Calamp Introduces COLT

December 01, 2011

Introducing COLT

Background

M2M in the Information Age

Each one of us benefits from wireless technology every day. Many of these benefits are obvious: wireless mobile handsets, network television, set-top satellite communications...the list is long and integral to modern society. But each one of us benefits in less obvious ways as well. Wireless technologies that support our modern infrastructure are not immediately evident to the consumer, perhaps, but they are no less important. Backhaul networks, public safety and first responder support, and Machine to Machine (M2M) communications all serve the technologies that directly serve us. And they are undergoing a transformation every bit as radical and aggressive as the wireless smartphone.

M2M communications in particular is advancing at an impressive rate. The development of robust cloud-based technologies, improved sensor technologies, and tools for rapid prototyping and integration based upon open standards have combined to enhance the reach, ubiquity, and overall capability of M2M applications. Wireless isn’t just in your handset any more; it’s in your vehicle fleet, your product packaging, your industrial devices, and your commercial assets. 

In fact, M2M isn’t really just about machine-to-machine communications any longer. The rise of peer-to-peer social networking as a communications paradigm is affecting traditional M2M networks as well; today, M2M is often also used to refer to ‘Man to Machine’ or ‘Machine to Man’ communications, or, more broadly, to ‘Mobile to Mobile’ communications for men and machines that move. In this context, and ‘M’ is simply an instrumented asset, man or machine, that can communicate wirelessly.

Collectively, this means rapid growth in the sheer number of trackable assets, and with it, new opportunities to improve the collection, data mining, and business intelligence that arises from intelligently-implemented M2M networks.

The Challenge 

Difficulties with Implementation

New opportunities for wireless M2M infrastructure bring new challenges. Increasingly, organizations recognize the necessity of improving their business intelligence infrastructure in order to remain completive, but they lack the skill and experience to do so quickly and cost-effectively. Modern wireless networks may be easy to use, but they are difficult to build, maintain, and manage, and they are almost always peripheral to the core competencies of an organization. This is doubly true of M2M networks, which are frequently embedded, invisible, and automated, requiring highly-secure, round-the-clock availability. 

Typical M2M implementations require in excess of two years, and suffer two to three failures before they are up and running. Most organizations simply cannot sustain a ramp-up like this in any area, much less in one that is so essential to core business operations. This is further complicated by the fact that most organizations already have business relationships with multiple wireless service providers, operating on different networks, with different capabilities, different cost structures, and different coverage areas. Billing, accounting, user account management—it’s all overhead, and it’s all a headache.

Today, CalAmp has the solution.

Introducing COLT

CalAmp Online Telemetric System

COLT is the solution to the vexing problems that accompany the development of effective and efficient M2M networking solutions. COLT is a modular, scalable cloud-based service platform for enabling and implementing wireless M2M telematics and telemetric solutions rapidly and cost-effectively. The platform is rich and powerful, with support for a broad spectrum of wireless instruments, communications protocols, and public network interfaces.

COLT is ideal for the deployment of applications like Mobile Inventory Management, Personal Tracking, and Stolen Vehicle Recovery. Any M2M application that might benefit from real-time cloud-based wireless communications is an excellent candidate for the COLT service platform. And Colt supports a wide variety of wireless technologies, including CalAmp devices, third-party devices, GSM/GPRS devices, SMS, and Voice Messaging. Chances are, the technologies you already use will work without modification.

The COLT Service Platform

At CalAmp, open source software is how we do business, and COLT is no exception. COLT supports the most popular open source software platforms, including Redhat, MySQL Enterprise, Apache, and PHP. 

COLT has been implemented as a layered service, offering highly-secure access at the Communications layer, the Service layer, and the Applications layer. All COLT services can therefore be accessed flexibly and robustly by client applications via an extensive set of APIs. The result is easy integration with your business logic and your back office.

The platform itself supports in excess of 250 APIs, and functions as a Representational State Transfer (REST)-based web service. REST is a client-server architecture that will be familiar to any user of the World Wide Web; pages and links provide non-linear, user-directed access to data and resources in the network. It’s powerful, flexible, and intuitive.

COLT responses are formatted as Java Script Objet Notation (JSON). JSON is an outstanding data interchange language, because it is easily parsed by both humans and machines, it is language-independent, and it makes use of syntax that is familiar to programmers in other web-oriented languages. The learning curve is short, and adaptation is rapid.

Together, REST architecture and JSON messaging constitute a powerful, standards-based programming environment that is easy to adapt to for any engineer familiar with modern web technologies. But COLT goes even further, providing extensive documentation, sample applications for both JavaScript and .NET, and cloud-hosted development and staging environments for client-developed applications. And it’s all backed up by CalAmp’s world class consulting, development, and integration services.

Global Reach

As a cloud-based service, COLT’s reach is global. Carrier networks are used for network transport to COLT users. In the United States, carrier services are supplied by AT&T; in Canada, by Rogers Wireless, and international coverage is supplied by Vodafone. No matter where your network elements reside, COLT can reach them, with GPRS messaging for device communications, and SMS messaging for maintenance and administrative functions.

