What is Asset Tracking and How Does It Work?
Table of Contents
Keeping track of assets is a fundamental facet for businesses in workspace management. To efficiently handle valuable assets companies need to know where their equipment and assets are located at all times, which can be a determinant factor for protecting them from loss or retrieving data from them for further application. You, as a customer, may know that such inconveniences as, for example, losing your baggage in the airport or unknown location of your package affects customer experience and has negative impacts on your company in general. Therefore, smart asset tracking and management solutions benefit the bottom line of your company and will definitely bring real value to your business. Read on to know all the specifics, advantages, and challenges across industries and technologies used in asset tracking.
What is asset tracking, and what does it mean for your business?
Asset tracking allows collecting and analyzing data obtained from sensors and tags that are applied to a company’s assets. With asset tracking software solutions, you can track the locations and movements of assets at a given time which can help you disclose new revenue streams for your business growth and acceleration. It means that by logging each item of equipment while using you can track efficiently and accurately its use and key details in a centralized system. Hence, you are aware of the location of your key assets which can tremendously save up your budget. With asset tracking systems, your business processes are streamlined and optimized since all the data in one centralized location can be accessed by anyone in the company whenever they want. In a nutshell, asset tracking can be used by administrators and employees to:
- locate assets quickly
- prevent delays
- access data reports
- ensure accurate scheduling maintenance
- monitor conditions
- automate inventory management
- enhance lifecycle management
- have a complete view of the usage history
In recent years, the asset tracking market has experienced a significant scale due to advanced and affordable IoT solutions and M2M communications. According to some predictions, 95% of all enterprise and industrial solutions will support IoT asset tracking. According to Research and Market report, the global asset tracking market share is expected to be worth $36.3B by 2025.
Asset tracking has been historically used for tracking fleet-focused items (trucks, trailers, cars, etc.), however, nowadays, there are many more opportunities for businesses in different industries to leverage the power of non-vehicle-related assets. For example, RFID tags can be applied in manufacturing to automate inventory management, or in the energy/utilities industry to efficiently track and manage HVAC, in the healthcare market – to track equipment and reduce wait times. More on that we will provide a bit later in the next sections.
How does asset tracking work?
To provide the company with greater visibility into asset utilization and maintenance, asset tracking systems are great solutions allowing to monitor and control important details in real-time. Asset tracking provides IoT-based remote monitoring and management of assets by applying tracking devices, connectivity methods, and software. Tagging tools are designed to track fixed assets and assign each asset with a unique identification code. There are different forms of asset tagging tools. What type of connectivity (IoT network) to select depends on your business requirements and criteria that are important to deliver the project: accuracy, the number of assets being tracked, scalability, range, data transfer rates, costs, and risks associated with asset loss.
Asset tracking technologies
Widely recognized and trusted among numerous industries due to unique identification, barcode technology is affordable and massively scalable. Barcode tags or QR codes are attached to equipment items allowing for quickly scanning the item with a mobile phone or scanner which automatically updates the software records. However, to scan and retrieve information, barcodes have to be aligned in a straight line with scanning devices or scanned individually. Barcode is a great solution for low-value assets. In the table below we’ve collected the Pros and Cons of Barcode technology.
|Barcode Advantages||Barcode Disadvantages|
|Small and lightweight||Require manual scanning|
|Affordable and easy-to-use||Short-range|
|Can be used to a large number of assets with almost no limitation||Do not show real-time status and location|
|Inexpensive||Prone to human errors|
Despite its age, radio-frequency identification is still known for its widespread use among various companies. RFID works using the principle of electromagnetic readers and tags that contain identification data. This data can be read by hand-held interrogators or stationary. During the reading process, the tags are scanned which can provide data, for example, on the specific time and current location when the RFID tag crosses the doorway. Therefore, RFID solutions are a great fit for security checks or inventory management processes. By 2027, the number of global active RFID trackers will sum up to 267M across different industries: industrial automation, logistics, supply chain, agriculture, construction, mining, and other related markets.
