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Do You Need A Bluetooth IoT Gateway For Asset Tracking: BLE vs GPS

It appears that when talking about automated asset tracking a lot of people do not see the difference between BLE tags and GPS tags. This article explains the difference, when do you need to use each method, and why you may need to use an IoT gateway.

When To Use BLE Asset Tracking, And When To Use GPS

Both Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and GPS technology allows you to automatically track assets and equipment. You can use BLE tags and Bluetooth IoT gateway when you need to track assets in designated locations (such as warehouse, office, job site). The location can be indoors or outdoors, have wifi connection or cellular connection available.

Use GPS asset tracking when you need to continuously track assets outdoors regardless of their exact location.

BLE tags are relatively low cost, are of a small size, and you can use them on any type of assets. One IoT gateway in designated location can track hundreds of assets tagged with BLE tags.

GPS asset tracking system is significantly more expensive. GPS tags cost much more than BLE tags, plus you need to pay monthly fee for each unit tagged with GPS tag. The tag itself is of larger size, and is not suitable for small equipment and tools. GPS asset tracking is commonly used for large expensive assets that are often on the road, such as vehicles, shipping containers or heavy construction equipment.

Do We Need To Use BLE or GPS Tags For Automated Asset Tracking?

There are several modern asset tracking methods that require none or very little participation of your field workforce. Using IoT gateways with the BLE tags on your equipment is one of them. It allows you to completely free your employees from all asset tracking tasks. So do GPS asset tracking.

If freeing company employees from any asset tracking tasks is your goal, then your only options are to use IoT gateways or GPS tags. If you prefer a lower cost system where company employees scan QR code or barcodes to track assets, you can use a QR code asset tracking system instead.

How BLE And GPS Asset Tracking Works

How Does BLE Asset Tracking System Work

In order to track assets and equipment automatically using IoT gateways, you need to do the following:

  • label assets with the BLE tags
  • install IoT gateways in the locations where you plan to track assets

You may need one or more IoT gateways per location, depending on the location size and geometry.

IoT gateways scan for the BLE tags, detect which assets are moved in or out of the monitored area, and send this info to a back end cloud software. The IoT asset tracking system works on its own, without any employees' participation.

Do We Need An IoT Gateway For Asset Tracking?

BLE tags cannot connect to the internet and send data to a remote cloud server on their own. You need a device that can detect BLE tags, connect to a remote cloud server and transfer the data. This device can be a fixed location IoT gateway, or an employee with a smartphone. If you are OK with company employee taking asset inventory in trackable locations once or twice per day, you do not necesserily need an IoT gateway.

How does GPS asset tracking system work

GPS asset tracking requires a GPS tag to be attached to each trackable asset. A GPS tag is capable to determine its own location and send relevant data to the back end cloud software. No gateway is needed, each asset tagged with the GPS tag is self reliant.

Using IoT gateways vs GPS tags for asset tracking

An IoT asset tracking system with the gateways and GPS asset tracking are used for the different business scenarios. Although both methods are used for the automated asset tracking, one method cannot replace another. Here are use cases for both BLE and GPS asset tracking systems.

Use cases for the BLE asset tracking with IoT gateways

You should use a BLE asset tracking system when you need to track multiple assets in the specific designated areas. An area can be a warehouse, a yard, a smart building, a hospital, a shop floor, or a job site. Large areas can be separated into parts to better pinpoint asset location.

One IoT gateway can track hundreds of assets in the designated area. BLE tags are small, inexpensive, and can be attached to both heavy equipment, as well as small tools and assets. BLE asset tracking system can work well for both inside and outside locations.

Use cases for GPS asset tracking

You should use GPS asset tracking for tracking large, expensive assets anywhere using their geographical coordinates rather then a specific location. GPS tags are bigger in size than BLE tags, significantly more expensive and in case of cellular connection each tag requires a monthly fee. It makes sense to use GPS asset tracking for the vehicles, heavy construction equipment, or shipping containers. GPS tags are not suitable for the small construction equipment, tools, office assets or IT equipment.

See It For Yourself - Bluetooth Assets And Inventory Tracking In Action