IoT Asset Tracking Benefits: Why Use IoT Technology For Asset Tracking

IoT technology completely automates asset tracking and management, making it possible to control and monitor company assets without employees participation.

IoT Asset Tracking vs Other Asset Tracking Methods: What Are The Benefits

Why it might make sense for companies to implement IoT asset tracking instead of barcode scanning / QR code scanning asset tracking solutions.

The main advantage of the IoT asset tracking vs other methods is in the complete automation of the asset tracking process. IoT asset tracking does not rely on the company employees to record asset transactions. Instead, a network of IoT gateways detect an asset presence (or absence), and automatically sends asset data to the remote cloud server at pre-set time intervals.

Company employees are usually a main barrier in the implementation of the asset tracking systems. All asset management systems, whether it is a desktop asset tracking software, or a cloud asset management software with a mobile application for barcode scanning, have one thing in common. All of them require company employees to perform some actions each time they handle company assets. The modern asset management systems consisting of a cloud software and a barcode scanning mobile application require minimal actions. However, company employees still need to scan all assets they plan to move between locations, receive in the warehouse or use. If anyone forgets to do it, the system won't have correct information.

With IoT asset tracking system the process is completely automated and does not rely on the company employees. Once assets are tagged and IoT gateways are installed, the tracking system works by itself and you always have the correct asset location and movement information.

You can find more information on different IoT asset tracking methods, and how they compare to more traditional asset tracking methods, here.

How Does IoT Asset Tracking System Work

What is the driving force behind IoT asset tracking

An IoT asset tracking system relies on the electronic asset tags (usually either BLE beacons or RFID tags) that are constantly advertising an asset identifier. This information is picked up by the closest IoT gateway and is sent to the backend software for processing. The software can reside on a local network, or, in most cases on a remote cloud server.

In an optimal situation, an IoT gateway will have these capabilities:

  • Configuration options. You may be able configure various parameters, such as the duration of scan periods, how often the data should be sent to the remote cloud server, if you would like to receive alerts for the specific assets appearing or disappearing from the designated locations, etc.
  • Edge data processing. Edge data processing means that a gateway filters the data, extracts useful information and only sends this information to a backend cloud software. For example, in the case of an IoT asset tracking system, it makes no sense to repeatedly send identifications on all detected assets each time - one gateway can process hundreds of assets, and this information in many cases will be repetitive. Instead, it will make sense to process assets information on the gateway, and only send new data to the cloud server - when new asset appeared in the range of the gateway, or when existing asset disappeared.

An IoT asset tracking module of the QR Inventory software includes a Bluetooth IoT gateway with multiple configuration options and edge data processing.

The number of the gateways you will need depends on how precisely you want to determine an asset location. IoT gateways can normally detect assets within 100+ meters radius in the open space. If you want to know that asset is at a specific location, or in a specific zone of a large location, one gateway for around 200 meters radius will be good. If you want to know a more precise location, you can install more IoT gateways, and use a triangulation method to map an asset location more precisely. You can also limit the distance at which a gateway will detect an asset via the gateway configuration. For example, if you want to detect assets that are passing through the gates, you can limit a scanning range of a gateway at the gates to around 10 meters.

The asset tracking data sent from the IoT gateways are processed by the backend cloud software, and are stored in the database on the remote server. Authorized IoT asset tracking system users can log into the cloud software interface to review real time reports on the assets locations, movement history, received alerts, and statistical data on the assets utilization and movement.

Implementing IoT Asset Tracking System: What Is Involved

What do you need to invest in terms of time and money in order to implement an IoT asset tracking system

In order to roll out an IoT asset tracking system you will need several components:

  • Asset tags. All assets that you want to track using IoT technology should have an electronic tag. The most often used tags are Bluetooth low energy beacons (BLE tags), RFID tags or GPS tags.
  • IoT gateways. In case of BLE tags or RFID tags, you will need IoT gateways that will collect data from the asset tags, optionally pre-process and filter the data, and send asset tracking information to the remote cloud server. GPS tags are capable of connecting to the remote server on their own, without a need for a gateway.
  • A cloud database and software. A cloud software residing on a remote server will accept asset tracking data, process them, store in the database and produce human readable reports.