There are low-frequency, high-frequency, and ultra-frequency RFID tags. Most asset tracking applications use ultra-frequency RFID systems due to their possibility of reading tags for long distances. A high-range active RFID tag could reach the location up to 5-9 million square feet of the reader. Subsequently, the price varies as well. In the table below we’ve collected the Pros and Cons of RFID technology.
|RFID Advantages||RFID Disadvantages|
|Small tags||Complex systems installations|
|Small radio signature||Limited reading rage|
GPS tracking systems enable fleet owners to get a high level of access and control over their fleet. Depending on a network of in-orbit satellites that emit signals to receivers, synchronizing their clocks accurately, GPS technology is known for its precise positioning and reliability.
Although costs for GPS infrastructure are low, most GPS devices need high power consumption due to the necessity to be connected constantly to the power source and use rechargeable batteries since large distances affect battery drains fastly. GPS technology has limitations in accuracy, however, it can be good enough for moving outdoors.
One more disadvantage of GPS asset tracking is it requires it to be within visual range with satellites, which makes it difficult to utilize it in metropolitan areas, behind a mountain, or underground.
In comparison with RFID technology, GPS offers even more possibilities for users since GPS reflects satellite signals and delivers them directly to software anywhere in the world and as soon as possible (every 5 seconds), whereas RFID technology requires a hand-held reader to transmit data. In the table below we’ve collected the Pros and Cons of GPS technology.
|GPS Advantages||GPS Disadvantages|
|The most widely used tracking technology in the world||High power consumption|
|Large library of stable GPS tracking applications||Has limitations in urban and underground places|
|Wide adoption of GPS in consumer wearable and deployable devices||End-user can’t fix it when something goes wrong|
Consuming low power, BLE stands out from other solutions like Wi-Fi or GPS and is widely used for indoor positioning applications; for example, to gather location data in shopping malls or hospitals. Latency and signal interference are the most notable shortcomings of BLE which may affect lost coverage, dropped data points, and lower speed of the system.
BLE systems may be costly because of the high number of networked devices required. Even if BLE integrates with common consumer devices which is a big advantage, it has challenges in proper functioning around some specific environments like metal or reflective surfaces. Furthermore, if there are movement obstacles, BLE’s Received Signal Strength Indications (RSSI which determine proximal asset locations as objects move) can be removed from the setting. In the table below we’ve collected the Pros and Cons of BLE technology.
|BLE Advantages||BLE Disadvantages|
|Low power consumption||Latency and signal interference|
|Not costly devices||It may be costly if there is a need for a huge amount of networked devices|
|Accuracy up to few meters||Inaccuracy in highly effective environments|
|Real-time updates||A large number of transmitters is needed|
|Cross-functionality with consumer devices||Security vulnerabilities|
NFC stands for Near Field Communication and has almost the same functionalities as RFID technology. It differs from RFID by the NFC tag which needs to be in close proximity with the reader, however, you do need to focus a scanner on the tag that can be located on any side of the item.
Compared to barcode or QR code scanning, the notable advantage is the speed, so that inventory managers do not need to stop and precisely scan each object, they can do that on the go. Moreover, to implement an NFC solution, there is no need to buy specialized hardware – it can be incorporated with consumers’ smartphones to scan or read the object. In the table below we’ve collected the Pros and Cons of NFC technology.
|NFC Advantages||NFC Disadvantages|
|Fast scanning since there is no need to scan each item separately||Should be in close proximity with a scanner (within 4 inches)|
|You do need special hardware||It isn’t completely free of risks|
|Perfectly suits for processing large batches of assets||Quite pricey to deploy on a large scale|
How IoT technologies bring value to asset tracking?
Asset tracking is one of the most promising areas of IoT. The asset tracking IoT device market is anticipated to triple by 2022 with revenue growth of $7.5B.
