IoT Asset Tracking Methods: BLE Asset Tracking vs RFID vs GPS

What methods and technologies are used in the IoT asset tracking, and which one will work better for your asset tracking needs.

How Do IoT Asset Tracking Methods Compare

The most frequently used IoT asset tracking methods / technologies are Bluetooth low energy (BLE), RFID and GPS. Which IoT asset tracking method will work better for you depends on what exactly you are trying to achieve. In general, RFID and Bluetooth based IoT asset tracking is fundamentally different from GPS asset tracking - although Bluetooth can imitate GPS asset tracking if you have an employee with a smartphone next to an asset.

More on Bluetooth asset tracking options

In general, both Bluetooth and RFID technologies allow you to track assets in the designated locations (warehouse, job site, yard, smart building areas, etc.). You can track assets automatically using a network of IoT gateways that connect assets to the remote cloud server. Alternatively, company employees can use BLE or RFID scanners to track assets using bulk asset scanning.
GPS asset tracking, on the other hand, is used to track assets anywhere using asset GPS location. GPS tags are relatively large and expensive devices, and are capable of connecting to the remote cloud server on their own, without a need for IoT gateways or scanning.

Therefore, if your goal is to do a fast, bulk scanning of assets for the processing of the assets transactions by the company employees, use either BLE beacon tags or RFID tags, but not GPS. Bluetooth (BLE beacon) tags will work better for this purpose due to the simple fact that you can use regular smartphones and tablets for BLE tags scanning. RFID, on the other hand, requires special scanners which are quite expensive. Using smartphones will not only make the IoT asset tracking software less expensive, but will also make it easier for the company employees to adapt to the new asset management system. Field technicians will be able to utilize their own smartphones they are already familiar with and know how to use.

If your goal is a completely automatic asset tracking using fixed IoT gateways, then Bluetooth low energy and RFID technologies are comparable. It will take about the same time and money to implement either Bluetooth or RFID automatic asset tracking system. RFID is older and more traditional technology, but Bluetooth low energy asset tracking systems is developing fast and overcoming RFID - so you may find more newer and modern BLE asset tracking options.

If your goal is to automatically track moving outdoor assets without the use of the fixed IoT gateways, then you can use either Bluetooth or GPS technologies, but not RFID. Bluetooth technology will require BLE beacon tags on the assets and an employee with a smartphone. A smartphone should have an asset tracking mobile application running in the background. The smartphone with a running application will play the role of the Bluetooth IoT gateway. An asset tracking mobile application will be scanning for the BLE beacon tags and sending GPS location to the backend cloud software.

GPS asset tracking tags are self-contained and do not require smartphones and human participation. They have a built-in cellular connection option to send GPS location of an asset to the cloud software automatically at the preset time intervals. Therefore, for the automatic tracking of the outdoor moving assets, GPS may work better. The drawback is that the GPS asset tracking software will cost much more than the Bluetooth automatic asset tracking. GPS asset trackers are significantly more expensive than BLE beacon tags, plus you will have to pay a monthly fee for every single asset you plan to track using GPS trackers. Therefore GPS tracking is suitable for a relatively small number of very valuable, expensive assets. For the work tools and small equipment Bluetooth asset tracking option may work better.

IoT Asset Tracking vs Asset Tracking Using QR Codes or NFC

The main advantage of the IoT asset tracking vs QR Codes or NFC is in the complete automation of the asset tracking process, so that employees participation is not required. An asset tracking system with QR Codes or NFC tags makes it really simple for the company employees to track assets in the field and warehouse. All they need to do is to take a smartphone out of their pocket and scan QR codes or NFC tags on the assets that they move between locations. They also can input additional information - what project the assets are being used for, what are asset conditions on check out and return, notes, etc. If company employees do this job, you not only know current assets location and transactions history - you know exactly who handled the asset, who checked it out last, and get access to additional information on each asset transaction.

The only problem with this approach is that company employees do need to do something each time they check out or move assets. If anyone forgets or just won't scan the assets when they are moved, the asset tracking system won't have a 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.

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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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