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Blue Rover doggedly Tracks Mobile Access

Lisa MacCool, The Record
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A seal breaks on a refrigerated container of food in a truck and the temperature begins to rise. The driver drives on, oblivious to the impending crisis until the next scheduled check reveals the extent of the disaster.

The story could have a better outcome under a different scenario. As soon as the seal breaks, a sensor detects the temperature change and sends an alarm to the monitoring unit in the cab of the truck and the trucking company's head office, notifying the driver immediately of a problem. The driver pulls over and fixes the problem before anything is damaged.

If Loreto Saccucci, president of Advanced Asset Tracking Solutions Inc., has his way, the second scenario will become the standard in the industry. He has developed Blue Rover, a mobile communications device he believes will transform machine-to-machine monitoring. Saccucci notes that there are 160 billion machines with embedded micro-processes in the world. He is making it his business to connect them and get them talking to each other.

The food industry is a key market for the four-year-old business. The United States is stepping up monitoring of the food supply chain through the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011. The act aims to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply by switching the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Among other things, it requires companies to implement food safety plans and increase the frequency of inspections.

It applies to any company that ships food, pharmaceuticals or cosmetics to, from or through the U.S. Warehouses must be compliant by the end of 2011 and the transportation industry itself must be fully compliant by 2012.

American inspectors will have the right to enter any foreign export facility to verify it complies with Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations. The regulations have global signatories, including Canada, the U.S. and the European Union, and are intended to protect consumers by requiring companies to identify critical points in the supply chain that may fail, and how they will correct failures and continue monitoring and recording the results.

Enter Blue Rover, a Linux-based fully customizable device the size of a deck of cards. The sensor in the unit can locate and track assets, and measure and monitor things like temperature, humidity, environmental changes, toxin levels or motion.

Cold supply chain management - the movement of food products requiring refrigeration - is one of Advanced Asset's initial target markets. Blue Rover's sensors continually monitor conditions, such as temperature and humidity. Reports can be generated on demand and can be formatted to meet the requirements of HACCP and other food safety regulations. Saccucci notes that transport traditionally has been the weakest link in the food supply chain so the ability to monitor and immediately detect a problem is invaluable to food suppliers for loss prevention.

Blue Rover also is ideal for capturing and relaying data in environmentally unsafe areas, says Saccucci. In nuclear power plants, it could detect a change in the plant and activate an emergency shutdown without waiting for human intervention. In firefighting, Blue Rover could be deployed by firefighters in a burning building or forest fire; it could monitor the crew using sensors attached to their gear and track each individual's condition, location and progress.

Saccucci likens the creation of Blue Rover to "a mouse giving birth to an elephant." He had identified a need in the industry, but couldn't find a product to provide a solution. So he set out to develop a "technical Swiss army knife that could do almost everything." Blue Rover has been in research, development and field testing for four years, and has passed all critical certification requirements in Canada, the U.S. and the European Union, he says. "We've already worked all the bugs out, and the next generation of cloud computing algorithms is already built. We have infinite scalability with no issues of network congestion that can compromise other products."

Blue Rover is capable of machine to machine, machine to mobile or machine to man communications. It is coded to switch from WiFi to Bluetooth and cellular to private radio or satellite technology. If a critical event occurs inside a dead zone, Blue Rover will take corrective action and continue recording. The data is stored and automatically uploaded when the communications link is re-established. And with its open architecture, the device gives customers the ability to design, develop and manage their own custom applications.

Saccucci says that costing as little as $35 a month to rent, Blue Rover is affordable for small business operators and has infinite possibilities for scaling up to large organizations.

Advanced Asset has customers in Canada and the U.S. and expects to achieve sales of $14 million in 2012. The company, housed in the Communitech Hub in the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener, currently employs 15 people, but expects to grow to 20 engineering, customer service and administrative staff.

Prior to starting Advanced Asset, Loreto founded and ran Rodin Communications, a Cambridge-based telecommunications company. He grew the company to seven offices with 50 employees and annual sales of $20 million. Saccucci says his 30 years of experience in telecommunications, telemetry, network design and telematics allowed him to negotiate contracts with major service providers around the world. Blue Rover is programmed to communicate across all global platforms; it automatically discovers local network connectivity as it transverses the globe.

Why the name Blue Rover? Blue represents the unlimited expanse of blue sky and the spectrum of opportunity; Saccucci says the sky is the limit for Blue Rover's applications. Rover conveys the idea that the device can handle any environment, and is reliable, rugged and resilient and functions in extreme conditions.

Fleet operations is another market Advanced Asset is targeting. Saccucci says Blue Rover can be used to track the progress, location and condition of mobile assets and personnel. A transport driver would be able to send notification or bills of lading to a warehouse when a shipment is close to arrival so the warehouse operator could have space waiting. A warehouse equipped with Blue Rover would be able to locate a shipment in a warehouse to a specific area or specific row. Vehicle maintenance reports could be uploaded and printed on demand at inspection stations. The unit also can monitor the speed of the truck, and the frequency, location and duration of idling time and full stops, and it can be programmed to trigger and alarm when there is a deviation from the expected performance.

Because of its compact size, Saccucci says Blue Rover is ideal for security monitoring. Imported products are normally held in a bonded warehouse pending payment of applicable duties and taxes. The sealed containers can only be opened by customs officials for inspection and distribution. Blue Rover can monitor the containers and send an alarm if a container is opened or tampered with.

By combining technology and telecommunications knowledge with a product that meets a variety of needs, Saccucci hopes Blue Rover will revolutionize mobile monitoring. "We created a paradigm shift that is limited only by our imagination," he says. 


Blue Rover doggedly Tracks Mobile Access

Lisa MacCool 

The Record, Waterloo ON