SATO Vicinity

How SATO Vicinity cut costs and improved efficiencies with an innovative platform to connect RFID readers and applications

SATO Vicinity develops and sells products that use its global-standard PJM RFID (Phase Jitter Modulation Radio Frequency Identification) technology to track and identify tagged items. Uniquely, PJM RFID can quickly identify large amounts of tagged items with 100% accuracy, even when randomly or tightly packed. A subsidiary of electronics manufacturer SATO Global, SATO Vicinity builds high-end, customized applications for customers worldwide from industries including healthcare, blood and pathology, and wholesale diamonds.

The challenge

Reinventing the wheel for each new customer and lacking visibility over reader data.
SATO Vicinity's customers use their products to track and manage a wide range of mission-critical items, from blood samples to diamonds. Previously, the RFID readers were not cloud-connected. So SATO Vicinity built applications for each customer to pull data from the readers and send it to the customers' corporate systems. But SATO Vicinity faced several large and complex challenges, especially for customers using its products to track and manage blood samples:
  • Repeatedly developing new integration apps to connect with 100s of different customer applications - SATO Vicinity had to develop new applications to connect its readers to each new customer with a different system. This was particularly challenging in the blood management sector, where multiple blood management apps are used within each country, or even each state.
  • Unstable internet connections hampered customers' operational efficiencies and limited scalability - Internet connection dropouts — particularly common in remote or natural hazard-prone locations — interrupted data flow from readers. So customers didn't always have the up-to-date, mission -critical information they needed to operate efficiently. And it was much harder for SATO Vicinity to develop applications that reliably worked remotely, monitor them, and scale them up.
  • No access to customer IT networks made it harder to resolve technical issues - particularly in healthcare settings, stringent IT security standards are required to safeguard data. However, having limited or no access to customers' networks made it extra challenging for SATO Vicinity to remotely diagnose and fix technical problems with the non-cloud-connected RFID readers, or roll out essential updates.
SATO Vicinity's Software Manager, Jeff Gray, wanted to develop a platform that would overcome all of these challenges. Specifically, he wanted something that could:
  • Connect readers anywhere in the world to customers' existing applications, with bespoke interfaces for each customer.
  • Provide central management applications to allow customers and SATO customer support to remotely manage readers.
  • Be flexible enough to build a range of applications for different industries.
"We saw all these pain points that our customers had and that we had in terms of developing applications to use our end products. And we thought that having a platform as a consistent bridge that anyone could connect to, and which could connect to any reader easily, would resolve a lot of these pain points."
SATO Vicinity's in-house software developers didn't have experience in developing large-scale network applications or complex integrations. So Jeff began researching software and developers that could help SATO Vicinity achieve its goals.

The solution

Zato integration software and expertise help develop an innovative connection and integration platform.
SATO Vicinity chose to work with Zato Source to build its new platform - named PJM Global - using Zato integration software. Open source and based on Python, Zato enables technically complex yet flexible and user-friendly integrations between any types of software.
PJM Global acts as a cloud-connected bridge between RFID readers and applications, wherever they are in the world. Each application can connect to multiple readers, and vice versa. By removing the need for additional integration applications and connections, PJM Global provides a simpler yet more powerful and reliable set up.
"The Zato-based PJM Global platform has simplified things greatly by chopping out the middleman — the connection is now straight from the readers to PJM Global, with no application in between. So we've got fewer plugs and connectors, and the connection is faster. We see fewer errors and problems are much easier to resolve.”

The outcome

More customers, lower costs, and increased confidence to win large, complex projects. From taking on more customers to reducing operating costs, PJM Global has given SATO multiple benefits and competitive advantages:
  • Reduced product development time and costs as there is no longer a need to repeatedly build new integration apps
  • Increased capabilities and confidence to pursue business opportunities requiring development of large, highly complex products, including in new sectors
  • Reduced customer support costs due to faster, easier problem solving, which enables greater staff efficiency and productivity
  • Happier customers due to the quick, efficient customer support and enhanced product experience
"Reduced customer support costs are a significant benefit. It used to be a bane of our support team trying to diagnose communication problems because it was often not clear where the problem lay. Whereas now we have much better tools to locate where things are going wrong, and a much clearer picture."
"PJM Global speeds up the entire process of diagnosing and resolving customer's problems. Now I have immediate access to information about what's happening with a reader, rather than waiting up to a week to get that information. It's obviously a better outcome for the customer to get back up and running quicker. And it also saves us time and money — the efficiency frees me up to focus more on other activities with a higher value add."

A better customer experience

For SATO's customers, PJM Global also provides important benefits:
  • Improved operational efficiencies, due to more reliable data flow between readers and applications which supports effective asset utilization, and swifter resolution of any issues
  • No more time spent trying to run diagnostic tools on readers, and far less time spent waiting for issues to be fixed
  • Peace of mind that mission-critical data is both up to date & secure
"We have a very good working relationship with the Zato team. Often we'll send them a question and the following morning there's a solution waiting for us. It's definitely quicker working with someone who really knows the product inside out, particularly with really subtle problems where it's not obvious what's going wrong. Their service is very good."

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