News (2006/06/09)

 

Reader-Controller

The reader-controller project is well underway. The target is now to integrate all the different manufacturers and processes. The product is currently targeted mainly for South-Africa but a set is destined for Texas as soon as it is ready.

The business process is structured around the sales representative. We are in fact paying more than the normal 10% commission. The extra commission is to empower the sales representative to provide replacement support directly to the installer. Here is a diagram of the proposed structure:

 

The sales representative will obtain stock directly from the stores, including rescue/emergency stock, support equipment and training. It is the sales representative's responsibility to supply, train and assist the independent installer.

If a unit malfunctions then there will be features in place for a knowledgeable end user to actually help him/herself. This will be in the form of device duplication when a replacement unit is available on-site.

If the end user cannot repair the device then the next step is for the installer to repair and replace the faulty part.

The end user also has the option to directly go to the sales representative to obtain a duplicate device (made possible by recovery software on the PC). The installer also has this route available if in need of extra assistance. This is mainly the reason why Zerksus is paying extra commission and that is to abstract the client from Zerksus. This will allow the client to get quick service outside office hours.

There are very few user serviceable parts in the system. The reader-controller itself  is completely epoxy potted and will, when failed, be sent back to the Zerksus high level support for failure verification. We operate on a warranty swap-out principle and the part will only be inspected to see if the warranty conditions have been met.

In the end a sales representative will, under control of Zerksus rules, effectively have a 'harem' of installers. All business will pass through that sales representative. The extra commission will effectively be the 1st year's maintenance agreement, which goes directly to the sales rep's pocket. It is up to the installer if he/she asks an additional maintenance agreement as the cabling and other installation items do not fall under Zerksus at all. After the warranty period a damaged unit will be replaced at 95% of the cost of the normal price with the requirement that the faulty unit be returned to Zerksus for quality analysis. The sales rep will, however, get the full commission as per normal price.

The sales representative will thus be a one-stop service to installers, having the capability to supply stock and configure devices. The representative must be within a 50km radius (or 100km  if client base is geographically dispersed). The idea is to put the client at rest that all problems will sorted as quickly as possible. Failure to keep the client and installer happy will result in the rep losing his rights in that region.

So how much will a sales rep make? I work on how long it will take to put a R1 000 000 (about $150 000 US) in the rep's pocket. Not going into great detail it boils down to that if the rep has 8 installers, that buys and installs the the package deal (16 readers minimum) per site and install 4 sites per month (it is possible with this product to be in and out in 1 week),  that the sales rep should  rake in more than R1 000 000 per year. That is excluding commission from software and PC driver hardware,  training, RFID tag sales (that will comprise the tags, database service and card printing/individualization) and other system components not currently supplied. Also, the higher the quantities the more Zerksus saves on assembly and management per unit which will result in sales bonuses.

To obtain the income above it will require dedicated people. The values are based on about 512 units per month. I know installers that battle turning in a screw and have even more problems doing cables by numbers and colours, so I assume that more than 8 teams will be required. Also the assumption is the installer will be a self sustained business entity doing its own marketing. Thus it might be required to market this product directly to the end client and assigning an installer to the job. In that case the sales representative will be able to charge an extra percentage on the entire installation job. Zerksus Engineering has nothing to do with this. We will continue to do what we are good with and that is to design and improve on the product. The magic part is that each entity in the chain does his/her work and each making a good living from it.

So if you don't want to wait for the Lotto to make a million drop me an email.

 

Another requirement: RF Modem

I am always being bugged to produce new devices. One that has been on demand since 1996 is a simple RF interface. The thing is that there are already numerous solutions out there. The TX2 and RX2 modules are quite popular and their transceiver buddy, the BIM module, even more so. This, however, requires the developer to know stuff about RF, how to 'pre-amble' the data and how to frame it on the receive side. I have seen many of my developer friends with units like these sitting in a place of honour on their shelves but not working at all, and claiming that it will be great...one day.

So my suggestion/idea: I want to take the RF out of RF. The device planned will come in 2 flavours, namely a bare bone RF modem and a PC version. The bare bone version will cost about $22 (US). It will require power and will have 3.3V I/O pins, mainly Rx and Tx for RS232. The PC version will be broken into 2 versions. The 1st is a RS232 compatible unit (but it will require external 5V power). It will cost roughly $30 (US). The USB version is much more expensive and will be about $50 to $60 (US), but you won't need an external power supply.

How it will work: You communicate with it with RS232. The only thing you need to worry about is the distance and interference of the RF signal (and your legal frequencies that can be used in your region). The unit should give you about 70 to 100 meters between buildings, more with line-of-sight. The unit is used by sending ASCII commands which is then translated and sent. Any received data will be processed like any other RS232 data. In fact, the unit will look very much like the two nodes are connected by cable. But you will be able to have much more than two units as the devices will operate in Rx mode only and only one will talk at a time (enough addressing for 4 billion units). Great for monitoring equipment and things that move around.

The effective baud rate should be between 9600 and 19200. The unit's communication speed will default to 9600, but can be changed on the fly to other standard rates. Remember that the data will be translated from RS232 to RF and that the effective baud rate will differ. The RF frequencies are also under user control giving you most of the 433MHZ and 868MHz  ISM bands (2.4 GHz will be designed for on special request). The unit should draw about 20mA in Rx mode operating from a single 3.3V power supply. When transmitting the unit will use peak currents around 30mA and will depend on the amount of data per second.

The bare bone version will be the size of a postage stamp and will have a simple header connector. My opinion is that this should not be used to connect PCs. For that a normal wireless LAN is much better suited. This is more for connecting to a microcontroller or e.g. to add more functionality to a remote control car.

The client, bugging me for it, wants to reduce their effort to diagnose their test equipment. They want to walk in on-site and poll the test rigs without plugging in a single cable. Their one problem is the client getting upset when they start interfering with the test equipment. With RF they will just walk in and the system will report on their handheld unit. As they are bound to a maintenance agreement and have to regularly check their installations they will save a lot of time and money by quickly zipping in an out.

Legalities: RF either needs Type Approval or Licensing and Type Approval !!! Because the unit is capable of a diverse set of frequencies and power levels I cannot have it type-approved. Zerksus will supply it as an OEM unit for large quantities. In South Africa you need to obtain an ICASA certificate proving compliance for the free ISM bands. Bands are limited and really restricted. It will cost about R20 000 to have it tested by the SABS and then the ICASA application and certificates will cost you between R4000 and R10000 (including all the extras, like stickers). For other countries obviously other testing and approval conditions apply. We will be selling the units without restriction but we will make you aware, with each sale, that you will be using it at your own risk and responsibility. 

 

Please email me at victor@zerksus.com or info@zerksus.com for more information.