris Francosky 17. November 2008 06:57

UPS announced last week that the company will continue to deploy the HP sp400 all-in-one handheld wireless scanner/printer  to its shipping centers.  The device uses a revolutionary quick drying ink that allows users to scan barcodes and print sorting information directly on packages.  The device not only enables UPS to scan, track and process shipments more efficiently, but it will also save the company $30 million by 2013 and help save the environment by eliminating the need for 1,338 tons of paper annually.  The sp400 also eliminates the need for a large thermal printer, a PC and a monitor - freeing up valuable warehouse space.

So how does the device work?  Simply point the device at a 1D or 2D barcode, send the scan data to a backend computer system via integrated Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and "roll" the device along  plain paper, specialty paper, packing tape, or the package itself to instantly print additional information associated with the scan.  See it in action here:

Interested in the HP sp400?  Contact a RACO Product Specialist for more information about this amazing device.

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RACO is a value added reseller of barcode scanners, barcode printers, RFID, data collection equipment and wireless technology. www.racoindustries.com

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