GPS asset tracking system is fundamentally different from BLE or RFID based system. GPS tags are capable of determining the GPS location of an asset at any given time, and send location data to the remote cloud server without a need for a gateway. GPS tags are also quite expensive, large in size, and each tag requires a monthly subscription plan. GPS asset tracking is mostly used for the large expensive assets that are often on the road and for which you need to track the exact location at all times, no matter where they are. Company vehicle fleet or shipping containers may be good candidates for GPS asset tracking.

For other asset types, BLE or RFID asset tracking are more suitable. BLE and RFID asset tracking methods are comparable. Both BLE and RFID tags are relatively small and inexpensive. The tags simply broadcast an asset identifier to the nearby (around 100 meters distance) gateways. It is a responsibility of a gateway to process asset tracking data and send them to a backed cloud software.

You can purchase all components (tags, gateways, cloud software) from the same provider - this way you can be sure that all components are compatible, will seamlessly communicate to each other and you have only one vendor to deal with. If you a little bit more technically savvy, you can also purchase components of the IoT asset tracking system from different vendors. BLE and RFID tags have standard advertising formats supported by the gateways on the market - you just need to make sure that you purchase compatible asset tags and gateways. You also should be able to configure an IoT gateway to post data to an endpoint of the cloud software of your choice, and that an asset management software that you selected can read the data format sent by the gateway.

Once you have all components of the IoT asset tracking system in your hands, your steps will be:

  • Attach BLE or RFID tags to the assets, enter or import assets into the asset management software.
  • Install gateways in the designated locations where you want to track assets, and connect them to the network.
  • Do any required software setup.

After these steps are done, the IoT asset tracking system will work by itself. As long as hardware is functioning correctly, you will automatically receive asset tracking data, and will be able to review asset location, movement and utilization reports at any time.

What Results Do You Get From The IoT Asset Tracking System

IoT asset tracking data and reports - what do you get for your IoT investment

The main thing that you get in every IoT asset tracking system is the current location of the trackable assets. If you are using BLE beacon tags or RFID tags and IoT gateways, you may either receive a location of an asset within the gateway reach radius (around 100 meters all ways), or a more precise location calculated based on the distance from several gateways. With enough gateways you can get a map of assets locations on the shop floor or within the building.

The location of the assets in Bluetooth or RFID asset tracking systems is determined by the location of an IoT gateway, and the proximity of the asset to one or more gateways. If an asset is being moved between locations (for example between the warehouse and job sites), you will see when asset left the warehouse, and then when it arrived to the job site and which one.

With GPS asset tracking, you get the GPS location of an asset continuously (as long as an asset is outside and within the GPS service zone). You will be able to see where an asset is on the map, and it's path.

Along with the current location of the assets, you will get other asset tracking reports. The exact reports depend on the specific IoT asset tracking system. The IoT asset tracking module of the QR Inventory software gives you the following reports, available for review and download:

  • Current assets location. Current location of the trackable assets.
  • Assets movement history. Check where each asset has been during any time period in the past, with dates, times, and number of days / hours at each location. This report gives you a good overview of assets usage, and you also can use it for the job site / client billing if applicable.
  • Asset utilization report. Check how many days in total each asset has been at the designated locations during the selected time frame. See at a glance how well company assets are utilized (days spent being idle vs days spend being used for work). Use this report to optimize assets utilization, rental and purchase plans.
  • Missing assets report. Shows all assets that were not detected at any location during the specified number of hours. The report includes date and location where the asset was last seen. Identify missing assets early and locate them before the assets are completely lost.
  • Misplaced assets. You can configure which assets should / should not appear at the certain locations, and receive an immediate automatic alert if these rules are violated. You can also review reports on all past alerts, with date and time when the problem was detected, and date and time when the situation was corrected (if applicable).
  • Assets conditions report. If you are using IoT temperature and humidity sensors, you will get temperature and humidity reports for the assets (tabular, graph, download). You will also be able to set acceptable conditions range for a group of assets, and receive automatic alerts if conditions go out of range. Asset conditions alert reports include all past alerts during the specified time frame, with date and type of the alert, reported conditions and the date / time when the situation was corrected.

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QR Inventory and QR Mobile Data are brand names of inventory management and mobile forms software by AHG -- a provider of mobile and cloud-based applications for business. Our unified mobile platform improves business operations efficiency by eliminating manual tasks and physical paperwork, while providing a secure cloud storage for the business records, real time access to business data for all stakeholders, comprehensive data reporting and analytics. Headquartered in beautiful Boise, Idaho, AHG software is used to manage hundreds of millions of dollars annually in inventory and assets.

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