Omnitrol Networks

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Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

In my research on the RFID Middleware market, I came across a number of vendors that were new to me. In a series of articles, I will provide a short overview of these products. The first of these is on Omnitrol Networks.

Omnitrol Networks was founded in 2004 and is headquartered in Mountain View, California, USA. The company has a sales office in the UK. It partners with the following RFID hardware vendors: Alien, AWID, Intermec, Motorola, Ekahau, Impinj, Printronix, Psion and Zebra.

Omnitrol has developed a close relationship with Boeing, being involved in 3 key initiatives of the latter; namely IGO Initiative, US Air Force SCOUT Initiative and T-NESCO Initiative.

The vision of the company is that services dealing with the edge of the network (RFID, sensors, actuators) have to run at the edge of the network (not within the back-end applications) in order to provide real-time sense and response and scale to support hundreds of devices and thousands of events in a single deployment.

The OMNITROL appliance encompasses a scalable (both vertically and horizontally) and modular multi-processor server architecture and an integrated WiFi LAN controller and switch, including sensor and multi-protocol device integration. It integrates Ethernet and WiFi network infrastructures. In addition, it pulls together Real-Time Location Services (RTLS), WiFi access points, passive Gen-2 (UHF and HF) and active RFID readers with an open workflow automation and business process service creation engine (EASE – Edge Application and Services Engine). Omnitrol have just added Ultra Wide Band with Time Domain support.

EASE can analyse thousands of EPC/RFID tags per second while simultaneously reconciling the information on the federated OMNITROL peer data network. The EASE workflows can process the events to completion with appropriate back-end ERP context in the business process executed right on the work-floor. EASE has 3 key facilities:

  • Device adaption and management layer: all the devices are managed from a single unified management portal. This layer abstracts all the devices and is not limited to RFID. Any sensor that can send an event gets mapped through this layer and sent to the engine.
  • Services execution environment: this uses their own workflow service creation language (SDL) to provide a high level event-based language to reduce the time it takes to create these services without having to worry about the reader technology.
  • Integration with back-end layer: this layer allows the OMNITROL appliance to connect with enterprise applications through ESB, Websphere and other EAI products/technologies.
  • The OMNITROL Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) has a set of adapters to support XML/SOAP, EDI and ODBC interfaces.
OMNITROL architecture

Omnitrol software architecture (Source: Omnitrol Networks)

There are a few software products that are available to Ominrol customers:

  • Service Creation Environment. This is a toolkit that includes an Integrated Development Environment to develop SDL services. The Environment also includes an emulator to simulate the deployment without the need for real readers or sensors. A user can position their readers and sensors and simulate tags, people and assets interacting with the environment and executing the logic developed in SDL.
  • Asset Tracking Appliance. This is a complete solution based on the OMNITROL appliance that is used to track assets that are using either passive or active RFID. The solution is completely self-contained in the OMNITROL appliance.
  • Work-in-Process Appliance (WIP). A solution used to track orders, assets and employees following a specific process within the four walls of a manufacturing or logistic operation. The solution includes hardware (OMNITROL, reader, handheld device, printer), and software.
  • Wide-Area WIP. Built on top of the WIP appliance, it integrates with EPCIS to provide complete visibility across the supply chain.
  • EPC Appliance. This product is for customers who are looking to connect their readers to their own application using EPC standards (ALE, LLRP and EPCIS).

In the opinion of Bloor Research the following represent the key facts of which prospective users should be aware:

  • The OMNITROL appliance isolates all the devices (RFID readers, PLC, sensors etc) from the rest of the corporate network, protecting it from broadcast storms coming from the devices, and creating virtual networks for added security.
  • OMNITROL is completely web and SNMP managed, with SNMP based device management for all sensors and RFID readers,
  • The OMNITROL appliance was designed as a multi-processor server appliance. The architecture of the OMNITROL supports scalability though upgradeable processor modules or stacking peer OMNITROL systems.
  • EASE has its own workflow Service Description Language (SDL).
  • Omnitrol’s additional product built upon their platform makes this a tool worth investigating further.