“Asset tracking” refers to the use of technology to track physical assets of any kind. In commercial and industrial applications, asset tracking systems allow businesses to track high-value inventory, equipment, or any other device or asset as it moves around over the course of its use or throughout the supply chain.
By granting organizations greater visibility over materials and equipment, asset tracking systems can lead to benefits such as improved inventory control, loss and theft prevention, enhanced customer service, greater operational efficiency, new service offerings, and much more depending on the use case and methods applied. Learn more how location-based insights can help optimize warehouse efficiency.
In any asset tracking system, the degree of precision and the conditions under which an object can be tracked depends on the underlying positioning technology used.
The most basic types of digital asset tracking rely on scanning technology. In these types of systems, barcodes, RFID tags, or similar sensors are affixed to the items that must be tracked. Location is then reported whenever an item is scanned.
Of course, these systems are limited. Items can’t be tracked when out of the range of a scanner, so they’re only effective for materials that must travel through a choke point. They don’t offer real-time visibility into an object’s current location, only its last known location. And their reliance on manual intervention opens the door to human error and drain on resources.
Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled asset tracking overcomes these limitations. IoT asset tracking leverages internet connectivity to offer real-time location insights about the assets being tracked. This positioning capability helps decrease lost inventory and generates data for companies looking to better gauge the performance of their warehouse and supply chain.
The connected nature of IoT asset tracking devices also have the ability to convey different types of information beyond location, such as device status or condition, as well as advanced monitoring capabilities, such as administrator alerts if an object travels to an unauthorized location.
Since many people equate “GPS” to be nearly synonymous with location, it’s important to point out that GPS technology can’t usually fulfill all location requirements on its own. GPS signals aren’t reliable indoors, and they’re incapable of delivering the smartphone-level global positioning accuracy that many consumers and use cases expect or require. Instead, GPS is just one of several different positioning technologies that can underpin IoT asset tracking software:
Wi-Fi Asset Tracking, in the form of active RFID or real-time location system (RTLS) integrations, adds capabilities of Wi-Fi signals on top of scanning. These systems can perform real-time location monitoring for tracked devices within a confined area. Tracked devices can have low-energy Bluetooth connections or more robust processing power, depending on the connectivity and goals of the IoT deployment.
Cellular Asset Tracking leverages cellular networks (the same kind used by phones) to keep devices connected and communicating with one another, sharing location and other information. Reliance on cellular connectivity for asset tracking requires all tracked devices to be equipped with an M2M SIM card, similar to a phone on a network, and they work best in areas with strong cellular coverage.
GPS Asset Tracking transmits device location information via satellite signals (of which GPS is a subtype). GNSS signals reach most outdoor areas, but are less reliable indoors. GNSS/GPS asset trackers require a processor, battery, and either cellular or LPWAN network connectivity.
Hybrid Asset Tracking blends two or more types of previous solutions.
Identifying the ideal solution is often a question of identifying the level and footprint of real-time monitoring required against project budget, data transmission needs, and device battery life constraints.
Since each positioning technology has its own strengths and weaknesses, it’s easy to see how achieving a desired level of asset traceability might require a combination of solutions. Hybrid positioning technologies, such as Skyhook Precision Location, combine different technologies into one flexible asset tracking solution.
Precision Location utilizes cellular, GNSS, and Wi-Fi signals on top of Skyhook’s proprietary network of over five billion curated location points. This hybrid solution offers distinct advantages:
Global coverage: Accurately locate devices worldwide.
Indoor coverage: Track devices indoors without the need to add or maintain beacon or mapping infrastructure.
Offline positioning: Locate devices even when connectivity is lost.
Multiple integration options: Since precision location is a software-based solution, it can be flexibly implemented on many kinds of devices and applications with minimal BoM impact.
Minimize data transmission and battery drainage: Precision Location’s customizable settings can be tailored to transmit location information less frequently, preserving device resources and budget.
IoT asset tracking is an expanding field with many possibilities, poised for growth in a few distinct areas.
Hybrid positioning technology enables raw materials and inventory to be tracked throughout a global supply chain. Enterprises can use this information to prevent loss or theft, identify potential interruptions, and even streamline operations thanks to greater visibility into throughput. Real-time positioning capabilities can enable a wide range of potential system features, such as immediate alerts if materials are brought into an off-limits area, and integration with other industrial IoT applications to increase automation of processes.
GPS tracking and fleet management solutions allow enterprises to monitor the safety and status of fleets, drivers, and cargo as individual vehicles move across borders and throughout coverage areas. Hybrid technologies can offer advantages over GPS connectivity alone, such as offline positioning, greater precision, and better traceability when obstructions block satellite signals, or when cellular connectivity is not available.
In healthcare, asset tracking systems can be used to monitor the whereabouts of everything from controlled substances, to hospital equipment, and even patients or their individual medical devices. In this way, hospital asset tracking software can help promote safety, prevent loss and theft, ensure compliance with external mandates or doctor’s orders, and even save lives. Because of these high-value assets, medical asset tracking often calls for the utmost degree of indoor positioning reliability and precision.
Many companies leverage hybrid positioning technology to drive more value in products with distinctive tracking features. Pet trackers, wearables, mobile personal emergency response systems, and anti-theft devices on luggage, cars, or other high-value items are all examples of IoT asset tracking for consumer use.
Precision Location provides IoT asset tracking and global positioning services to nearly all types of connected devices. Through flexible integration offerings, our solutions allow organizations to track valuable assets globally from facilities to the field, providing real-time location intelligence, reducing operational costs and improving system efficiencies.
From consumer devices to enterprise applications, we offer both direct and marketplace integration options in lightweight, power-conscious solutions, making it easier for businesses to track equipment, fleets, and more. Contact us to learn more or to start your next IoT asset management project powered by Precision Location.
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