* This is a Tibbo BASIC/C-programmable device and its function depends on the loaded app.
We offer many ready-to-use apps, among them a serial-over-IP (SoI) app, Modbus Gateway app, and Sensor Hub app.
UAS McDonald's Project

Drive-through Monitoring System for UAS, Inc.

In 2014 Tibbo was approached by Universal Atlantic Systems, Inc. (UAS), a US corporation located in Paoli, Pennsylvania. UAS is a provider of integrated security systems. The company offers a video surveillance system called Raven and runs a certified central station that monitors customer’s sites. UAS focuses on servicing clients with multiple locations throughout the United States. Having multiple locations in different geographical areas means that such customers have an increased need for advanced monitoring systems and monitoring automation.

One large customer segment that UAS is serving is fast food chains. Fast food restaurants are the very definition of operations with multiple locations throughout the US. UAS supplies equipment and provides services to McDonald's, Burger King, Five Guys, and many other chains. In recent years, UAS has set out to expand beyond its traditional area of video surveillance and alarm monitoring. One promising direction was helping customers monitor the efficiency of their operations.

The first idea came straight from McDonald’s restaurant owners. One group of owners inquired if there was a way to “count cars in the drive-through.” What they had in mind was a system that would be able to count the number of cars passing through a restaurant’s drive-through each day and estimate the service time for each car. The need to “count cars” was unfulfilled as McDonald's did not have any system in place for monitoring the efficiency of the drive-through operation. Restaurant owners do not typically spend their entire day (and night) monitoring their restaurant’s personnel, and many have multiple locations so they cannot be “everywhere at the same time.” Hence, the need for a system that objectively measures the efficiency of their restaurants’ drive-through service, and this is the system that UAS have contracted Tibbo to create.

The Pilot System

The first step Tibbo took in planning the system was to select vehicle sensors. After some trial and error, we settled on Maxbotix ultrasonic proximity sensors. Maxbotix offers all-weather devices that measure the distance to the nearest object and output the measurement result via an RS232 interface. The sensors are oriented to “look” at the drive-through. With every passing vehicle, the distance measured by the sensor changes from “infinity” to the actual distance to this vehicle.

Maxbotix sensors feed data into the system’s local processing node based on the Size 2 Tibbo Project System (TPS2). Tibbo Project System is a versatile Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and automation platform whose flexibility is based on Tibbits (“Tibbo Bits”) — miniature blocks (modules) implementing various IO functions. For this particular system, the TPS device was originally outfitted with just a few Tibbits: a terminal block and RS232 Tibbits for receiving data from a Maxbotics sensor. There was also a power supply Tibbit, and not much else.

The TPS device uses the data it receives from the Maxbotix sensor to generate events, such as “vehicle in,” “vehicle out,” and so on. These events are time-stamped and sent to the AggreGate server. In the UAS case, this server runs on the Amazon AWS infrastructure. Tibbo assisted UAS in deploying and managing the server, although the latter job was eventually passed to UAS personnel. Tibbo has also developed several project-specific software modules for the AggreGate server. These modules are used by UAS employees to configure and monitor their customers’ systems. Tibbo has also designed several reports that the AggreGate server generates each weak and emails to restaurant owners.

The final element of the system is a dedicated monitoring app for iOS and Android. This app, also developed by Tibbo, allows restaurant owners to see the statistics of their drive-through activity in real time.

To recap: Tibbo-selected Maxbotix sensors send measurements to TPS devices, which turn these measurements into events, which are then sent to the AggreGate server in the cloud. Customers (restaurant owners) use a custom-built iOS or Android app that talks to the server and shows real-time drive-through statistics. On top of that, all customers are emailed weekly reports containing easy-to-understand at-a-glance information on the efficiency of their drive-through operations.

A Benevolent Trojan

Initially, TPS devices deployed at pilot McDonald's location had a lot of empty slots. Indeed, very little was asked of this TPS by way of I/O, so we had a lot of empty sockets in reserve there. Then, a wondrous thing happen. With surprising agility, the restaurant owners have figured out that TPS was a modular device, and started asking for additional features!

It went something like this:

— Can you add a sensor for the back door? Our insurance company requires that the back door is kept locked at night. If a robbery or theft occurs and the door is discovered to have been opened, then this voids the insurance.

(We add a Tibbit and UAS adds a door sensor).

— We have a large walk-in cold storage room. If our employees forget to close the door, all the food inside goes to waste. Can you add a sensor for that?

(UAS adds a sensor, wires it to the TPS).

— We suspect that some of our night shift employees take turns "resting" on a sofa in the manager’s office. This delays service! Can you do anything about it?

(UAS adds an ultrasonic sensor and wires it to the TPS).

— Now that we have all the drive-through statistics, we have another issue: some of our workers claim that they sometimes “cannot see the cars” at night, and this is why it occasionally takes them so long to start servicing customers. Can you install a kind a kitchen “traffic light”? It would turn green when a vehicle pulls up, yellow when the expected service time is almost up, and red when this time has been exceeded. Can you do this?

(UAS installs such a “traffic light.” It is controlled using relay Tibbits).

By now, the system is fast filling up with Tibbits, but ideas keep flowing, and soon some restaurants start getting the second TPS device!

What Tibbo learned from this experience is that a TPS often works as a benevolent Trojan horse: install it at a customer’s site and give it minimal functionality. Once the system is deployed, your customer will come up with further ideas on how to expand the system.

Summary

The fast food restaurant monitoring system, now patented by UAS, shows the depth and breadth of Tibbo’s typical involvement in an automation or IoT project. In the cause of this project, Tibbo provided the following services:

  • Helped UAS select the suitable hardware, including Maxbotix ultrasonic proximity sensors and Tibbo Project System devices.
  • Developed applications for TPS devices.
  • Developed additional modules for AggreGate.
  • Developed a UAS app for iOS and Android.
  • Helped configure AWS servers, deployed AggreGate software, participated in managing AWS instances and AggreGate servers.
  • Provided remote support to installers deploying the system on target sites.
UAS McDonald's Project