IoT Enabled Asset Tracking: Taking Your Operational Efficiency to the Next Level

IoT Enabled Asset Tracking: Taking Your Operational Efficiency to the Next Level

Disruptive Technologies
11. Nov 2020 | 10 min read

IoT Enabled Asset Tracking: Taking Your Operational Efficiency to the Next Level

Modern organizations need to manage lots of physical assets such as parts, components, tools, equipment, and storage containers. This has led many companies to implement solutions that provide real-time visibility on the location and status of their assets.

By tracking asset location, companies can effectively manage their entire physical assets portfolio.

But what is IoT-enabled asset tracking and how can you effectively enable it?

Read on to learn more about:

    • What is IoT asset tracking
    • 5 benefits of asset tracking systems
    • 5 most common asset tracking technologies
    • How to enable asset tracking within the Disruptive Technologies ecosystem

What Is IoT Asset Tracking?

Asset tracking applications keep track of the movement and locations of assets. In some cases, they also document information about the state of the assets.

For many years, these tracking and documentation processes were mostly manual. In recent years, this has changed thanks to the emergence of advanced sensing and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

IoT sensors enable the credible estimation and automated reporting of asset locations. Coupled with other IoT platforms and devices, they also enable the gathering and processing of information on asset health.

Most importantly, IoT technologies facilitate the tracking of assets’ location in real-time, while enabling alerts and notifications when there are critical “location events”. For example, they issue a notification when a piece of expensive equipment leaves a building.

IoT platforms also enable the implementation of novel “Location-as-a-Service” services, which provide on-demand access to information about the location of industrial assets.

Asset tracking can involve the continuous display of an enterprise’s asset locations on a map. By knowing the locations of the various assets, you can improve business efficiency and productivity, while maximizing the assets’ Return on Investment (ROI).

5 Benefits of Asset Tracking Systems

Numerous use cases rely on the tracking of assets’ locations in smart buildings, facilities management, logistics, and supply chain management.

Here are some of the most characteristic use cases.

Asset Tracking and Inventory Level Optimization

Tracking of assets in supply chain management applications provides accurate insights on the available stock for specific products. This enables enterprises to optimize inventory levels in-line with their demand for products. Likewise, asset location tracking enables enterprises to keep track of the availability of certain equipment and tools, which helps them optimize orders.

Asset Tracking and Equipment & Tools Improvement

Well-designed location asset tracking applications enable facilities managers to ensure the availability of equipment in their built environments and real estate assets, like generators and ventilators. This helps facilities managers to determine the assets’ availability and to optimize their redeployment in-line with the needs of the various rooms and building segments.

Asset Tracking and Theft Avoidance & Loss Minimization

With real-time asset tracking, facilities managers, plant managers, and other industry practitioners gain instant visibility on the location of valuable equipment and tools. Location asset tracking applications can notify facilities managers and plant managers whenever an asset leaves a building or a factory. This radically reduces the number of stolen pieces or lost equipment.

Asset Tracking and Person Tracking for Human Resources Management & Facilities Management

State of the art sensing technologies facilitate the implementation of people monitoring solutions, providing a host of operational benefits to industrial enterprises and the tenants of smart buildings. For example, they enable the automated keeping of timesheets and the implementation of occupancy monitoring solutions. Moreover, they boost decisions about the optimization of the environmental conditions in certain rooms towards improved comfort and safety.

Asset Tracking and Field Service Optimization

By analyzing historical information on the location, the condition, and the usage of assets, it is possible to implement asset maintenance programs. For example, the analysis of information on the placement and usage of a group of assets can provide a foundation for optimizing the scheduling of field service operations.

Asset location tracking information can be also combined with information from other sensors to enable novel maintenance programs, including predictive maintenance.

Overall, knowing the location of your assets in real-time is key to improved operational efficiency and increased productivity. The latter lead to tangible economic benefits and improved bottom lines for industrial enterprises.

