In recent times, supply chains have become more and more complex. As a result, it is important to keep track of all company assets as part of proper asset management. To note, there is a difference between asset tracking and inventory tracking or inventory management.
Asset tracking refers to the method of tracking physical assets including location, ownership, maintenance schedule.
Inventory tracking is intended to keep accurate records of items held in stock. To facilitate asset tracking, various technologies are utilised. The different types of technologies will be discussed in this week’s article.
GPS asset trackers are arguably the most common. According to Insider Navigation, GPS trackers work by attaching trackers which then relay a signal to satellites to be processed by receivers.
GPS asset trackers have the main benefit of long-range and real-time tracking, requiring minimal internal communications infrastructure. They are also especially useful for larger assets.
However, GPS asset trackers themselves can be quite costly. Moreover, the accuracy and strength of GPS signals varies by location, and is limited by overhead/indoor obstructions.
According to Insider Navigation, RFID stands for “Radio-Frequency Identification.” RFID utilises electromagnetic fields to track assets using transponders, transmitters, and radio receivers.
Companies would tag assets with RFID tags with inbuilt transponders which would transmit data back to the receivers. However, while the tags are very cheap, the receivers are more costly.
Moreover, RFID tags necessitate frequent scans to register assets. Registering assets may also be affected by interference from nearby metals and liquids.
Wiser Systems writes, “[Bluetooth] systems usually establish their own wireless networks with a combination of Beacon and Hub devices. [Bluetooth] can incorporate mobile Bluetooth-enabled devices such as smartphones, which helps simplify implementation.”
Similar to GPS trackers, Bluetooth trackers offer real-time tracking of assets, though with some possible latency, but with less power consumption.
The difficulty with Bluetooth trackers, however, is the system or infrastructure needed for proper tracking. Additionally, metal and reflective surfaces can interfere with signals, which can be made worse by additional Bluetooth-connected devices.
Barcodes and barcode scanners are among the cheapest asset tracking systems. Wiser Systems writes, “Physical items are issued a barcode that identifies the item, and a system of barcode scans log whatever checkpoint is needed.”
Barcodes allow for the tracking of a large number of assets, with essentially no amount of the number of assets that can be incorporated. However, the inexpensiveness of the system requires significant labour-intensive tracking efforts (i.e. Employees have to frequently scan assets).
Moreover, the software used in these systems are not necessarily inexpensive, and yet do not allow for real-time tracking.
NFC trackers essentially rely on RFID technologies. However, while RFID trackers require expensive, specially-built scanners, NFCs are generally integrated into mobile devices which can be used to scan NFC trackers.
Trackinno writes that the types of data NFC trackers can scan and track different types of data. Trackers are also known to be very durable and are generally unaffected by wear and tear.
Though, NFC trackers are not practical for real-time tracking. Moreover, NFC trackers have very limited tracking range.
WiFi asset tracking systems allow companies to save on communications infrastructure needed for tracking assets, by allowing IP-based tracking, reports Smart Buildings Technology.
Though, costs saved on new communications infrastructure would have to be diverted to battery-powered trackers attached to assets.
Moreover, this system is limited by the radius of the WiFi network. Therefore, it is arguably impractical to use for tracking a large number of assets over long distances.
Cellular-based asset tracking can take advantage of worldwide cellular networks to offer precise, real-time tracking of long-range assets, reports Wiser Systems.
However, cellular connections can be spotty in certain locations where cellular infrastructure is more limited. Yet, cellular-based tracking requires the use of trackers that consume significant power and frequent recharging.
Moreover, companies are beholden to the whims and capabilities of third-party infrastructure and systems, and companies have no real means of holding these companies accountable for any losses incurred as a result of infrastructure and system limitations.
Wiser Systems reports, “The past few years have seen huge growth in low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) asset tracking applications. As of last August, more than 80% of major asset tracking system manufacturers had released or were preparing to release LPWAN-based solutions.”
Evidently, it is becoming more of a widely-used tracking system. LPWAN systems build off of existing communications infrastructure such as cellular networks, but require less energy-intensive trackers.
However, LPWAN trackers do not offer the same degree of accuracy and can be limited by regional availability, though they are adept at middle-range trackers.
The more complex supply chains become, the more important asset tracking technologies become. In this article, we have listed eight different types of asset tracking technologies. Determining which type of asset tracking technology is most applicable and beneficial to your company requires extensive research and a strong understanding of the strengths and benefits of each technology.
With that in mind, Central Midori is a prime destination for designing and manufacturing asset tracking labels and tags. Central Midori-printed electronics technologies offer many benefits. They are low cost, lightweight, thin, rugged, and flexible. Be sure to check out Central Midori’s asset tracking technologies. Central Midori is here for you and your company’s manufacturing needs.