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What is Asset Tracking and How Does It Work?

Author
Ivan Muts
Published
April 10, 2023
Time
10 mins to read

Table of Contents

    Asset Tracking

    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:

    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

    asset tracking technologies, Euristiq

    Barcode tags

    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 AdvantagesBarcode Disadvantages
    Small and lightweightRequire manual scanning
    Affordable and easy-to-useShort-range
    Can be used to a large number of assets with almost no limitationDo not show real-time status and location
    InexpensiveProne to human errors

    RFID

    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 AdvantagesRFID Disadvantages
    Device longevityExpensive
    Small tagsComplex systems installations
    Small radio signatureLimited reading rage

    GPS

    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 AdvantagesGPS Disadvantages
    The most widely used tracking technology in the worldHigh power consumption
    Large library of stable GPS tracking applicationsHas limitations in urban and underground places
    Wide adoption of GPS in consumer wearable and deployable devicesEnd-user can’t fix it when something goes wrong

    Bluetooth

    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 AdvantagesBLE Disadvantages
    Low power consumptionLatency and signal interference
    Not costly devicesIt may be costly if there is a need for a huge amount of networked devices
    Accuracy up to few metersInaccuracy in highly effective environments
    Real-time updatesA large number of transmitters is needed
    Cross-functionality with consumer devicesSecurity vulnerabilities

    NFC

    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 AdvantagesNFC Disadvantages
    Fast scanning since there is no need to scan each item separatelyShould be in close proximity with a scanner (within 4 inches)
    You do need special hardwareIt isn’t completely free of risks
    Perfectly suits for processing large batches of assetsQuite 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:

    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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    Benefits of asset tracking, Euristiq

    4 challenges to successful IoT asset tracking deployment:

    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:

    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.

    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.

    Retail

    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:

    Case study: In-Store Customer Tracking System for 15K Stores Worldwide

    Telecommunications

    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.

    Case study: Smart Office Solutions for Intelligent Workplace Utilization

    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.

    Hospitals

    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:

    Smart Cities

    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:

    Case study: Utility Monitoring and Management System That Collects Data and Transforms It Into KPIs

    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%.

    Final word

    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.

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