The Watchdog at the Tap
By Ulrich Simons,
editor with Aachener Nachrichten
Aachen. Felipe has the ideal knack! That’s what he believes. For weeks, the host from Caracas has been selling beer purchased under the counter, double-crossing his German licensor. As long as the latter got to the bottom of it. One night, as Felipe is standing behind his counter, the tap does give a drop. The German shut it down. Via the Internet. Using computer technology from Aachen.
The story is fictitious. However, the technology it is based on could turn reality pretty fast.
In Oberforstbach near Aachen, the automation specialists of Gesytec have developed a system ready to be marketed and designated to put a stop to such fraudulent acts. "ABS" is the current, company intern name of this new system. A German abbreviation for "AntiFraudSystem".
The idea: In many fields of business of our economy a product or a service is sold by an licensee, backed by a licensor, either making his name available (e.g. McDonalds) or equipping, for example, a new bar or restaurant for the licensee. In addition, he takes care of the advertising and supplies all raw material or finished products.
On the other hand, the licensee commits himself to the exclusive use of the licensors products. Of course, they are not quite dirt-cheap as the licensor, e.g. a beverage supplier or a brewery, is trying to get the money back that has been invested in the restaurant equipment. Practically pre-financed to his host.
All right then, but there are some especially smart hosts amongst them. Instead of pouring out the (more expensive) beer from their licensor, they just purchase some barrels in a supermarket, sell it on tap and moan about the "bad business" while talking to their licensor. The host makes a hell of money of it and the brewery is surprised about the slow sales.
That is the point where Gesytec’s system takes action. A small computer in the tap compares supplied and sold quantity of beer. In case of occurring absurdities, the system generates an alarm and the licensor can act, for example by shutting down the unit via remote control.
As the entire data transfer is effected via Internet, those systems can be used worldwide. At as little expenses as a local call for the licensor.
That’s how it works
The anti-fraud-system developed by Gesytec is a small computer that is connected to a production or performance device, e.g. the tap in a bar or restaurant and transmits all respective data to the licensor via Internet. Experts call this system of self-monitoring automation systems "Embedded Control" or "Embedded System".
In case of occurring discrepancies, the licensor can interfere immediately into the production process by return and, for example, temporarily shut down the device.
As the entire action is processed via Internet it absolutely doesn’t matter where on the globe both partners are located. The connection between the machine and the Internet has been realized by Gesytec’s engineers with the 32-bit operating system Windows CE, well known from the "Handhelds".
As per CEO Dieter Schunk, Gesytec is one of the first companies already using Windows CE in its products. As a result, Microsoft GmbH signed a cooperation agreement with Gesytec and nominated Gesytec "Microsoft Windows CE Authorized System Integrator".
Source: Aachener Nachrichten
"Around the Computer" July 1998