As we mentioned before, implementing asset tracking systems requires the connection between assets and devices (sensors) that can scan/read RFID tags, barcodes, NFC tags, etc. to deliver data obtained and process it in software management systems.
Therefore, companies can get comprehensive insights into their asset’s conditions. Moreover, the convenience and high usability of IoT devices in the form of smartphones make it easy-to-use for each member of the company who can get the most up-to-date information and access it with just a few clicks.
So, if your business workflow is out-of-date and needs streamlining, connecting your most valuable assets will help to monitor them in real-time and manage them efficiently.
Here are the most common features of an asset tracking system:
- Powered with cloud technology
- Monitors assets in real-time
- Manages them efficiently
- Captures data and stores it
- Creates reports and sends updates
- Prevents malfunctions and unauthorized use
- Improves utilization rates
- Mobile-friendly (asset tracking mobile apps)
With a well-set IoT technology stack and sensors attached to assets, you are empowered to gather the data that is moved to the cloud platform, depending on the frequency requirements, technology used, and data transmission settings. Once data is analyzed it is transformed into actionable insights about assets’ location, usage, movement, and condition.
What are the benefits and challenges of asset tracking?
If you do not know where your assets are and how they are utilized, you are likely to face such challenges as asset downtime, time-consuming asset management in complex supply chains, thefts, high administrative costs, and many more. Let’s see how asset tracking can help solve these challenges.
- IoT-powered data insights help improve accuracy. To unlock the full potential of asset tracking, the utilization of IoT solutions can empower your systems to retrieve more comprehensive data. This data help make better business strategic decisions, predictions and enhance control over your company’s assets. Instead of using error-prone spreadsheets, asset tracking tools will ensure a high level of accuracy that is needed to generate inventory reports for budgeting, compliance, and insurance purposes.
- IoT-based monitoring increases the visibility of physical assets in real-time. As your physical assets are moving throughout the workplace, you need to keep close track of them in order to ensure effective operation. With real-time data collection, IoT devices can provide detailed insights into who and how is using the equipment, when you need to update your leasing arrangement, or what asset is needed to be replaced or fixed.
- Data tracking helps streamline business operations. By that, we mean improved efficiency that can be achieved with asset usage optimization. For example, IoT-based tracking systems can ensure a high level of equipment control that is used and maintained so that they are automatically locked on or switched off whenever there is a need.
- Asset tracking facilitates cost-efficiency associated with theft. Without proper monitoring of stock, spare parts, equipment and tools, and any other critical assets that need scrutinized control, businesses can be lost in the volumes and whereabouts of their inventory. Effective asset tracking systems help reduce time spent by employees on looking for assets, improve oversights on components, and reduce the risk of assets missing out.
- Tags and sensors help prevent asset downtime. To have enough insights into how your assets are used, IoT sensors and devices are applied to these assets, maximizing asset availability. Therefore, a sudden breakdown of any equipment or a complete machine shutdown can be prevented with improved forecasted processes and real-time monitoring.
4 challenges to successful IoT asset tracking deployment:
- Data theft. Automated software is prone to breakdown; that’s why businesses need to put special efforts into data protection.
- Staff training. IoT-powered asset tracking solutions need to be adopted by the whole organization so that each company member has to be trained and consulted. Implementing new systems to their full potential requires preliminary preparation within the company culture.
- IoT skills. Many businesses still hesitate to fully involve themselves in the digital world of asset tracking and connected devices since there is no certainty in the expertise and tech skills of developers. Therefore, we recommend that software development companies offering related solutions need to have sufficient experience in implementing IoT and cloud-based solutions to be able to offer the best IoT tech stack options to cover all project needs. Ask your candidates for their portfolio, be aware of what they do, and how they managed to solve challenges occurring on the way.
- Unreliable connectivity. It mostly said about the transport industry where distances play a significant role in how IoT deployment will be implemented. To ensure regular and reliable connectivity for IoT devices to function not only at any given route but for prolonged distances and in potentially hazardous environments, there should be solid solutions allowing to constantly track assets on a global scale.
