Caracalla Screen

IoT 'Cold-Chain' Application 

The Ask: Create an application that illustrates the usage of Dell IoT Edge Gateway device
The Solution: A windows native application built on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) that illustrates how a customer might use our edge gateway device for a 'cold-chain' management application. The application displays sensor readings to the user and records important historical data to send back over a network; also pairs with a Microsoft HoloLens for AR based experience.
The Team: OEM Product Applications Engineering
The Employer:
 Dell EMC
The Timeline: May - August '17

During my summer internship as a UI Developer at Dell EMC I was tasked with creating an application on one of our newly released IoT Edge Gateway devices to illustrate the potential use of our product to a future or current customers. I chose to create my application specifcally for use in 'cold-chain' management, supply chain management for temperature sensitive items such as frozen goods and pharmaceuticals. With few formal requirements, I was able to research and put together a reasonable set of potential needs for such an application. The main goals of the application were to display current internal sensor readings and record and display historical data read by the device. I then spent around 8 weeks developing the interfaces and program logic to make the application function accordingly. I used primarily C# and XAML on the UWP framework along with a handful of other libraries and frameworks to create the application. After initial development, I gathered with my team to test and refine both the technical and user-facing parts of the application, spending 2 weeks improving the initial build. Luckily, towards the end of the summer I was approached by a co-worker asking if I could modify my application for use with the popular Microsoft augmented reality device, HoloLens. By the end of the summer I had a well-running application that worked on both the gateway device and HoloLens and is now hosted on the Dell github page for use by any customer!

The Process

Problem Discovery

The OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) division at Dell designs computing products specifically to be sold to customers looking to include computing power in their solution offerings to their own customers. The IoT team builds embedded PCs and edge computing devices, machines that sit at the end of a network to aggregate and process data in order to make localized decisions and send data back to a main datacenter. I worked with systems engineers, sales engineers, account executives, and technical marketers to understand the ways in which our product could be used. I honed in on the "Cold-Chain" vertical to develop my example application.

cold chain
Solution Approach

Once I focused on a specific use case, I took the time to sketch out a few possible UIs, worked with my team to figure out how to best show off the abilities of the gateway device, and started on development. Because this was a windows native application that needed to interface with underlying sensor libraries, I chose to use C#/XAML on the UWP framework. The UI design was limited by publicly available front-end libraries and whatever I could construct myself in the short time I had. Since the focus was on demonstration of functionality over beautiful UIs, I chose to pick the most expedient front-end options in order to quickly provide a proof-of-concept. 

The application itself allows users to monitor the current environmental conditions around a cold-chain asset in real time and look at the historical conditions that the asset has experienced. The application consists of two consists different views: dashboard view and report view. The dashboard view displays 6 different sensor readings: X, Y, Z acceleration, pressure, humidity, and temperature. This view allows users to quickly see the conditions that their asset is experiencing. For example, if a trucker needs to easily monitor the temperature or other conditions of his cargo load, or if a supply-chain manager needs to audit a particular storage facility, this view provides a real time look into that asset. Each reading displays an alert when the value is out of the prescribed range. These alert thresholds can be adjusted by clicking the menu button. From this menu button the user can also navigate to the reports view.

In the reports view, the user can view historical data of the asset over time. For example, if an manager at a distribution center needs to ensure that the incoming pharmaceuticals have never exceeded their set humidity parameters, he can query the device over a set amount of time with a set amount of resolution to determine if the cargo is acceptable or not. This is all controlled from the settings menu for this reports view.

flow diagram

The program itsel heavily utilizes asynchronous programming to allow for reading of sensor values, updating the UI, and logging historical sensor values into on-device storage. To the left is the flow diagram showing the states of the application. In addition to the standard form-factor UI, I had the abiltiy to create an augmented-reality version of the application thanks to the portabiltiy of the UWP framework. The idea of the AR application is that, for example, a factory manager could don a hololens headset and walk the floor looking at a vast number of floating UIs displaying various readings and alerts at a glance. Each edge gateway device would take it's own measurements and generate it's own UI afixed to it's own specific location. An example of such a setup is displayed below.

hololens

The Outcome

While the actual program needs to run on a Dell GW300X device, I've created a clickable prototype using screenshots from the live code to demonstrate how the program works when run on the appropriate device. View prototype here.

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