TurnStone includes a robust and wide-ranging set of functional elements that can be used in concert with each other or standing alone as individual operations. At Pelican we realize that every organization’s process is different and unique. TurnStone was designed and built so that only the functional elements that an organization needs can be included in that organization’s implementation. Additional functionality can be added as needed. These functional elements are indicated below.
TurnStone is organized around the idea that the RFID Tags used by the system are attached to actual physical Items and that those Items have attributes. TurnStone handheld and desktop applications allow users to Enroll Items and manage the attributes attached to those Items – either acting in a stand-alone capacity or while sharing Item information with other users or with the private secure cloud database. If an organization is using the TurnStone private secure cloud database, web interface users can manage the attributes of Items within the catalog. The attributes assigned to Items vary from organization to organization and each organization can custom tailor the Item attributes required and allowed.
Either standalone or connected to a private secure cloud database and operating either at a desktop workstation or on handheld hardware, once an RFID Tag is associated with a unique Item, that Item can be “Checked In” or “Checked Out” of either a virtual location or physical space. Items “inside” and Items “outside” are reported to the user and if connected to the secure database, reported to management. This functionality is being used to monitor tools and equipment at job sites, instruments and materials within clean rooms and garments going into and out of changing rooms.
Either through handheld hardware or desktop hardware, TurnStone software can read individual RFID Tags (their TID, EPC and User Data registers). Once an individual unique RFID Tag is read, TurnStone passes that tag’s information to a preset destination: The user, a file, the current cursor position, a connected Bluetooth or Wi-Fi receiver, a secure database locally, on the Internet or the local network, a webpage on a local server or remote server or any combination of those destinations.
Often the data that should be encoded onto an RFID is associated with the Item’s SKU encoded in the form of a barcode. TurnStone software running on the desktop allows users to read a barcode with a standard USB barcode reader and then write that data to the next tag that is exposed to the ACC-809 RFID Reader / Writer. TurnStone software running on a handheld RFID reader allows users to read a barcode with the embedded reader and then write that data to a tag within the read / write field of the RFID hardware module. When connected to the private secure cloud database, both the desktop and handheld applications will push the data written to the private secure cloud database and enroll the Item into the TurnStone database.
Once an RFID Tag is read by a reader, the tag’s unique information can be directed to a local file on the connected computer. Typically this is through the use of the ACC-809 USB RFID Reader and the tag’s EPC or User Data is written along with the date and time the read event occurred to the file. Sometimes, the hardware is a handheld reader that is surveying an area for tags, collecting those tag reads into a list that is then either logged onto the handheld or communicated via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a connected computer that will then save the information to the file. The format of the data being saved can be configured by the user to include or exclude the date and time of the read, the ID of the attached device that read the data, column order and delimitation (i.e. tabs, pipes, commas, etc.) as well as if each tag read is on its own line or all run together.
Once an RFID Tag is read by a reader, the tag’s unique information can be directed to the Keyboard buffer of the connected computer. Typically this is through the use of the ACC-809 USB RFID Reader and the tag’s EPC or User Data is pushed to the current cursor position or into the Point-of-Sale software running locally. Sometimes, the hardware is a handheld reader that is surveying an area for tags, collecting those tag reads into a list that is then communicated via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to a connected computer that will then output them individually to the current cursor position (i.e. into a spreadsheet or other user document).
Each of the TurnStone desktop software applications can report to a user configured web address (URL) the EPC or User Data portions of the unique RFID Tags that are read by the attached RFID reader. This URL can be a webpage on a local server or a server on the internet configured to accept the data as part of the GET request. The TurnStone Bluetooth data receiver and Wi-Fi data receiver applications can also be configured to send received data (either RFID or Barcode) to a web page hosted locally or remotely that accepts GET requests. Organizations can use this functionality to record the data read into a database or push it into some alternative in-house 3rd party system. TurnStone uses this functionality to allow multiple devices to share Item catalogs and to report to the private secure cloud database, Item information, Tag Reads, location updates and when the last time an Item was seen.