Industries that benefit the most from tracking assets
There is a range of advantages for companies adopting IoT-enabled asset management solutions, among them are the following:
- Predictive analytics
- Real-time alerts
- Automatic reporting
- Enhanced monitoring maintenance
- Decreased human involvement.
We have facilitated many companies both small and big-sized, to generate revenue and streamline business processes by utilizing asset tracking technology across various industries. Let’s shed a light on some use cases so that you can validate an idea for your own solution.
Transportation and Warehouse
In the transportation sector, IoT-powered asset tracking systems provide businesses with real-time fleet monitoring and tracking, enhanced security, well-maintained vehicles, and also help identify unfruitful vehicles. The IoT fleet management market is expected to grow to $26 410M by 2027.
- With real-time data obtained from tags (RFID, BLE, or GPS), cloud-based asset management systems have access to the real-time location of each asset with check-in and check-out features allowing it to identify asset theft and enhance security.
- To increase the lifespan of vehicles and prevent sudden breakdowns and unplanned maintenance, asset tracking technology solutions make it possible to get alerts and notifications on assets’ malfunction on a regular basis, thereby enhancing the vehicle’s efficiency and saving up on unintended expenditures.
- Regarding warehouses, IoT sensors combined with a smart remote monitoring system can help eliminate manual inventory control processes and reduce human errors by tracking the exact location of each cargo.
Case study: A Smart Bike Rental Software Development
The idea was to equip bikes with integrated tablets with built-in GPS for easy renting and monitoring. For this purpose, Euristiq specialists developed a custom software allowing admins to efficiently track bikes, collect regular reports, and use them for further maintenance and improvement. Moreover, a comprehensive bike maintenance functionality blocks bikes from being booked while they are in the process of repairing. Within the first two years, GoBike software acquired more than 200k users who have made more than 1.5M trips.
By 2025, the IoT market growth in the retail industry is predicted to reach $35.5B by 2025. It is not strange that IoT adoption in Retail has been highly increasing: just to mention the $500M that Walmart spent on RFID technology. Or one more notable example is how Mark and Spencer incorporated an RFID asset tracking system in 2001 and increased sales up to 5.5%.
IoT-enabled devices help utilize asset tracking solutions to:
- Improve supply chain management (where participants get access to real-time data needed for better visibility on the product’s flow and material safety).
- Ensure smart in-store inventory (RFID tags, beacons, digital price tags, video monitoring tools, etc. help replenish inventory on time, balance stock-outs and overstocks, and finally, make customers satisfied).
- Ensure the security of products and stores (via smart devices, retailers can get real-time data on products’ traceability in case of misconduct or fraud activities, whether in-store or during logistics).
With IoT-powered solutions, businesses can get real-time data to enhance their productivity, efficient utilization of space, ensuring a high level of security. Legacy management systems require automated approaches toward managing processes since manual processes can lead to errors and slow inaccurate flows.
With meaningful and preventative asset management, companies are empowered with business intelligence which allows them to create data-driven asset management schedules. By consolidating their asset management, improving visibility and lifecycle, businesses are enabled to benefit from huge savings.
IoT solutions can be customizable so that your business can select a certain IoT sensor taking into consideration such factors as speed, temperature, moisture and pressure, lighting, etc.
To solve the problem of meeting room underutilization, the Euristiq team developed a room occupancy management system with user-friendly dashboards, integrated with IoT getaways and sensors. As a result, smart office software collects and processes smart telemetry data, providing records on the performance, and meets room efficiency statistics. Through the uplink payloads sent by IoT-enabled sensors, managers can collect data regarding whether the room is occupied, the duration of the meeting, how many people are present, etc.
The solution provided the users with the possibility to view available rooms and filter them by floor, capacity, the equipment they have, and free time slots for booking. If there is a vacant room or anything is wrong, users are notified directly via the application.
