Sensicast hosts wireless sensor data net

A new hosted Web application lets enterprises quickly collect, view and analyze temperature and energy data collected from a network of wireless sensors.

The new service, called SensiNet Services, is from US-based Sensicast and runs with the company's wireless sensors, mesh-routing nodes and gateway appliance. The new service is designed to let smaller companies install and use sensor applications without the need for IT staff and networking expertise.

Customers deploy the SensiNet sensors for either temperature tracking or energy-consumption monitoring, or both. Sensor data is routed over wireless mesh nodes to the recently announced SensiNet Services Gateway, which makes use of a corporate Internet connection to upload the data into Sensicast's Web-based applications.

Users then log on securely through a Web browser to view and analyze the data, as well as set alarms and alerts.

The wireless network is based on radios that implement the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for sensor networks. Many vendors then make use of the ZigBee network software layer, but Sensicast has written an alternative protocol designed specifically to be highly reliable in industrial and other harsh environments, says Gary Ambrosino, the company's CEO.

"Someone might drive a vehicle or move equipment in a plant, blacking direct radio connections," he says. "Our network [software] can reroute that sensor communications and control link through the mesh layer automatically."

In September, the company unveiled the SensiNet gateway. The appliance verifies that readings have actually taken place, keeps the data in time-stamped sequence, and then passes it via a battery of interfaces to back-end databases or applications. The initial interfaces include:

- Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control, a term mercifully and universally shortened to OPC, a Windows-based interoperability specification that defines a set of objects, interfaces and methods used by process control and manufacturing automation applications;

- ModBus, a widely used automation control interface;

- A collection of standard Web services interfaces including SOAP, ODBC and XML;

- And, a proprietary machine-to-machine interface to link the gateway with the new hosted application service.

Sensicast has certified the first of what it says will be numerous third-party applications to work with the gateway, including software from ICONICS, Invensys, National Instruments and NK Technologies.

There are scores of companies in the fast-growing wireless sensor market, but many of them focus on products, components, and software that are sold to OEM manufacturers, not directly to enterprise endusers. Sensicast says its one of the few full systems vendors that sells direct to the enterprises. Others include Point Six Wireless.

The hosted SensiNet Services are in beta, and will go live in November. Monthly subscription pricing depends on the number of sensors, or "measurement points," deployed at the customer site. A small net will cost about US$30 per sensor per month, dropping to $10 for large nets.

The SensiNet Services Gateway is expected to ship in November, priced at US$3,495.

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