From using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and accurately locating large aviation assets to updating a shop’s inventory with a barcode scanner, the ability to track assets has revolutionized the way businesses operate. So much so, that the global asset tracking market value is estimated to grow to $36.6 billion by 2025.
It’s a tale as old as time; the key to business growth is to successfully execute operations in order to generate enough revenue that equates to profit. This is an objective shared by all business-minded organizations, whether you’re the manager of a small family-owned shop or the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of a multinational enterprise.
A major factor in this route to profit is being able to identify and reduce excessive costs and overheads. Another consideration for security leaders at the enterprise level is loss prevention. Both capabilities are synonymous with asset tracking technology.
But, how did asset tracking become one of the most crucial technological tools for asset-heavy industries? What are the key elements for enabling businesses to succeed in cutting costs? After all, this is a technology that saves the food industry an estimated $100 billion a year.
How has the Internet of Things (IoT) revolutionized asset tracking?
With over 10 billion devices connected worldwide to the internet, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become more than just a buzzword. In fact, IoT technology can be found in the majority of everyday life; from smart thermostats and kitchen appliances to dog collars and fitness trackers.
To build a successful asset tracking program, there are three key elements: physical tracking devices, reliable connectivity and data management systems. For these elements to effectively work together, IoT must be the brains behind the operation that interlinks all processes. IoT technology is therefore responsible for collecting information, sending data, talking to management applications and producing big-data analysis.
The introduction of IoT asset tracking has produced a variety of benefits for all business types, including:
- Automating otherwise time-consuming manual tasks such as inventory management, supply chain, and data input.
- Enabling businesses to monitor and track mission-critical assets in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
- Reducing replacement costs for lost, stolen, or misplaced assets by providing real-time location data.
- Reducing the need for human interaction, thus limiting the possibility of error-prone data.
- Making asset tracking processes accessible and affordable.
Users of IoT asset tracking
As an example of how IoT initiates the workflow of tracking assets in a business, let’s take a look at the use of GPS. Found in most modern-day smartphones and car navigation systems, GPS is a mainstream form of tracking. It works by communicating with satellites orbiting the earth and locking on to the exact position of a GPS tracker. Trackers then communicate with connected applications to provide data such as real-time location, which can be useful for companies operating in industries such as logistics and managing fleet operations.
Along with GPS trackers, there are a number of other IoT-enabled technologies that can also be used effectively to track business assets, such as:
- Barcodes and QR Codes,
- Bluetooth Low Energy/Beacons,
- Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID),
- And Near-Field Communication (NFC).
Just as GPS technology is best suited for logistics and delivery services, the variety of IoT tracking technologies provide different uses for different businesses. For instance, the use of RFID is popular in retail and commerce; NFC asset tracking is better suited for a more mobile-friendly environment; barcodes, QR codes and scanners are best for tracking assets in large facilities such as hospitals and schools.
Choosing a reliable tracking solution for security
With the Internet of Things accelerating asset tracking into the 21st century, the deployment of tracking technology in business has skyrocketed. Major factors in the mass-adoption of IoT asset tracking are the affordability and accessibility of tools. Not to mention the chance to reduce costs and save millions of wasted revenue in replacing lost assets.
For years, the costs of replacing lost or stolen assets has affected asset-reliant organizations; the pharmaceutical industry loses $35 billion annually without the use of effective temperature-controlled tracking; theft of tools and equipment costs the construction industry $1 billion every year; $2.5 billion is lost each year in the trucking industry.
However, before jumping at the chance to deploy any asset tracking tool, it’s important to keep in mind that tracking solutions come in different forms. For instance, a tracking system that works for one business might not be the best choice for your own operations.
When choosing the right IoT technology to track your assets, consider the three key factors that ensure reliability for your business processes: location accuracy, battery life and affordability.
Depending on the enterprise’s assets, the ability to precisely locate the whereabouts of equipment is essential. This is particularly true for asset-heavy markets and facilities such as education and healthcare. Knowing that nurses spend 6,000 hours a month tracking down critical medical equipment, it’s easy to see why implementing the right tracking solution is crucial for maximizing efficiency in the workplace.
The same can also be said for logistics and delivery operators. By deploying tracking technology such as GPS trackers, they’re able to track the behavior of their drivers and ensure delivery routes are completed.
But, pin-point location accuracy isn’t an essential factor for all asset tracking processes. For example, a retailer has no use for data relating to the exact location of their inventory within a small stock room. Instead, they may choose to opt for RFID tags or low-energy Bluetooth beacons to provide inventory levels on request.
You’ll also want to consider where your assets are placed before deciding on a location-focused tool. Whereas GPS - the best-suited tracking technology for location accuracy - is effective for outdoor positioning, it can fail to penetrate buildings and walls. Rendering it less-effective for indoor location tracking.
As in any market, asset tracking technology comes with its downsides. One of which is battery life.
In order for a tracking device to communicate the right asset data, it needs to send or receive a signal - or, in some cases, do both. Depending on how often a tracking device requires a signal to be sent or received this can have a damaging effect on battery power.
Some asset tracking devices perform better than others when it comes to holding a charge. For instance, a passive RFID system uses battery-free tags to communicate with low-frequency readers. Whereas active RFID tags need a battery to rely on constant communication with a tracking system.
As well as tags and trackers, security professionals and loss prevention specialists should consider the battery life of tracking hardware such as smartphones and Barcode readers too.
One factor that has made asset tracking so readily available to all business types and sizes is its affordability. Whereas enterprises and multi-site organizations require scalability, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may prioritize costs.
Considering the effective cost-saving functionality of asset tracking, this can allows for a comfortable return on investment (ROI) for a security team.
For example, tracking technology such as barcodes and QR Codes prove the cheapest to deploy, with codes only needing to be printed and scanners installed for free via an app on a smartphone.
Another financial advantage to IoT asset tracking is contract-less subscriptions and inexpensive SaaS solutions. This has increased the availability of data management platforms, such as asset tracking software and enabled businesses to collect and analyze all types of data.