Increase Operational Visibility by Integrating Sensor Data with Enterprise AppplicationsDecember 1, 2005 By: Peggy Chen Sensors
Companies of all sizes are deploying sensor technologies to track assets and automatically detect changes in temperature, motion, location, and other physical conditions. But it is only when sensor data are fully integrated with enterprise applications—such as inventory management, warehousing, and manufacturing systems—that the information allows organizations to gain a more complete understanding of what is happening in their physical environment. Sensor-based services now allow organizations to capture, manage, analyze, and respond to data collected from a wide range of sources.
Integration in Action
An example of this integration can be found at Dryden Flight Research Center, NASA's primary facility for conducting atmospheric flight research. Dryden uses a variety of precision sensors to obtain accurate flight test data. With help from Oracle, the center's ChemSecure project has integrated radio frequency identification (RFID) and sensor-based technology with its existing back-end applications to better manage hazardous materials, enhance security, and reduce supply chain costs.
Located at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California's high desert, Dryden manages many hazardous chemicals used in the maintenance of aircraft and other vehicles. These chemicals are stored in specially designed on-site sheds. For reasons of safety and efficiency, Dryden has equipped the chemical containers with RFID tags, installed temperature sensors in the sheds, and issued RFID-enabled ID badges to every employee authorized to handle chemicals. These devices are connected to the organization's back-end Hazardous Materials Management System (HMMS).
The HMMS houses complete records of all chemicals on the premises, including purchase dates, physical properties, and specified storage temperatures. The HMMS also contains information about which chemicals each employee is authorized to access, based on individual certifications.
When employees enter a shed to pick up a particular chemical, their ID badges are scanned. The HMMS makes the necessary associations and correlations to determine if the employee is taking out the appropriate chemical. If the wrong chemical is picked up, a yellow warning light comes on, and the employee is given a grace period to replace it. If the employee does not react properly, an alert is sent to management.
Because Dryden is located in the desert, heat is an issue for temperature-sensitive chemicals. If the temperature in a shed exceeds a set threshold, the sensor, working with the HMMS, triggers an alert, calling in the necessary personnel to correct the situation.
By linking sensors with back-end applications, the NASA field center can better capture real-time information about its assets. Dryden's ChemSecure project uses Oracle Database and Oracle Fusion Middleware to capture data from multiple sensors and integrate the RFID/sensor events with applications and systems.
Dryden has taken the project a step further by creating new operational processes. For example, ChemSecure includes a mobile component that allows a person at the scene of a chemical spill to use a handheld reader to scan details about the spill and send alerts to first responders (see Figure 1). The first responders, also equipped with handhelds, receive immediate instructions on how to resolve the issue, including information such as the substances they can safely use to clean up the spill.
Figure 1. Custom temperature sensors and stationary and handheld RFID devices work together to provide critical event and application information on the handling, storage, and access authorization of hazardous materials at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. Real-time event alerts are enabled via Oracle UI's and wireless Web and short message service alerts to operations and security groups.
Integrating Sensor Data
When it comes to integrating sensor data with enterprise systems, most organizations are not nearly so advanced as Dryden. For the most part, they have to learn to walk before they can run. This process typically occurs in three phases.
In the first phase, the organization is simply trying to capture data from a variety of sensors. But the information cannot be pieced together into one coherent picture because sensor data come in a variety of formats. Moreover, the data are often stored in information silos, making it difficult to interpret events. Therefore, the first priority is to integrate the sensor data.
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