Being a major industry that benefits from the adoption of IoT asset tracking solutions, the healthcare industry has already stepped on the path of transformation of asset management. One of the core challenges in healthcare facilities is excessive spending on equipment and wasting nursing hours. Therefore, the critical need to efficiently manage their workforce has forced healthcare institutions to adopt IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) and asset tracking solutions in medical facilities that have made a huge impact on shifts toward traditional approaches of medical asset control and utilization. For example, in Louisiana State University hospitals, $6M worth of state-owned hospital equipment was lost. Moreover, newly purchased facilities were not tracked properly as well.
According to Researchandmarkets, the global healthcare asset management market is anticipated to grow to $66.3B by 2027.
Let’s see how IoT-based solutions can be effective drivers for better asset tracking and management in hospitals. The asset tracking systems can help:
- Identify deficits in asset demand
- Notify drug expiration dates
- Indicate the location of expensive resources and medication
- Improve the inventory accuracy
- Track asset’s ROI
- Locate medical equipment in real-time quickly and easily
- Automate supply and ordering processes
- Reduce theft and loss of assets
- With an accurate patient and bed tracking
Aimed at the development of solutions to efficiently consume resources, smart cities connect humans with smart technologies. Thanks to numerous sensors collecting vast amounts of data and wireless communications, smart cities can improve infrastructure, public services, and optimize resources. For example, with asset tracking, we can monitor the state of traffic and offer solutions toward its efficient management and optimization, or evaluate the consumption and the intensity of the light by adjusting lighting levels on the streets. Let us give a detailed example of how IoT-powered applications can significantly optimize field management and deployment of lighting assets.
Case study: App for Managing Connected Devices
Regarding the problem of inefficient electricity use and maintenance of city street lamps, Euristiq elaborated upon an Android app to track and control configurations of streetlight properties. With this app integrated into the system that allows visualizing the entire street light installation and monitoring its operation, admins can evaluate the consumption and intensity of the light emitted from the street lamp, individually or in groups.
Asset Tracking in Manufacturing
The proliferation of connected devices made it possible for engineering and manufacturing operations to get real-time insights into the production process, on the position of the workforce and industrial assets locations and usage. To drive ROI, companies need to gain value from data analyzed and transformed into actionable KPIs. This data is more powerful than some businesses may seem: it optimizes efficiency.
With asset tracking and connected devices businesses can:
- Track assets and workflows in real-time
- Increase safety for employees
- Get accurate insights to generate key decisions on performance and improvement
- Save a significant amount of time and money
- Eliminate tedious human tasks by automatization
- Increase overall output productivity.
An international engineering consulting group in Denmark needed a web-based IoT solution of utility monitoring and management system to automatically collect the company’s utility data from all sources. The aim was to analyze all the data obtained from different data sources (Aquis, SCADA, GIS, CIS, Asset Management, Finance,) and present it as KPI on the map. The system helps prioritize areas for maintenance work and improvement by monitoring the condition of the utility’s network. As a result, troubleshooting is faster than 10x and operating costs decreased up to 15%.
You as a business owner are taking care of your workspace management looking for new and new ways of how to improve and reinforce tracking of assets. Maybe, it is one of the most prioritized facets of your company since proper and efficient handling of your valuable assets may increase your ROI, optimize your resource utilization, and finally, improve your customers’ experience. If you know where your certain asset is located at a specific time frame and how it is used right now, – you are empowered to protect them from theft and inefficient usage. Moreover, with connected devices, your asset tracking will be an actionable resource for retrieving insights needed for the enhancement of your business performance.
Nevertheless, businesses are still experiencing connectivity problems which makes them prudent toward IoT devices effectiveness. With that said, the IoT company you are going to hire needs to guarantee the reliable data provided by these devices. Plus, experienced specialists and IoT developers are the key drivers for your IoT project success.