By Pravinraj Panicker
In Internet of Things

Oh did we have this tool!! Never knew about it, else would not have approved the purchase request for a new one!!!

Does this sound like a familiar scenario in your business? What you need is Asset Tracking!! If your response to that is we already keep a track of all our assets and keep checking on them then you need to pay more attention to the below.

What is Asset Tracking?

Asset tracking aka asset management is a systematic method of tracking your physical assets by identifying and tagging, listing them, and then regularly tracking them. Asset tracking is in fact a very important activity just as important as inventory.

Some of the key things tracked about your organization’s physical assets are location, status, maintenance schedule, and other important information like depreciation in its asset value. Asset tracking is significant from your organization’s bottom line and even it is needed for compliance. Even from the perspective of maintenance it is needed to periodically locate the asset and conduct maintenance activities like repairing or replacing parts or sometimes the asset itself if it is found to come to the end of the life cycle.

Methods of Asset Tracking

Asset Tracking will definitely seem time-consuming and even expensive when you start off especially if from scratch. While traditional methods of asset tracking can be time-consuming and expensive, there are methods of asset tracking that can save your organization time and money. The goal of any asset tracking system, therefore, is to maximize asset control efficiency and minimize equipment loss. Through the use of mobile computers, barcode labels, handheld barcode scanners, and asset management software, you can track your assets in real-time, resulting in more efficient production planning and reduced downtime. The proper management software also enables organizations to schedule necessary maintenance or service, or even preventive maintenance. Complete asset tracking solutions include barcode technology, enabling organizations to scan their fixed assets to track them accurately and efficiently.

Asset Tracking Technology

There are various types of  asset tags and some of the relevant technologies used for asset tracking are:

Barcodes

Barcode is one of the most common things. The barcode is such a versatile and robust solution that it has withstood the test of time. Although the barcode itself is old, there have better and newly improved scanners that have enhanced the efficacy of the solution. In fact, this is one of the most common among all other asset tracking technologies.

Advantages of Barcodes

Their lower costs make them a value for money proposition. This is especially so when one has to deploy in large numbers. Typically when one has to track assets that are not so costly, barcodes are used as this option is the most economical of them all. Also, a barcode is a universal code and can be read by any standard scanner even today’s mobile devices can scan them.

Disadvantages of Barcodes

The basic restriction when we scan barcodes is that line of sight is required for it to work. One needs to directly scan them, which can sometimes be difficult if it is not easily accessible. Also, the scanner needs to be aligned for the scan to work correctly. Also if the barcode quality is bad then scanning is going to fail.

RFId

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) uses radio frequency to transmit information to an RF receiver. They are more advanced than barcodes and offer certain advantages, although they are not a very efficient option

Advantages of RFId

The biggest advantage with RFId is that one does not have to correctly align and scan it in the line of sight, which was needed in the case of barcodes. Additionally, this does not exactly require manual intervention. The process of scanning or reading from the RFId is faster and multiple tags can be read.

Disadvantages of RFId 

Obviously, the cost of the RFId asset tags is much more than a regular barcode. Unlike barcodes, RFId scanners are more expensive than the lower costing handheld scanners used for barcode scanning. Another possibility is that sometimes the RFId read might get missed and also go unnoticed leading to errors.  

GPS 

This is again a technology that is commonly available. In this case, there is no need for manual intervention. Once the GPS asset tag is attached to the asset, it transmits the signal continuously and the server is able to pinpoint the location of the asset.

Advantages of GPS

Since the GPS tag is active continuously, the location of the asset can be tracked almost in real-time. Also, there is no manual scanning as data is transmitted directly.

Disadvantages of GPS

GPS tracking solutions are costlier than barcode or RFId ones. Another problem with GPS is that it fails to work indoors. 

BLE

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a Bluetooth-based technology. BLE asset tags communicate with a relay or gateway. The relay or gateway picks up the signal and transmits it to the central server. The central server uses these signals can triage the locations using algorithms.

Advantages of BLE 

BLE technology consumes very little energy hence can remain active without running out of power or need to change the battery for more than a year. The tracking now becomes continuous and in real-time. Another advantage is that there is no need for any costly scanners to read from them. These are therefore among the economical and power-efficient tags that can be used for an Asset Management System.

Disadvantages of BLE

Obviously, the solution would not be as cheap as the other solutions. The solution does have the limitations of Bluetooth but with newer versions like Bluetooth v5, these are getting overcome like the range.

Working of Asset Tracking using BLE

The basic steps involved in tracking assets is outlined below:

  • Identify and Record all the relevant assets
  • Add additional relevant data
  • Tag assets and map the data
  • Monitor and track assets 

BLE tags are wireless IoT devices. These tags broadcast signals on a continuous basis. Relays and Gateways are devices that receive and identify this signal. The BLE tag can keep functioning using a coin-sized battery which can last years, unlike the other tags. Thus one can rest assured that one would not lose out on any asset since the battery on the tag die. 

The signals from the BLE asset tags are read by relays and gateways fixed at different locations to form zones within the tracking area. As the asset moves from one location to another, the relays and gateways of that location/zone start receiving and tracking them.

These signals are captured and relayed to gateways which then transmit the signal to the central server using a wifi connection. The central server applies signal processing algos and additional machine learning algorithms to pinpoint the location of the asset.

As a first step, the assets that need to be tracked need to be identified. Once identified one would need to demarcate the areas where these assets need to be tracked. The areas where assets are to be tracked within the company are marked as tracking zones. 

Additionally, since Bluetooth signals are supported by devices like mobile phones, one can physically also track them or locate them using a mobile application.

These assets tracked are visible on a dashboard. Also, one can search for an asset using its id, name and locate which zone they are currently located in. The exact location can be seen on the map of the zone. Thus making the entire asset tracking using BLE possible from a single web page – dashboard.   

Asset Management System

Quicsolv’s Genio Asset tag is an Internet of Things (IoT) device that uses BLE technology. It makes the tracking information available in real-time. Reporting on assets – check the locations of specific assets, which assets are at a specific location or just viewing a map with the real-time locations of assets shown graphically on it. 

Quicsolv’s Asset Management System fits businesses of all sizes and also large enterprise customers to help them take the right steps to asset management. Some of the industries where the solution can be best implemented are Agriculture, Education, Retail, Hospitality, Logistics, Manufacturing, Pharma, and Storage Warehouses as well as multiple use cases of IoT-based asset tracking

It goes beyond asset tracking. It would be able to provide warnings about assets that are out of the regular locations, notifications when assets leave their regular tracking zones, alarms when they are taken outside the company walls.

Also being cloud-based, it would allow your teams to share asset information as well as tracking operations between them. This means that it’s possible to scan and edit asset data with the equipment to hand. Then, these edits will be reflected across the board in real-time for your entire team to see. Also, it would help your business better utilize your assets to your advantage.

Finally, you have a solution that will help your management, monitoring, and tracking of assets in a way that has improved a lot from the use of spreadsheets, and taking your Asset Management to the next level!!.  To know more about how can you modernize your Asset Management practices, please feel free to contact us 

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