Digital advancements in smart asset tracking have made sensors smaller, longer lasting, and less expensive than ever. This fact makes asset tracking solutions available to more businesses at any entry point. Real-time location systems (RTLS) give managers and employees visibility to physical assets that matter in the moment. There are untold practical benefits for a business to track physical assets. Until recently, these IoT enabled platforms were only accessible to the largest companies. Today however, IoT technologies are widely available to all industries and use cases.
IoT Enabled Solutions
Have you ever wondered how businesses like Walmart or Amazon keep their shelves stocked and organized? Or how industries like transportation and logistics keep track of all their vehicles and drivers? The answer is that they have incredibly efficient means to keep track of every important asset, no matter how big or small. These companies saw the importance of organization and invested into it big time. Fast forward, and these same asset tracking solutions are now available mainstream. Just as with the first wave of internet-based technologies, this wave of IoT enabled technologies will transform the way many industries do business.
Asset Tracking Platforms
Asset tracking platforms represent an enterprise IoT solution that almost any business can take advantage of. From tracking high value assets, to locating important individuals, these IoT platforms allow workers to find what they need, quickly. Simply affix a small tag, and the accompanying app can direct the user to the asset’s location. However, what separates an enterprise-level solution from a simple location utility, is the IoT cloud. The solution gathers data from regular use and analyzes it to reveal valuable trends. Then, key stakeholders can act on these data to improve productivity for the business.
For example, the IoT platform can track individual’s movements throughout the day. The analytics enabled by these data can provide insight like potential bottlenecks to mobility. On the other hand, by using individuals’ location data throughout the day, management can have a better idea of where individuals spend their time. With this information, management can make decisions to improve efficiency. For instance, moving tasks closer together that require the same individuals’ attention.
The Technology Behind Asset Tracking
There are dozens of various technologies that function together to accomplish a common goal. The complexity of which depends on the specific needs of the business. However, there are generally two types when it comes to asset tracking: general location over a wide area, or a specific location within a small area.
When it comes to outdoor asset tracking, most people are familiar with GPS technology. In fact, the recently emerging “gig economy” is largely powered by connecting individuals using GPS based apps.
Indoor Asset Tracking
What most GPS users are also familiar with, is the immediate drop in accuracy as soon as they come indoors, though. This is where indoor asset tracking comes into play. As it turns out, indoor asset tracking is much more complicated. As a result, indoor asset tracking typically requires a combination of various technologies. Each IoT based technology has its own pros and cons, which we will explore here briefly:
- Bluetooth — The newest BLE technology has many benefits for asset tracking applications. There are two components with a Bluetooth based platform: the tags and the receiver. The BLE tags can be very small and lightweight. Often, a coin cell battery can power the tags and provide years worth of life. The receivers, on the other hand, are somewhat larger and power inefficient. Due to the fact that they must constantly search out for the low-power tags, these can pose a challenge to implementation. Also, although BLE is more accurate, its range is also shorter by comparison to others.
- LPWAN — Low Power Wide Area Networks are emerging network technologies developed specifically to suit the needs of large scale IoT platforms. LoRa is one such technology that can work well in an indoor asset tracking platform. Even though LoRa stands for long range, the benefit here is that this long-range network can easily penetrate through buildings. Its low interference gives it a much greater range than Bluetooth, and even Wi-Fi by a large margin. Because LPWAN target IoT devices’ needs specifically, they often work best for the asset tracking use case.
- Ultra Wide Band — UWB is one of the newest technologies available for indoor asset tracking. Similar to Bluetooth technologies, a low-power tag is enables asset tracking. However, UWB boasts near pinpoint accuracy in three-dimensional space. Though, the novelty of this technology makes it the most expensive of the bunch.
For many businesses, those making decisions do not need to learn a new technology to make an informed business decision. Instead, having a rough idea of what solutions exist is often helpful enough. Bridgera works with owners to recommend technologies that fit their vision of an ideal solution. Once reserved for the likes of Walmart and Amazon, IoT asset tracking is now available to any business willing to learn more about it.
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