It is no longer big beating the small, but fast beating the slow. Change or get beaten. Old and traditional methods may be still in use but soon are due for change.
Before evaluating the new options available, it is important to know what are the traditional methods used and what are disadvantages with these. The fact remains that all these methods are still in practice. Some of them have been because of inertia others due to the fear of going wrong. Few may find it suitable to use them in their specific context others may have a combination of all these methods. Nevertheless let us briefly run through each of these traditional methods and weigh the pros and cons of each of these methods.
This is the most basic of all the methods. It began with a simple pen and paper. From a very simple random listing of the assets to a named list where each of the assets has been tagged with an identification number. The list of these ids and their location is maintained. This practice has matured and instead of paper, spreadsheets are used to track.
Although spreadsheets make it paperless and can be easily shared and modified, it still suffers from the problem that it is only accurate as the manual entry both when making the initial entry as well as the updates that follow to keep track of the assets.
2. Bar Code / QR Code
This was one of the earliest technologies used for tracking assets. It is fairly effective & reliable. Barcode is a series of parallel black lines. They are very economical in price. It helps encode information in barcode format which can be easily read by connecting a bar code scanner or these days even with a mobile phone.
Typical identification numbers are complicated and need to be unique. Manually entering them becomes cumbersome as well as time-consuming but more than anything it becomes an error-prone activity. It becomes so much easier and accurate to extract the information by simply scanning.
The cons of using a barcode is the chance of errors like barcode scanner not reading from the barcode due to alignment errors. If by any chance the barcode is spoilt then the purpose is lost as one can not scan the code.
QR-code is also becoming very popular! it’s a more advanced version of the barcode. It has a square & rectangle shape with black pixels in it instead of bars. Again it can be read by even a mobile phone scanner.
3. RFID (Radio Frequency Identity)
This is one of the precursors for the current internet of things devices. The technology of RFID is similar to the Barcode in terms of purpose but comes with a lot of advantages. RFID is much faster compared to the Barcode scanner.
Radio waves are used to provide product information. The data is digitally encoded into the RFID tags attached to the product. Similar to the barcode, this too needs a scanner device to read the information but has the advantage that there are no alignment errors.
The disadvantage of RFID is that the tag needs to be touched by the reader or scanner for the information to read.
4. NFC (Near Field Communication)
NFC basically operates similar to the RFID. The NFC device is a more advanced version of the RFID device. The NFC device can act as both a reader and transmitter device. Another advantage of it is that it can communicate with a mobile device. Thus it does not need an RFID reader to scan and can be read easily in a mobile app. The major disadvantage with NFC is the cost.
5. GPS (Global Positioning System)
The GPS based asset tracking has been primarily used for tracking items that have left the plant and have been shipped to the customer locations on trucks, even those that have been shipped to far off countries. The major limitation of the GPS tracking is that the signals are weak inside the buildings making it difficult to track assets inside plants and offices.
The advantage would be that a gps tag can be easily tracked even from a far off place with only the need for it to be connected online.
All these traditional methods have ruled the roost for a long and continue to do so in one way even today. This does not mean that things would remain the same forever. Tomorrow’s world is going to be a place where probably every product might carry some kind of identification. Thus there is going to be a paradigm shift when it comes to asset management and asset tracking practices. Be ready for tomorrow with solutions like Quicsolv’s Asset Tracking solutions. Get to know more about Asset Tracking using IoT in this post.