Asset Tracking – An IoT Capabilty
Created on September 30, 2015
Asset Tracking (AT) is an important component of daily business in most enterprises. At some point, things go missing, either as a result of misplacing them, accidently disposing them, or via theft.
Vendors in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, such as NetObjex, have begun to lead the charge in the Asset Tracking and Asset Tagging market. NetObjex has offerings that support a variety of situations ranging from Indoor and Outdoor to UWB-based and/or Beacon-based solutions.
Asset Tracking (AT, though, is not a new concept. Its been implemented by companies for many years in various industries so let’s compare the different approaches.
Physical Inspection in Retail
This is a very basic approach used by companies such as Best Buy and Costco, and unfortunately, their items are not secured. They employ a guard to monitor the door and he/she compares the paid receipt vs. what is in the shopping cart. This approach is easily implemented but is labor intensive and unreliable. Machines, on the other hand, remove the human element and are less likely to make mistakes. The guards, theoretically can make mistakes and allow items to slip through. Humans are also susceptible to fatigue and may miss items because they are tired. Thus, the human element is a weak link in the process.
In this approach, products are tagged by some coding scheme e.g. barcode, dongles.
Dongle Technology in Retail
Many retailers such as Nordstroms or Bloomindales protect high valued goods e.g. handbags, apparel using dongles. Cashiers usually remove these dongles using specialized equipment after the merchandise has been purchased. Stanchions at their exits have sensors that detect these dongles and determines whether the item is paid for – or not. Once detected, an alarm is triggered thereby enabling store personnel to take corrective action.
Radio Frequency Identification — RFID
Many companies with warehouses use RFID tags on their pallets. These tags emit a ping or tone periodically which are sent to electronic receivers. An event is triggered and key personnel are notified when this ping/tone is not heard or received after a series of consecutive time intervals.
With the advent of Internet of Things, more companies are opting for a real-time or live tracking solution of their assets. IoT solutions help drive these type of capabilities.
Many warehouse operators use barcodes on pallets as they enter/exit the warehouse. These barcodes are then tied to an ERM (Enterprise Resource Management) system. As items enter and leave the facility, the barcodes are scanned. This approach has issues. For example, if an item isn’t scanned/programmed prior to entering or leaving a facility, items can enter/leave the warehouse without anyone noticing. This increases the potential for theft. Also, the tagging is PASSIVE meaning that no event is triggered. The only way to reconcile records, i.e. what the barcode counts indicate vs. actual counts in the warehouse, would be through an arduous physical inventory count.
Beacons are devices supported by major technology companies including Apple, Google, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. It is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology that emits signals from any object that they are attached to. This helps to create a security perimeter around the tagged item(s).
Ultra Wideband – UWB
Ultra Wideband is a new technology based on IEEE standard 802.15.3. This technology is excellent for asset tracking in confined places. New vendors entering the Internet of Things (IoT) space support these devices in their platforms.
The advanced platforms that NetObjex provides, offer real-time notifications which is critical in detecting asset movement. IoT promises to re-invent the asset tracking space.