Zebra Releases Enterprise MotionWorks Platform and New Reader Hardware

The company is offering its Savanna Location Engine with a portfolio of MotionWorks solutions so that large enterprises can integrate location data from multiple systems on a single platform, while Zebra's new fixed readers aim at manufacturing and retail point-of-sale use cases.
Published: June 29, 2018

Although Zebra Technologies‘ MotionWorks solution got its start in athletics, companies far beyond the sports industry—including manufacturers and logistics providers—are using the ultra-wideband (UWB) solution to understand the locations of assets and personnel. In many cases, however, these companies have multiple location technology solutions in place, at different sites or in different departments, with no integration.

As a business’s technology use grows, so does the need to integrate and utilize the data from these systems. To meet growing demands on such large organizations, Zebra has developed an enterprise-wide MotionWorks solution aimed at helping companies integrate all of their MotionWorks- and other technology-based location data onto a single platform.

Zebra’s Matt Seltz

The Lincolnshire, Ill., company’s new MotionWorks platform is powered by Zebra’s Savanna Internet of Things (IoT)-based location engine, enabling users to collect data from RFID and other location technologies across an entire enterprise, and to provide not only the locations of things and individuals, but also the analysis and context needed for decision making. Zebra released Savanna software for asset intelligence last year (see Companies Trialing Zebra Technologies’ IoT Savanna Platform), and the new location engine now provides a layer that captures and manages data from multiple solutions across an enterprise, to be viewed and analyzed on a single platform.

Until now, says Matt Seltz, Zebra’s general manager of location solutions, those using MotionWorks technology have been point-driven. That means they have employed specific solutions for particular applications, and have used a variety of RFID-based solutions across a single enterprise. That could include a handheld or fixed reader for tool tracking, or a reader portal for inventory management within a warehouse. This “edge” data serves a purpose for specific departments or operations, he notes, but doesn’t deliver actionable insights to an entire enterprise. The data being collected, Seltz asserts, could be used for much more.

When Zebra acquired Motorola Solutions‘ enterprise business in 2014 (see Zebra Buys Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Business), it found its customers included companies using a variety of technologies formerly offered by Motorola, as well as systems created by Zebra, with little integration occurring between them. In many cases, Seltz says, they were collecting vast amounts of data that went unused by management, without a single platform on which the data could be integrated and provide greater context regarding the operation of the entire enterprise.

With the MotionWorks platform and Savanna location engine, Seltz says, “We tie all the solutions together.” That can mean UHF or other RFID technologies, as well as UWB, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, bar codes and cameras. The portfolio also includes multiple MotionWorks solutions already in use by companies, such as MotionWorks Asset, MotionWorks Material and MotionWorks Yard solutions.

MotionWorks began as a sports-based software brand used by the National Football League (NFL) and other sports organizations, to provide information about the movements of tags even at high speeds (see RFID Drafted to Track NFL Players’ Every Move During Games). This year, the NFL is taking the data to the next level, by developing statistics around the movements of its players and their performance based on those details, which is being shared NFL-wide for teams to use for scouting purposes.

The scouting data functionality is expected to be made available with preseason this fall. In the meantime, manufacturers are also using the technology but in an increasingly wide set of use cases. For example, they can track assets such as tools or other equipment moving around the facility. Aerospace firms, meanwhile, can save labor costs and time by capturing real-time data regarding the locations of parts and equipment used in aircraft assembly.

MotionWorks Material allows manufacturers to view the movements of materials and supplies used in the making of products, thereby rendering material-handling more efficient and reducing the risk of downtime due to missing materials. Individuals may be wearing badges, and their movements could thus be tracked for safety purposes. Supplies entering a facility, or goods being shipped, are often tracked as well. Any combination of these installations may be in place in specific facilities at different sites, as well as in different departments within a company.

With the Savanna location engine, the data is fed into a single cloud-based or locally hosted server, where the software captures and manages data from disparate systems. In fact, Seltz says, it can also manage data culled from systems provided by a third-party vendor. “One technology does not always solve all problems,” he points out.

The solution release comes as a result of the growth of RFID and other location-based systems, Seltz reports, adding that companies are becoming more accustomed to what locating technology can provide, and are feeling pressure to reduce labor costs and increase efficiency. “Everyone knows that they have to automate,” he states, which can mean sharing data with the workforce to help them work more efficiently, or eliminate manual labor in some steps. “You can’t remain competitive without enterprise-based automation,” he adds.

Thus far, two manufacturers have been testing MotionWorks with Savanna to tie their RFID- and other technology-based data into a single platform, so that they can view information on a single dashboard with regard to the movements and status of pallets, tools, equipment, personnel and inventory across multiple sites. Going forward, Seltz says, the platform will serve as a tool for companies to move toward fully automated workflows in which operations are conducted without the need for human intervention. “Location will be at the core of that transition,” he predicts.

In addition, the company is releasing new RFID fixed reader and antenna solutions aimed at tracking tagged merchandise. The ST5500 Transition Point reader uses Zebra’s FX7500 reader technology with antennas built into the unit to allow easy installation for monitoring the movements of goods through entry and exit points. The SR5502 antenna assembly, aimed at retail stockroom or warehouse use, consists of an assembly attached to an FX7500 reader that enables customers to add antennas in configurations of one or two in order to add additional read coverage or portals. And the SP5504 point-of-sale (POS) antenna, connected to an FX7500 reader, comes with a read field specific to the requirements of POS lanes, enabling users to prevent stray reads.