Zeroing In on Asset Tracking with Intel IoT Solutions

UntitledHigh-value asset management is big business. For example, putting RFID sensors on shipping containers, and the valuable items inside them, helps companies keep tabs on those assets as they’re moved from the site of manufacturing to the shelves of a retail outlet. For individuals with high-value assets such as collectibles, or tools, Intel® IoT technology offers an attractive solution.

Wine lovers, in particular, know how challenging it can be to keep track of what’s in their wine collection. As the collection grows, or bottles get consumed, tracking only gets more complicated. Rare vintages and prized bottles mingle with wines you like to drink regularly. So when someone drops by for pizza and you reach for an average bottle, you run the risk of accidentally drinking a wine before its time, or, worse, drinking a prized and pricey bottle with people who wouldn’t know a ‘62 Château Latour from a ’62 Chevy.

In my role as an innovation manager for Intel® Developer Relations Division, I’ve been working with Uncorked Studios, a Portland-based design team that’s using the luxury wine market to prove that a smart, high-value asset-management system for wine lovers can scale from the domestic wine-rack to restaurants, wineries, and even factories.

From Lean Startup to Working Prototype 

When I met CEO Marcelino Alvarez through an accelerator program called The Portland Incubator Experience, Uncorked Studios was in lean startup mode. For the uninitiated, lean startup is a way to iteratively design products that’s similar to a process called d.thinking. The lean startup process starts with at least three business assumptions, and moves to prototyping one of them. You then test the prototype, and measure the response from users, repeating the process until you’re confident you’re designing the right thing. Like d.thinking, the lean startup process provides a great framework for zeroing in on ideas worth pursuing.

Uncorked Studios named their patent-pending wine tracking and selection application Sommely–from sommelier, or wine steward. Today, wine-loving millennials and baby-boomers can have private wine collections ranging from 100 to 5,000 bottles. And many of these wine collectors are using spreadsheets, sticky notes, or tags on their bottles to track their wine—usually as a series of lists. But those lists don’t update themselves, and they aren’t always helpful when it comes to knowing when a wine is ready to drink, or what food to pair it with. This is where Uncorked Studios’ vision and Intel technology combined to create an intelligent tracking system for wine assets. My team helped Uncorked Studios with software development, both in terms of refining their software stack and in making architectural decisions based on Intel technology to realize their goals.Screenshot 2016-08-10 13.45.39

Sommely is still a work in progress. Today it uses an Intel® Quark™ D1000 low-power, 32-bit microcontroller in custom-built caps that fit over the cork (or screw cap) of each bottle in a wine collection. The Intel Quark D1000 drives environmental sensors, a radio that talks to an Intel NUC-powered base station, and a ring of LED lights.

The lights provide user feedback. A web app lets users make smart choices by drawing data from the cloud. The LEDs in each bottle-cap light up to show bottles that meet whatever criteria is selected. (You can read more about Sommely by accessing this case study.)

As a use-case for high-value asset management, Sommely is exciting. But it’s only the beginning. Imagine a similar system in a large-scale retail operation, in use at a winery, or in a completely different environment. At the Intel Developer Relations Division, for example, we have been working on the Intel® Retail Sensor Platform to help retailers keep tabs on inventory, collect customer behavior data, and reduce losses from misplaced items. And we continue to collaborate with our startup partners, to stay on the lookout for great ideas that we can help bring to market. Learn more in the Intel® Developer Zone and if you’re attending IDF 2016 Aug. 16-18 in San Francisco, stop by and see us and Sommely.