How the IoT is Redefining Asset Tracking
February 26, 2020 - Where are all the physical assets that belong to your business?
Consider everything – tools, equipment, vehicles, laptops, shelving, containers, raw materials, and anything else that needs to be tracked by your business – even people.
Asset tracking is the process of tracking all of it.
Different industries, different approaches
Asset tracking happens in virtually every industry, but the specifics, of course, vary.
In healthcare, for example, facilities often need to track their medical equipment, while construction firms track tools and equipment on an outdoor job site.
Traditionally, there have been a number of different approaches to asset tracking.
Enter IoT technology
Though hardly efficient, cost effective, or scalable, some businesses still perform asset tracking manually, either literally with pen and paper or using spreadsheets on a laptop.
More advanced solutions might include technology like scannable asset tags – RFID or NFC, for example – and hand scanners which can quickly and easily track and log the assets in a database.
But the Internet of Things is redefining asset tracking in the same way it’s revolutionizing so many other aspects of industry.
What IoT brings to asset tracking
Incorporating IoT into asset tracking means automating processes and adding artificial intelligence to many aspects of the workflow that were performed manually before.
IoT can add real-time alerts, predictive maintenance, and top-down visibility into the status of assets in real time.
In healthcare for example, hospital inventory items – everything from medical tools and semiportable equipment to containers that hold single-use items like gloves and bandages – can be tagged using contact-free technology like RFID.
Asset tracking in healthcare
Readers affixed to room entrance ways can scan these tags at entry and exit, and instantly store that location data in a database.
With that simple process, administrators and facility managers can have accurate and timely information about the location of everything (and everyone) in the facility.
Analytics and automated alerts can generate reports and notifications, and it becomes fairly straightforward to dispatch the closest assets and personnel to where they need to go in response to patient needs.
Looking toward retail and transportation
In the retail and transportation businesses, asset tracking isn’t always just about knowing where something is; frequently it’s also important to know that condition of products as well.
Perishable items like food, for example, might also get temperature and humidity monitors in addition to location tracking tags.
In one interesting case study, a retailer was interested in discovering where in the overall shipment process its ice cream was most at risk of spoiling. Thanks to an IoT-enabled asset tracking system, the company discovered exactly where shipments were going wrong – when the product was transferred between vehicles at a depot, and being left outside their refrigeration systems for too long.
More industry use cases
And those examples, of course, are just scratching the surface.
For the millions of maritime shipping containers on the high seas, for example, asset tags can help distributors and customers stay informed about container status and when it arrives at the destination, not to mention keeping tabs on the condition of the items in the container.
And both established and emerging businesses can benefit from IoT asset tracking as well.
Consider kiosks: Unattended retail kiosks are seemingly custom made for the IoT, since it can track inventory and transactions, send automated alerts when inventory needs to be refreshed, or maintenance needs to be performed on the equipment.
Rentable bikes and IoT
Likewise, the market for rental bikes and scooters has, in recent years, exploded in urban centers.
Adding tracking tags (including GPS) can prevent loss and theft, as well as better manage inventory, maintenance, battery charging, and local legal compliance issues.
Indeed, there are as many applications for IoT-enabled asset tracking as there are industries to apply it to.