iMotion Edgeware might be new to Australia but it is far from new and any ground it broke was over a decade ago, because that’s how long iMotion and Edgeware have been around. Both are the products of GlobeRanger a small US company acquired by Fujitsu in 2014.
GlobeRanger claims to have coined the term ‘Edgeware’ in 2002 as a generic term for products like iMotion. Its original incarnation was RFID middleware. It was described in this 2003 post as “a platform that manages wireless devices (primarily handhelds) and passes on information from those devices to enterprise back-end systems. [It] combines RFID with wireless mobility, making it easier to integrate fixed and handheld RFID readers and mobile bar code scanners into a single application.”
iMotion’s origins in RFID
Clearly iMotion has come a long way since then and with an eye to the burgeoning IoT industry, GlobeRanger has evolved and repositioned the product as, according to its website, “a platform that enables the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet. … [That] provides the connective tissue between the physical world of sensors, devices, RFID and mobile platforms to your business process applications and backend systems. … [and] centrally manages your device infrastructure and automatically filters data to provide clean, accurate information for upstream processing and integration.”
However the focus seems to be primarily on RFID. When Fujitsu acquired GlobeRanger it heralded the deal as “a key part of Fujitsu’s Global Defence Initiative which aims to harness the capabilities, technology and products from across Fujitsu’s global ICT business.” Fujitsu said: “GlobeRanger has an established footprint in the US, notably with the Department of Defense, where it is highly regarded and used by many DoD departments for their software layer for passive RFID solution technology. Considered a leader in the emergent Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, GlobeRanger’s solution removes the need for wholesale replacement of customers’ existing information systems – an issue that has hampered the growth of the RFID sector to date.”
RFID Journal explained: “GlobeRanger is a leading supplier of RFID edgeware and solutions for the DoD and its suppliers, as well as other customers in the health-care, logistics and perishable-products sectors. The company’s iMotion platform enables its customers to manage passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers, and to manage and process the culled data. For the past three months, it has been partnering with Fujitsu by providing its iMotion Edgeware to power new Fujitsu software, which Fujitsu exhibited last month at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2014 conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla.”
iMotion chosen for DoD trial
Fujitsu is already making inroads into the Australian defence market with the product. In March it was awarded a $109,000 contract for a three month “Fujitsu Yeoman Pilot Trial” by the Department of Defence.
More intriguing however is how the GlobeRanger’s concept of Edgeware and its realisation will develop in the IoT era as some sort of intermediary platform managing connections to all the ‘things’ and doing some preprocessing to limit the amount of data fed back to central processing resources.
The idea sounds very similar to one conjured up by Cisco much more recently: fog computing. Rick Stevenson, CEO of Australian company, Opengear, has a good description of the concept on this blog. A post on Cisco’s own blog describes it thus.
Edgeware v Fog Computing
“Fog provides data, compute, storage, and application services to end-users. The distinguishing Fog characteristics are its proximity to end-users, its dense geographical distribution, and its support for mobility. Services are hosted at the network edge or even end devices such as set-top-boxes or access points. By doing so, Fog reduces service latency, and improves QoS, resulting in superior user-experience. Fog computing supports emerging Internet of Everything (IoE) applications that demand real-time/predictable latency (industrial automation, transportation, networks of sensors and actuators).”
And here’s what Fujitsu had to say about iMotion Edgeware when it announced support capability in ANZ. “iMotion is the critical layer for connecting the world of sensors, assets, devices, networks and enterprise systems. Automation of ‘edge’ processes creates valuable information, enables real-time visibility and intelligent business decisions.”
The IoT industry is immature and evolving rapidly so it’s hardly surprising that different architectural approaches are being proposed. Whatever the future, with edgeware now in the hands of global giant like Fujitsu, we’re likely to be hearing a lot more about it.