Inventory Management Tracker

Client: Global Electronics Manufacturer

Services

We have worked together with our client to build a tracking device integrated in the inventory management system.

Technology

C // Eagle for PCB design // Electronics design // Mechanical encloser design // STM LoPower microcontroller // STM low power SigFox transceive

Challenges

  • Battery life 2+ years 
  • The tracker is required to perform both indoors and outdoors
  • The tracker for the inventory management system must be extremely small
  • Water and dust protection (IP65)
  • Two versions of the tracker, to match the radio network type SigFox and NB-IoT (Narrow Band Internet of Things). The changes at PCB level must be minimal. There should be no changes for the tracker enclosure
  • Low price 
  • PCB and enclosure design must be suitable for mass-production, the design must involve a limited number of operations for mass production
  • Short time to deliver: only 2 months to prototype including field testing

Solution​

Smart Consignment Inventory Management delivers consignment items to hospitals, tracks consignment items, informs customers of product usage and returns items to customers without hospital integration. SCIM is composed of three key and core elements:

  • Track
  • Transport
  • Monitor consignment stock

Track

A smart tracker will be applied to consignment items before shipping. The smart tracker monitors the consumption of the consignment item in the hospital.

Transport

Consignment items are expected to be shipped on the next business day. The delivery on the hospital premises might imply items are shipped to a  department reception, specific ward or assigned person. In case of items approaching the end of their shelf lives, they can be picked up and be replaced.

Monitor

When a consignment item is used during a surgery, the device will send a message which triggers a decrease in the stock level. The customer will receive a daily report which includes info on the consumed products. This automatically triggers the invoicing and stock replenishment processes on their side.

Rinf.tech provided an end-to-end solution for inventory management tracker based on STM32 microcontroller. The radio network connectivity was covered using and S2-LP transceiver for the SigFOx version and an Quectel NB-IoT transceiver for the NB-IoT version.

The inventory tracker is registered to a management platform, and sends periodically information about the state of the tracked package.

The inventory tracker has a LED indicator to warn when the battery level is too low and needs to be replaced.

Methodology

Rinf.tech conducted an initial analysis phase to study the challenges of developing such a product and the various options in terms of microcontrollers and transceivers available on the market. We compared different specifications of such electronic components and the conclusion was that ST Microelectronics components are the best option for this project.

Once the electrical components were chosen, rinf.tech moved to the design of the PCB and electronic schematics. For the design phase, there were a few criteria taken into account:

  • Size of tracker
  • Antenna type and size
  • Electromagnetic interference
  • Network availability
  • Radio power signal

The PCB design, as well as the manufacturing for prototypes were done in-house by rinf.tech. Building the electrical components for the tracker prototype was also done in rinf.tech’s own laboratory.

We have taken care of developing the firmware for ST microcontroller. Once the prototype was built, rinf.tech conducted of field testing to verify if the prototype cover the requirements. All the design blueprints were provided to our client to be used in the mass production process.

Results

  • Quick time to market
  • Delivered the prototype respecting budget constrains

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