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5 Most Common Asset Tracking Technologies

Location asset tracking can be implemented with a variety of different technologies, like:

  • barcodes
  • QR codes
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags
  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
  • Bluetooth Beacons
  • Proximity and temperature sensors
  • LPWAN (Low Power Wireless Network) empowered devices.

Each of these technologies has pros and cons, which are reflected in their functionalities, limitations, and deployment cost. For example: 

  • Barcode technologies are widely available at a very low cost. Nevertheless, they require line-of-sight and thus provide very limited efficiency.
  • RFID provides faster and higher throughput operations. They come at a higher cost, as they operate based on costly readers’ infrastructures.
  • Beacons provide similar benefits to RFID solutions. They are more affordable than RFID as they can be read using a smartphone instead of a more expensive RFID reader.
  • GPS technologies are a very good option for outdoor location tracking. However, they are inaccurate in indoor environments like warehouses.
  • LPWAN based tracking technologies alleviate the accuracy limitations of GPS technologies in indoor application scenarios.

Each of these technologies has pros and cons, which are reflected in their functionalities, limitations, and deployment cost. For example:

In this landscape, Disruptive Technologies provides novel wireless temperature and wireless proximity sensors that enable cost-effective location tracking.

Specifically, these wireless sensors do not require any costly infrastructure to operate. At the same time, their small size and long battery life provide a foundation for non-obtrusive and long-lasting applications.

Finally, thanks to their flexible integration with the cloud, they facilitate cloud-based analytics over data from multiple sensors towards increased accuracy.

How to Enable Asset Tracking Within the Disruptive Technologies Ecosystem

asset tracking disruptive technologies

 

The Disruptive Technologies ecosystem facilitates the development and deployment of effective and long-lasting asset tracking solutions.

The solutions comprise wireless sensors (e.g., the DT EN12830 wireless temperature sensor) and Cloud Connectors (CCON). Cloud Connectors relay the data to our web-based application, DT Studio.

The first step to deploying asset location tracking solutions using Disruptive Technologies sensors is the proper placement of the sensors in the target physical environment. The placement should minimize interference to the radio communication between the sensors and the Cloud Connectors. Likewise, a proper range for the sensor should be ensured. Typically, sensors placed outside of the asset feature longer ranges than those deployed inside an asset (e.g., inside a container).

Cloud Connector placement is also important. In most cases, CCONs are placed in predefined locations, which are far enough from each other (e.g., in different buildings). This ensures that sensors are within the range of a single location only. In cases where large areas must be covered, the deployment of several CCONs might be necessary. On the other hand, in use cases that require tracking across locations that are close to each other, techniques like time-averaging of the sensed data can be employed to discover the actual proximity to the various locations.

Following the sensors’ and CCONs’ placement, it is possible to programmatically start the streaming of sensor data to CCONs. The Disruptive Technologies APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) provide readily available support for fetching the sensor data streams. Accordingly, the signals can be processed and categorized to determine the locations where certain assets reside. The processing is straightforward and takes advantage of the signal strength that is detected by each CCON, along with relevant time-stamping information. In cases where multiple CCONs are deployed in each location, there might also be a need for grouping the sensed information. Specifically, the grouping will take place according to the collection of CCONs that reside in each location.

Ready to see asset tracking in action?

 

asset location tracking using disruptive technologies wireless sensors application note

 

Our rich collection of support documentation includes an Application Note that describes the step-by-step implementation of a simple location tracking application, based on Disruptive Technologies Sensors, the DT Studio, and a few lines of Python code.

It’s the best place to get started with a real-life application that tracks the locations of multiple assets. Let us know how it went!

Disruptive Technologies

Disruptive Technologies

Disruptive Technologies is a rapidly growing innovator in the IoT market and developer of the world's smallest commercial-grade wireless sensors. Our sensing solution based on these mini-sensors simplifies data collection and delivers the data securely to our own dashboard (DT Studio) or our partners'​ analytics programs in the cloud.

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