My plans for 2017, part 1: Work


Creative Commons photo of Z566M nixie tubes displaying 2, 0, 1, and 7 by “Hellbus”.

As of the start of 2017, I’ll have passed the traditional 90-day probationary period as Smartrac’s Technology Evangelist. So far, it’s been an enjoyable, exciting, and challenging whirlwind.


It helps that I’m working with some brilliant people with all sorts of experience, ranging from electrical/radio engineering to biophysics to good ol’ computer science, to having been in the Navy and Homeland Security, and who’ve contributed to some open source frameworks that you may have used if you do front end web development.

am the dumbest guy in the room, and that’s all right with me.


targetOne of my goals for this year is to make the most of my proximity to all these smart people, and all the knowledge, chances to learn, and access to opportunities that they provide, and in return, showcase their brainpower and works to audiences both technical and non-technical.

The experience has been made even better by the sweet gear that I’ve been assigned

…as well as the travel opportunities I’ve been in my short span of time at the company, including Asheville, North Carolina, where Smartrac has both an office and an RFID tag and inlay manufacturing facility…


…three trips to the Baltimore office, where our core platform development team works (well, we’re actually in Columbia, just outside Baltimore)…


…a partner visit in London at the start of December, and an upcoming trip to New York


…where I’ll be working our booth on the exhibit floor at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2017, a conference that will be in its 116th year:


targetAnother goal for 2017 is to make the most of the opportunities presented before me, whether in the form of the material support that I get from the company, as well as the chances to travel all over the U.S. and the world to meet customers, developers, partners, prospects, and talk about Smartrac’s technology. In the rush and general busy-ness of working in a fast-paced business where the stakes are high, it’s all too easy to forget that with this line of work come some pretty rare opportunities.


At the heart of Smartrac’s offerings is the Smart Cosmos platform, a data virtualization technology for real-world objects and their interactions that is built around something that we call the TRIM metaphor.

Hey, we’re a tech company, so of course TRIM is an acronym:

  • Things are people, places, products, and any other real-world object that an organization would like to keep track of
  • Things connect real-world objects to their data representation.
  • An example: Associating a bike with serial number x.
  • Relationships answer a true/false question about any two Things in the system. An example: Does Joey own a bicycle with a serial number x?
  • Relationships capture a one-way association between two things.
  • An example: Joey → owns → bicycle. The relationship does not work in the opposite direction.
  • Interactions record events over time between any source Thing and any target Thing.
  • Interactions are time-series data captures that are broadcast in the system for the benefit of “listeners”, which are free to do with these messages as they will.
  • An example: Joey rode bicycle (serial number x) at time y.
  • Metadata stores additional strongly-typed information about a Thing in 3-tuples of (data_typekeyvalue).
  • Metadata key names are arbitrary, and its values are measurement system-agnostic; the values do have to be of the type specified by data_type.
  • An example: “Joey’s bike is colored sky blue” could be represented as Metadata with the 3-tuple (string, “color”, “sky blue”).


If you combine Smart Cosmos with a technology to make real-world objects detectable by processing power — such as the RFID technology that was the original basis of Smartrac’s business — you’ve got the basis for a lot of applications, from manufacturing to retail to healthcare and more.

A technology like Smart Cosmos needs to be explained to a number of parties, from technical decision-makers and the developers who have to integrate Smart Cosmos with their organization’s systems and workflows, to non-technical decision-makers who need a layperson-friendly explanation of the technology they’re counting on to drive their business. That’s where I come in.


As far as Smartrac is concerned, my big goal for this new year is to spearhead the revision of our library so that both technical and non-technical people who want to find out more about our platform, from the broadest, high-level strokes to the finest details of its API and inner workings, can do so quickly, easily, and accurately. A lot of this will be the wholesale updating of the Smart Cosmos site, writing and editing the blog, case studies, white papers, documentation, and creating documents that aren’t limited to writing, but also audio (in the form of things like podcasts), audio-visual (in the form of videos) and even interactive tools. As far as I’m concerned, as long as what I produce helps our audience understand our platform, the sky’s the limit.

It’s going to be an exciting year!