Central to the operation of TurnStone is the survey of areas for Items already identified. With a handheld reader that holds a local Item catalog, users can scan an area and quickly identify which Enrolled Items are present within that area. The list of “seen” Items can be compared to the list of “expected” Items within the space and a variance report is automatically generated. If the handheld is connected to the secure private cloud database, online users can monitor the progress of Area Surveys in real time tracking the progress of an inventory as it happens.
The user experience for TurnStone includes interfaces that reside on a desktop workstation (connected to a local USB powered RFID reader or via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a handheld reader), on handheld reader hardware (either standing alone or pushing the data collected to connected workstations or directly to a private secure cloud database) and on the Internet accessible though users’ choice of browser. The desktop applications can stand-alone or connect the reader hardware to the secure database or act as a collection point for distributed functions. The handheld application can stand-alone, push collected data to connected workstations or push data directly to the secure database. The website interface acts as a place where users can oversee distributed operations in real time and generate reports all the while managing the Items that have RFID Tags attached and their virtual classification as well as their physical location.
In addition to reading the data encoded into RFID Tags, TurnStone also allows users to write data to RFID Tags. As a stand-alone solution – either using a desktop reader or a handheld – users can write to both the EPC portion and User Data portion of tags. The data being written to the tags can come from a user file, a connected barcode reader, or can be generated automatically in sequential order by the TurnStone applications. Enrolled Item information can be encoded into the tags at the time that those Items are enrolled as well. If the device that is writing to the tags is registered with the private secure cloud database, the information being written to the tag will be added to as an attribute to the associated Item. Organizations that are using TurnStone to write to tags are doing so to encode unique serial numbers, the manufacturing or receiving date, or simply model numbers that relate to the Items the tags are associated with.
Combine the mobile flexibility of handheld operations with the centralized processing of a desktop workstation by utilizing Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections. TurnStone software running on handheld RFID readers can connect either one-to-one with a Bluetooth data receiver or in a many-to-one capacity with a Wi-Fi data receiver. Once tag and Item data is received by the workstation, that data can be logged locally, pushed to the keyboard, uploaded to a web site or pushed directly into the private secure TurnStone private secure cloud database. Organizations utilizing these features can conduct distributed inventories over large areas or use the store-and-forward features to collect data on the handhelds and then at a later time push all that data in bulk to the connected centralized receiver.
TurnStone allows organizations to assign a unique RFID Tag to a unique Item and in doing so “Enroll” that Item into a catalog of Items already “Enrolled”. As a stand-alone application running on a workstation or on a handheld RFID reader, the Item catalog (or database) is stored locally. When multiple devices need access to a shared catalog, Item information is pushed to a private secure online database. Organizations using TurnStone can access their private secure cloud database through the TurnStone website interface, through desktop applications and through the handheld interface to manage the Items that are enrolled, add attributes to those Items, associate additional files (like pictures or supporting documents) with those Items, track the movement of the Items in the real-world, categorize the Items into virtual “Bins” and generate reports relating to the Items. TurnStone’s central philosophy is that when individual unique RFID Tags are assigned to individual unique Items, a record of that assignment is created and forever after, when that RFID Tag is “seen” by the system, the system is actually seeing the Item associated.
Each “Location Bin” can be configured to cause automated alert messages to be sent by TurnStone when Items enter into those locations or leave those locations. Typically, each ACC-809 Reader is assigned to a predetermined location such that any Items or tags seen by that reader are moved into the Bin that is that location within TurnStone. By adding Alert Messages to the Bins, organizations utilizing this feature can cause TurnStone to automatically send emails internally or externally to people that may have an interest in the movement of the Items from Bin to Bin. In a manufacturing setting, emails can be sent to customers when orders are completed. In a retail setting, emails can be sent to management when specific Items or brands of merchandise is sold. As each organization is unique, the uses for this feature vary widely between organizations.
Pelican offers custom branding to TurnStone applications. Organizations that would like to change out the TurnStone logo with their own logo or artwork, would like to change the color scheme of the applications or the web interface of the private secure cloud database or even locally host their private secure cloud database have the option to do so. In each case an additional rebranding or localized hosting fee is required.
