This article lists the achievements of Thinvent Technologies Pvt. Ltd., between its inception in October 2007, and the writing of this document in July 2010.
Thinvent has successfully completed projects in the following key domains:
- Digital signage
- Point of sale and service
- Linux based desktop computing
- Embedded Systems development, particularly VoIP
- Small Business solutions
Our success in completing projects in a timely and satisfactory manner, is driven by our single minded focus on customer satisfaction. We believe in solving customer problems through the creation and assimilation of a new technologies. We have developed numerous proprietary stacks, as well as utilised free and open source software, to power our products.
- Thinvent Embedded Linux: Our flagship product, Thinux, enables customers to deliver enterprise software and desktop computing, without any of the hassles associated with PC and Windows based computing. The product is highly customisable, robust, and field proven. It currently powers more than 6,000 embedded computers running as kiosks, POS, desktops and digital signage.
- Remote Management and Monitoring: Our RMM solution enables customers to monitor and manage a diverse set of open and proprietary systems, in a centralised or a distributed manner. The RMM suite is bundled with all our products. Its efficacy in resolving day-to-day as well as unforeseen problems, is the key selling point of our products. The NMS product extends our RMM solution to the data centre and the WAN, enabling service providers to deliver uptime and meet SLAs.
- Thin Clients, Kiosks and Digital Screens: We manufacture high grade hardware products such as thin clients, all-in-one computers, kiosks and digital signage screens. These products are sought after for their build quality, reliability in adverse climatic conditions, and customisability. We stay ahead of the competition by providing features that instantly connect with customer needs.
- Embedded Servers: Both large enterprises and small businesses require hassle free servers that can provide basic IT services at distributed locations. Our Intel Atom based hardened servers are just the right tool to provide security, VPN, backup, file and print, application, email and VoIP services at branch offices.
- Embedded Linux API: The embedded API product is aimed at developers who wish to migrate their designs from microcontroller or PC, to modern 32-bit embedded boards. It provides a smooth migration path where developers program on PC and deploy on microprocessor boards, without cross-compilation or modification.
Projects Completed for the Indian Railways
The Indian Railways is our anchor customer. They have provided us the opportunity to participate in some of the most ambitious IT projects that India has ever seen. In return, we have consistently delivered them success and reliability.
I. Crew Management System
The CMS project enables IR to manage its 80,000+ strong workforce of drivers and guards. The following products have been developed by us for CMS:
- CMS Kiosk: This is a Touch Screen Kiosk where drivers and guards sign on and off from duty. We have integrated Biometric (fingerprint) authentication and automated breath alcohol testing with these kiosks.
- CMS Desktops: These are Linux based computers used by the office staff for data entry and reporting. Various customisations and GUI Enhancements enable quick resolution of common problems such as printer failure. Status of network, printer, server, etc., is continually provided to the user.
- Server side components: We have provided CMS with SMS solutions, High Availability and Clustering, and other high technology components critical to the reliable functioning and uptime of the project.
- Consulting: We function as a part of the CMS team, and resolve various problems they face in the running and expansion of their system. We have helped them choose open source solutions for Business Intelligence, Server Monitoring and Performance Monitoring. Not only have these solutions saved CMS crores of rupees, they also help them deliver better performance and uptime.
II. Unreserved Ticketing System
The Indian Railways sells 16 million unreserved tickets every day. Today, Thinvent’s software plays a crucial role in a large fraction of these transactions.
- UTS POS: We have enabled migration of unreserved ticketing counters from dumb terminals to intelligent POS machines based on embedded hardware. A complete RDBMS with online-offline synchronisation, an ISCII printing library, and automated monitoring of critical system parameters, are some of the important features. The system can now run in far flung areas with poor network connectivity, while consuming less bandwidth than dumb terminals.
- ATVM Kiosks: Indian Railways operates automated ticketing vending kiosks at Mumbai and Chennai suburban tracks, running on our software and technology. Some of the challenges faced in this project included migration of the UTS system to Java and GUI, very fast transaction turnaround times, making the GUI appeal to ordinary users, smart card security, bidirectional feedback from thermal printers for security, and enabling accurate calibration of the touchscreens even under heavy usage. Some of the critical drivers for components such as thermal printer, smart card and touchscreen, were rewritten by us from scratch, to enable the features and reliability required for the project to succeed.
- We have now developed the next generation of ATVM technology. While current ATVMs are operated by smart cards, these new ATVMs also accept cash, enabling their penetration into smaller cities and towns. Cash and coin acceptors and dispensers are controlled by our cash engine, and an accurate, multi-factor count of the contents of each bin maintained. We also maintain a complete audit of currency in the system, and allow remote monitoring of cash flow. Numerous fraud detection and prevention features are provided.
- LCD based terminal repeater: The Railways use LED based displays that inform passenger about the ticket they are purchasing. We have developed a modern digital signage based display system that provides both information and advertising. These displays can be mounted on ticket windows, to provide information on both reserved and unreserved ticketing.
- Mobile Van: The Railways have started providing tickets through mobile vans. Migration of ticketing from fixed to mobile infrastructure threw up numerous challenges, such as network connectivity, power conservation, fraud prevention, etc. The Railways depended on us to give a solution, and we met the challenge by resolving all of the problems, and delivering a working system, in record time.
III. Passenger Reservation System
PRS is the most successful and monumental IT project in the history of India, in terms of its scale, success, and impact on the life of the common man. Thinvent is proud to be powering the next generation of PRS.
