Smart chips could deliver real-time decisions in any location. Supply chain transactions could run with blistering speed and nearly error-free performance if a technology startup called N.io Innovation Limited has its way. The year-old Broomfield, Colo.-based company (whose name is pronounced "Neo") recently unveiled an ambitious plan to automate logistics, retail, and manufacturing operations by installing inexpensive microprocessors in and at strategic nodes such as sensors, scanners, and docks. Because each chip uses N.io’s algorithm to monitor the stream of data generated at its node, the technology enables any electronic device to make nearly instant decisions based on programmable rules. Applied to a manufacturing facility, that means a N.io node hooked up to a flame sensor could detect a fire, then quickly send instructions to other nodes that cooperate by shutting off liquid propane burners, triggering a fire alarm, or instructing cranes to lift flammable materials out of the danger zone. In another example, a retailer could install a N.io node in each UPC scanner at its checkout counters and instantly compress inventory status updates from weekly batch processing into split-second intervals. N.io’s biggest challenge was to design an algorithm that could be interoperable with any type of sensor, checkout scanner, AutoID reader, or other information source, says Graven Prest, the company’s cofounder. Designers also had to maintain a delicate balancing act of loading the program onto nodes with just enough processing power to be intelligent, without making them too expensive to install throughout a large facility. Finding that balance was crucial for avoiding what Prest sees as a fatal flaw in the design of current technologies such as RFID tags and cloud computing: That they rely on uploading vast amounts of data to distant servers before algorithms can begin to analyze the information and generate reactions. The company’s […]
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