The use of TurnStone typically creates a vast amount of information for the organizations that fully adopt TurnStone. Being able to quickly and efficiently generate reports related to the Items enrolled, their movement, their attributes, their locations and simply how many of each variety or type that is on hand at any given moment is the purpose of TurnStone. Exporting these reports to common spreadsheet applications and performing metrics on these reports is integral to operation of TurnStone and the organizations that have adopted TurnStone find this functionality essential to their overall business process and daily operations. Examples of this include: Variance Reports (expected quantity vs. actual quantity), Consumption Reports (which Items have been used up and need replaced), Area Inventory (which Items are within a given space), Item Motion (where have Items been and who moved them) and Station Reports (which Items are at each phase of a defined action process).
TurnStone keeps a log of where the Items that are enrolled into the system are last “seen” and presents that Item Movement History to users when requested. In a fully connected implementation of TurnStone consisting of handheld readers, desktop readers and the private secure cloud database interface, as Items are moved from one physical location to another and those Items are reported by the hardware at those various locations the movement history of the Item is recorded. Additionally, organizations that have multiple TurnStone Sites can transfer Items between those sites keeping an exportable log of those Site-to-Site transfers.
TurnStone handheld applications allow users to survey an area and read all the tags (Items) within that area collecting those tag reads locally and reporting them to the user. When handhelds are connected via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to a desktop workstation, those tag reads are reported to the data receiver and can be saved to a file, pushed out to the current cursor position or sent to a web page. When the TurnStone private secure cloud database is included, the tags (Items) read are sent to the secure database and users can view reports of the Items being seen by the handheld readers. From an operations perspective, this means that a worker in receiving can scan a box that holds a number of Items and without opening the box, count the number of Items present, verify that the Items are the expected type and send an update to a management report regarding that box of Items. In the same manner, the TurnStone handheld software can write to each of the tags within the box in bulk. The information written can be all the same SKU number to all the tags within the write field or can be serialized – each tag written to having a different, sequential SKU number. The write operation, like the read operation, can occur without the box being opened.
The private secure cloud database that allows TurnStone to share Item information between connected devices and generate reports relating to the Items enrolled maintains a hierarchy of “Bins” in which Items reside. Some of these “Bins” are connected directly to fixed desktop RFID readers and therefor represent a specific and unique location. Some of these “Bins” are defined as specific and unique locations that can be used by mobile handheld RFID readers to report the location of Items seen when the user selects the location being scanned. Some of these “Bins” are virtual categories in which Items can reside from a classification stand point. Each organization adopting TurnStone is a unique entity that has specific and unique needs relative to their own internal processes and geography – by allowing organizations to create and modify their own “Bins” as they use TurnStone, the management of “Bins” helps to define what Items are enrolled, where those Items reside, how those Items relate to other similar Items and bundle related Items together.
The TurnStone private secure cloud database and associated website interface allows organizations to define valid users, set their passwords and manage the access level (permissions) that those users are granted. At a basic level, individual users can login, reset their own passwords and if needed, be reminded of what their passwords are. Once a user logs in, based on their access level, they are presented with options for how they interface with the Items, the Item catalog, locations (physical Bins), Devices (handheld and desktop), the Item categories (virtual Bins) and reports. Administrative users are granted full access to create and suspend users, assign and reassign access permissions to users, reset passwords and monitor user activity within the system.
The true power of TurnStone comes into focus when multiple devices are sharing Item information with the private secure cloud database and users of the website connected to that secure database (Site) can interacted with the connected devices (handheld or desktop readers) that are feeding the database updates. To simplify operations, organizations can manage their own device registrations either through the handheld application interface or through the website interface. Handhelds registered with one TurnStone Site can be quickly assigned to a different TurnStone Site controlled by the same organization – this allows multiple handhelds from different Sites to converge on a single Site for a coordinated inventory and it also allows for the interchange of hardware from one Site to another within the same organization.
Organizations that choose to do so may host their own local copy of the TurnStone private secure cloud database database. This allows Item information (and associated attributes and files) to be more restricted within the organizations’ own network and not exposed to the Internet as a whole. All of the TurnStone desktop and handheld applications still function in the same capacity, but the information that they share between themselves would reside internally rather than external to the organization. For TurnStone users that are concerned about meeting security regulations, have enrolled Items that are classified, are utilizing TurnStone to prevent and detect counterfeits within a distributed supply-chain or simply want to keep their data locally, this optional extension is the ideal solution.