Remote monitoring tool could extend control

Businesses that depend on the ability to monitor and control remote processes may like the idea of Web-based software that tracks event data and relays it back to a desktop or mobile interface.

FastTrack, launched by Atlanta-based wireless communications vendor Numerex Corp., is designed for companies that need to track off-site events like the temperature in a remote facility, the whereabouts of a fleet of trucks or substance flow.

Besides the hosted application, other components of the technology are the company’s AnyNet Global System for Mobile communications (GSM)-based wireless device, and wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) network.

The company hopes the hosted technology will reduce the hassle of dealing with technical support, software updates, and in-house IT infrastructure for their customers. “From a logistics standpoint, it’s just easier,” said Numerex’s senior director of engineering services, Ed Jansson.

Those companies with less robust in-house IT support or expertise, in particular, he said, will benefit from this flexibility.

“FastTrack enables organizations and industries that have previously seen M2M as too complex or too costly to get up and running quickly and for literally pennies per day,” said Numerex’s senior vice-president of marketing, Chuck Horne.

There is a trend towards vendor-hosted apps, which complement small-to-medium-sized businesses given their frequent lack of resources and limited IT staff, said Ronald Gruia, Toronto-based principal analyst for emerging telecommunications with research firm Frost and Sullivan.

However, he added, larger enterprises may start off with the hosted version but then will soon reach a “tipping point” as utilization increases, therefore making economical sense to manage the software themselves.

Numerex, he said, would be wise to offer both options to enterprise customers who may need this flexibility of choice.

Besides that, Gruia said any business that deals with sensitive data may prefer the option of deploying the software in-house, which would give a perception of better control.

Customers shouldn’t be worried about the security surrounding the vendor-hosted application, said Jansson, because the technology adheres to the security practices outlined in ISO 27000, which cover aspects like access and remote connectivity. “It’s a continual concern we have.”

Jansson added the technology should appeal to a broad range of industries — anywhere from monitoring the temperature of chicken coops to waste water companies monitoring lift stations and irrigation pivots.

“[It’s] anything that keeps a process monitored and under control, such that if something does go wrong, actions can be taken in a timely manner,” he said.

But other foreseeable applications to the enterprise, he said, are integrating the technology with existing ERP or CRM solutions within a company, so data from processes gathered remotely can be fed into these reporting systems.

Offering that capability to enterprise customers would be a good move depending on how “open” the systems are on both ends, said Gruia. There may be some custom development required, like formatting the FastTrack data output to allow for tight integration with other software.

Among other possible enterprise applications, Gruia thinks it would be an “interesting play” to extend FastTrack’s ability to remotely monitor temperature in facilities to a company’s off-site data centre. In the event that a malfunctioning cooling fan raises the temperature in the data centre, the system could trigger a notification or alarm back to the company, he said.

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