From exploring the seas with a basic magnetic compass to pinpointing an object with an accuracy of a few centimeters, we have come a long way in navigation and tracking. In fact, next to movements of assets, we can monitor assets’ health and performance. Our previous article addressed how asset tracking adds value to your business. This article walks you through different asset tracking technologies and how to select the right asset tracking technology for your business.
The technology of asset tracking and its applications in the business has rapidly evolved in the past two decades. For outdoor tracking and navigation of assets, GPS is a relevant and reliable technology. However, if you are looking to find a specific object in a huge warehouse or supermarket, GPS won’t help you. To serve your complex business needs, indoor positioning technologies have been developed. Relatively new technologies like RFID, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) can set up a robust and precise indoor tracking system. Some of these technologies can track the location of your assets with an accuracy of a few centimeters.
Reports on market demand suggest that the market for asset tracking and inventory management solutions is anticipated to reach a total market size of $40 billion by 2027. This evolution of technologies caused a significant drop in prices of tracking infrastructure, making it more affordable for you and your business
Nowadays asset tracking is not a mere location tracking tool. Asset tracking technologies layered with disruptive technologies like cloud, 5G, NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT), big data, advanced analytics, and AI can enable your business to unlock unrealized value. Your business can leverage big data and advanced analytics extracting valuable insights to optimize operational efficiencies. The feasibility of deploying the asset tracking solutions through the cloud has lowered the infrastructure costs and increased the ease of deployment. With the rise of 5G technology, the reliability and performance of asset tracking technologies are enhanced. These various factors make asset tracking solutions highly accessible and desirable.
A wide range of tracking technologies is available to cater to your business needs. Choosing the right technology for your business use case depends on what you are aiming for, what the business challenges are, and in which environment you wish to deploy the solution, it is not one size fits all. Asset tracking solutions can be categorized as “Long / Wide range” versus “Short-range”, with the range being one of the key factors in technology selection for your use case.
Now that you have an overview of the functionality of various asset tracking technologies, let’s have a look at how to determine the right asset tracking technologies for your use case. You can select the type of technology you need based on these three main factors:
Asset mobility: Asset mobility signifies the extent of movement of your assets that need to be tracked. If the movement is restricted to a certain premise like a facility, a building, or a room, then short-range asset tracking technologies are the right fit. If your assets are moved across different locations, then long/wide range asset tracking solutions like GPS serve the purpose.
Location accuracy: Ultra-wideband (UWB) can determine the location of assets with high accuracy of a few centimeters, whereas some technologies can track them on a zonal level or with a few meters’ accuracy. Hence it is important to assess the accuracy needs of the use case to determine the right tracking technology.
Tracking frequency: Not every use case needs real-time tracking of assets. For instance, to find out if your asset is in a warehouse, scanning it at the entry and exit points is enough. In this case, passive RFID tags and a reader at the entry/exit point serve the purpose. But if you want to track the location of your assets every minute or hour, real-time tracking technologies like BLE, Wi-Fi or GPS serve the purpose.
In addition to these three major factors, there are other factors that you need to consider when designing tracking solutions in line with the needs of business, namely:
Line of sight
Ease of deployment
It is important that you make the right tradeoff across the listed aspects to design the solution which fits all your business needs. For instance, the accuracy of tracking could be improved if you invest in the infrastructure i.e., by increasing the number of tags and readers and by strategically positioning them. Hence in this case it’s a tradeoff between costs and accuracy.