Imci Product Evolution

Customer:
International Management Consultants, Inc. (IMCI)

Synopsis:
Customer with an aging product line looks for help in a makeover and redesign of their offerings.

Detail:
IMCI is the manufacturer of the Open-i® line of monitoring and control devices.  These devices are designed to monitor analog, digital and serial inputs and report alarm conditions via SNMP to a centralized monitoring facility.  Also capable of digital and serial output, the Open-i® units can also be used as a remote means to control any number of devices to allow for enabling/disabling and issuing control commands to remote equipment.

Originally, IMCI contracted PTR to provide training services to get their developers up to speed in embedded Linux technology.  IMCI’s product line was originally based on Wind River System’s VxWorks® operating system running on embedded i80386 PC/104 boards.  Since PTR had extensive experience in both VxWorks and Linux, we were a perfect fit to introduce them to a new technology.  The engagement was originally just a training session.  However, as we discussed their goals, it was discovered that they had additional concerns with some custom interfaces and needing those interfaces supported by the Linux kernel.  Additionally, their i386 board vendor was discontinuing that product line and replacing it with an i486SX-based board that was claimed did not have Linux 2.6 kernel support.

PTR’s first post-training engagement with IMCI was to develop a Linux kernel that would run on the new i486 board and get the new board to boot from a solid-state memory device.  This effort required learning about the custom SoC used on the new target board and developing both a kernel configuration for the base board as well as a series of kernel patches to support the on-board R6040 Ethernet controller.  PTR developed both the kernel patches as well as a highly customized fie system for the product line.

In the subsequent year of working with IMCI, PTR helped develop over 10 different products based on the underlying Open-i® platform.  Technologies that PTR was instrumental in implementing for IMCI include wireless 3G/4G modem technology, a MODBUS interface, VPN client and server technology, Ethernet bridging, SSH access, serial pass-thru from Ethernet to serial devices, a remote file system update technique, a file system imaging device and approach for mass producing deployable file systems and several more.   Another of these products was a video-centric service that allows for various real-time monitoring of remote facilities to detect break-in attempts using both visible and infra-red night vision capabilities.

PTR continues to be a valued partner to IMCI.  We are currently working with them to transition their product line to a greatly enhanced version of Linux, developing some custom kernel extensions and expanding their VPN services for customers such as the major wireless service providers.  Our ability to quickly react to their dynamic business needs and supply rapid solutions to tough technical problems continues to help make IMCI the dominant supplier of SNMP monitoring equipment in the world.