- PRS terminals: We have migrated the PRS system from dumb terminals to the current generation of IT hardware. All functions such as ticketing, charting and reporting, are successfully running. Features such as ISCII printing, form buffering and multiple sessions, have been provided.Thinvent has now developed an LCD based terminal hardware for the Railways. This terminal is extremely power efficient, conserves space, and has vastly improved ergonomics. Trials of this terminal are now being carried out at various locations.
- Chart Printing system: PRS charts are buffered on local disk and printed at various major stations. This operation is currently carried out using Windows based PCs. The inherent problems of virus, hard drive failure, unreliability and diversion of the PC for other purposes, forced the Railways to look at alternatives. We have successfully ported the .NET based IR reporting system to Linux based embedded hardware.
- Mobile Van: Currently, PRS operation requires dedicated, low latency, high reliability leased line connectivity. When the PRS software was run over VSAT and GPRS connectivity, the latency rendered it unusable. We have resolved this problem by creating a form acceleration and prediction system, and gives the operator a smooth feeling even when working on high latency mobile networks.
Our Hardware Products
For two years after inception, Thinvent only created software products, and depended on other vendors for hardware. But our progression from a software to a hardware company was natural and expected, since all our founders have a background in electronics. In 2009, we came to the realisation that the lack of hardware choices in the market, is holding us back in creating the right solutions for our customers. We decided to create a range of reliable and feature rich, yet cost effective hardware products, which would be bundled with our software products.
Here is a list of hardware products that we have successfully manufactured and marketed:
India’s first branded RISC based thin client, the M2 features ultra low power consumption, industry leading 350ml size, and easy VESA mounting. Our Linux firmware enables connectivity to Windows and Linux servers, as well as operation as a dumb terminal. We are currently working on a refresh of this product, with better features and higher resolution support.
The M5 is the smallest (500ml), lightest (500gm) and least power consuming (15W) Atom based thin client in the entire world. It’s 1.6 GHz processor lets it function as a cloud computing client, web kiosk, and even an embedded server.
Thinvent is proud to have developed India’s first all-in-one thin client. It is as sleek as an LCD monitor, yet packs all the features you need from a modern thin client. This integrated product saves space, power and maintenance, and gives you freedom from wires.
Following on the U19V’s success, we are readying the U16M for its launch in August. This cost optimised product features a smaller screen, but provides a faster processor and increased storage. It is based on our new modular PCB, that lets us rapidly customise the product as per end customer needs.
The kiosk market in India is rapidly growing, driven by the government’s need to interface with citizens in a more optimised manner. The IK150 is a cost effective, wall mount kiosk, featuring a toughened touch screen and a fanless control board.
Apart from projects for the Indian Railways, Thinvent also engages in numerous other embedded product development. Separate data sheets have been provided for these, since the detail cannot be covered in this brief note. Here, we list the product lines briefly.
I. Digital Signage
We have provided an end to end digital signage solution, powering both LCD and LED based equipment, to a number of customers. Pen drive based content and playlist delivery, data acquisition from serial, GPRS and GPS sources, Flash and MPEG4 content, are just some of the features of our product.
II. VoIP Products
We have been involved in the development of soft switches, IP PBX, media gateways, and VoIP terminal devices, in partnership with Coral Telecom Ltd., a leading manufacturer of telecom equipment in India.
III. Small Business Solution
The SME segment constitutes a significant share of the IT market in India. Yet, there are very few products that specifically address their needs. We have created a complete SME solution involving an embedded server, thin clients, and related hardware. We package all the features needed by small businesses – email, chat, calendaring, virus and spam protection, VoIP and IP-PBX, video conferencing, remote surveillance, backup, domain controller, terminal server, firewall and Internet gateway, DHCP, DNS, PPP and PPPoE, Wireless Access Point, VPN, web proxy, storage and print sharing, etc. We are currently seeking partners who can work with us in marketing this product to the target audience.
IV. Future Projects Envisaged – IR
To maintain our lead in the fast changing technology industry, as well as to meet the expectations and needs of the Railways, Thinvent wishes to develop the following products and technologies:
- Remote Monitoring for UTS: The UTS system has some unique needs and challenges. The UTS team wishes to address these problems through a comprehensive remote management and monitoring system, developed exclusively for them. Once developed, this product will be rolled out to all (~10,000) UTS POS systems currently in operation.
- Multilingual extensions: UTS and PRS systems currently only support Hindi. Provision for all scheduled languages of the Constitution of India need to be made.
- Digital Signage: Railways wishes to implement various forms of digital signage, both on the counter and in the open areas. These signage provide information on train movement, reservation availability, coach position, reservation chart, etc. We are in the process of launching a pilot project at a major junction in Central India, in partnership with a national out-of-home advertising agency.
- PRS Enquiry Kiosk: There is a huge need for high reliability, low cost enquiry kiosks, that enable passengers to get ticket confirmation status, train arrival and departure information, seat availability, and other forms of train information.
- Smart card transactions in UTS POS: UTS system is entirely based on cash. In future, smart card recharging needs to be made available on UTS terminals, for users of ATVM. The Railways also wants to extend the usage of smart cards on the counters for transactions. This requires the enabling of smart cards in UTS POS systems.
- Thermal Printing in UTS: Thermal printers have various advantages, such as high speed, greater security, and longer life.
- UTS unified ticketing terminal: The various components at a UTS counter, are currently exposed to the environment, leading to cable damage and possibilities of fraud. This can be prevented by the development of a unified ticketing system, which encases all the components in a single chassis, and monitors the performance of all equipment. This requires the development of a significant number of technology components, and their successful integration with the UTS software.