A Layered Approach 

COLT provides services at three distinct layers, and each layer is designed to accommodate a specific set of functions.

The Communications Layer

The Communications layer provides device-level communications functions. In it’s most essential form, It provides low-level, device-specific communications for wireless CalAmp and third party devices. COLT then adds comprehensive network management capabilities using carrier APIs. This permits functions such as the activation and deactivation of devices on the network, and the ability to associate devices with specific carrier accounts. Finally, COLT provides an eCommerce interface to manage the commercial aspects of the device’s operation. This includes application-specific service billing, the management of wireless rate plans, and administrative functions for activation, renewal, and notification services. It’s a comprehensive, integrated set of capabilities to enable, manage, and charge for wireless devices in the network.

The Service Layer

Just above the Communications layer is the Service Layer, which provides comprehensive messaging and management functions for the devices in the network. Whereas the Communications layer is used to establish an open communications channel to the device, the Service Layer uses that communications channel for device control and data retrieval. For example, the Service Layer is used to associate wireless devices with the network assets to which they are attached. Once the asset has been identified, it can then be associated with a specific account, and a specific rate plan.

The Service Layer also supports asset-oriented functions like messaging, including SMS, email, and voice messaging services. Other user-specific services are supported as well, including login, credentialing, and access management. Finally, the Service Layer supports network management functions, including diagnostics, prognostics, and reportage.

The Application Layer

The core services supported in the Service layer are used by applications to produce a fully-featured service. Application-layer services include smartphone-enabled mobile applications for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android wireless devices. COLT is also ideal for vehicle-related Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, including the ability to locate and track assets with account and sub-account management on an individual or bulk basis. When applied to consumers, rather  than commercial fleets, a different set of similar applications emerge, including teen tracking, vehicle monitoring, vehicle recovery, and services related to physical location and velocity, such as geofencing, speed notifications, and other actionable alerts.

Many such applications have already been developed and deployed, but COLT’s template-based, skinnable design facilitates the rapid development of custom services as well. And CalAmp can assist your engineers on a consultative basis or develop the application for you. 

COLT Security

Security is absolutely critical to any cloud-based service, and it is even more important for wireless services. COLT security is multi-faceted, comprehensive, and world-class, so your data and your applications are safe—at the asset, over the air, and in the cloud.

COLT uses highly secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunneling to secure wireless carrier and client networks, with device-to-server authentication and data encryption. Our server facility has been classified as a Class-4 Secure Co-Location facility, and features round-the-clock on-site security personnel and a biometrically secured Network Operations Center (NOC). 

COLT also features Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Compliance, which specifies standards for physical and data security, as well as login and password management standards, and NERC CIP Compliance is planned for the second quarter of 2012, with ISO 27002 to follow shortly thereafter.

Finally, COLT security is active, not passive; we employ 24x7 real-time security scanning to identify potential security vulnerabilities and threats before they have a chance to fester, and we submit to regular, on-going independent third-party security assessments by Neohapsis to ensure that our policies and procedures remain effective, robust, and impenetrable.

With COLT, your data is safe, your applications are safe, and your network is secure.

COLT Reliability

COLT doesn’t just get you up and running quickly, we keep you running—safely, reliability, and in perpetuity. We provide every aspect of the redundancy and recoverability that you expect from a world-class data center, with reliability built-in from the operating system to the physical plant. 

COLT’s computational environment is a virtualized multi-server system with redundant load balancing, redundant servers, and redundant clustered databases. Data replication is instant, rapidly scalable, and disaster-recovery savvy. Data backups happen daily, with off-site storage, and our full-time information technology staff provides round-the-clock support.

COLT’s data center is supplied with Tier 1 Internet connectivity, featuring multiple independent distribution paths. Redundant power is standard, with dual-powered redundant HVAC environmental systems, and on-site back-up generators in case of a grid failure.

Finally, COLT supplies itself with the same level of reliability that it offers to it’s clients, with 49-hour automated device check-in, continuous network and applications monitoring, and automated network status reporting.

The Future is Now

The same paradigm that drives COLT’s rapid deployment capabilities also drives upgrades and enhancements to the system itself. CalAmp employs an agile development process that emphasizes both speed and quality in the development and deployment of feature enhancements and system upgrades. Minor releases happen at six-week intervals, with major releases at quarter intervals. 

Customer change requests are managed with a robust engineering change request system, featuring weekly reviews and equal weighting for customer and internal change requests. Finally, all new features are staged and validated in Quality Assurance, and are only moved into production after customer validation has been completed.  The system is precise, specific, and carefully managed. The result is reliable, predictable improvements for COLT and clients alike.

COLT is all about speed—in application development, in service prototyping, and in network-wide deployment. You’ll get your applications developed and deployed more rapidly and cost-effectively than you ever thought possible. Call us today to find out more, or visit www.calamp.com

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