cStar's contribution to this system is the wireless transmission equipment, which interfaces with CA-UniCenter TNG via American Mobile's wireless network.

Computer Dealer News, Volume 15, Issue 32 - August 27, 1999 Page 9,

Online Management Becomes The Real Thing

NEW ORLEANS - It looks like a perfectly ordinary soft drink machine, sitting in the corner of the trade show floor at CA-World, ready to service thirsty visitors. But to Toronto's cStar Technologies Inc., it is the way of the future.

Sitting on top of the machine, a small antenna transmits information about the unit's status to a management console running Computer Associates' CA-UniCenter TNG.

At this console, which can be in the vending company's headquarters, many miles from the machine, an administrator can see, in real time, how many cans of pop are in each slot, how much change is in the hopper, and even the temperature. If the door opens, or refrigeration fails, alarms are immediately set off so a repair person can be dispatched.

cStar's contribution to this system is the wireless transmission equipment, which interfaces with CA-UniCenter TNG via American Mobile's wireless network.

It's all part of an initiative by Computer Associates to use its software to manage devices that are outside of the traditional IT realm. Spearheaded by John Pincomb, vice-president, product marketing, Real World Management Programs, CA is trying to interface its software to almost anything with a microprocessor. This includes everything from automated teller machines and vending machines to race cars and buses. During CA-World, Computer Associates' annual business software users conference, attendees could monitor the state of a New Orleans police cruiser.

"We can provide better control over the assets of a corporation so that their performance, and their maintenance, and their uptime can be optimized," says Pincomb. For example, he says a car rental company can tap into the onboard computers of their rental vehicles with CA-UniCenter TNG Fleet Management System and monitor their health. CA is partnering with CellPort Labs Inc. of Boulder; Co., a vendor of vehicle-based voice and data connectivity systems, which will provide the onboard application platform and wireless communication gateway in the cars. It will collect and transmit data on things like fuel consumption, speed, fluid levels, odometer readings and diagnostic trouble codes.

The system also includes Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, so the fleet manager can determine exactly where each vehicle is at any time. If the driver locks the keys in the car, the fleet manager can remotely unlock the door, and if a car is reported stolen, the manager can even turn off its engine (once it has stopped). "If a device has a computer in it, and can be networked, UniCenter TNG can manage it," says Pincomb. 

CA has stretched this assertion to the limit in its partnership with the McLaren Formula One racing team. Engineers monitor the cars' performance as they zoom around the track, and can display the complex telemetry data in a 3D UniCenter TNG interface. And, just as in a more traditional UniCenter TNG installation, they can use CA's Real World Interface to fly into the car onscreen and click on a component to get more information about it. On a network, that component is usually a server or a router; in these cars it can be the transmission.

By Lynn Greiner, Special to CDN

cStar president Stella Coveley also sees tremendous potential in monitoring of remote equipment and infrastructures. For example, she says, there are more than 4.2 million vending machines in the U.S. alone. "All software companies used to focus on IT devices," she says. "Now they realize there's a huge market in non-IT devices." Her company's wireless equipment, she says, provides the bridge that connects IT and non-IT devices.

Pincomb says that vertical segments are evolving now, in which companies like CA provide the software, others supply communications and specialized onboard computers for the devices, and service providers pull it all together. And it all needs management - it must stay up, with good response time. And if that all works, he says, the result is a customer with a competitive advantage.