What is IoT-based asset tracking?

What is IoT based Asset Tracking?

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Asset tracking has been an essential aspect of managing businesses, particularly for those who rely on mobile assets. IoT asset tracking, a relatively new technology, has transformed how businesses manage their valuable assets. With IoT asset tracking, sensors and connected devices enable remote monitoring and management of an asset’s geoposition and movements. This technology has opened up numerous possibilities for businesses that operate in various sectors, including transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics, among others

.An example of an IoT Asset tracking solution could be a system that uses sensors and GPS technology to track the location and status of goods in a supply chain, from the manufacturer to the end consumer. This solution can provide real-time information about the location, condition, and movement of goods, allowing companies to optimize their supply chain management and improve operational efficiency.

Some of the benefits of an IoT asset tracking solution include:

  1. Improved visibility and control: With real-time tracking and monitoring, companies can gain greater visibility into their supply chain, enabling them to better manage inventory, reduce waste, and improve overall efficiency.
  2. Enhanced security: IoT Asset tracking solutions can help prevent theft or loss of goods, by providing alerts when goods are moved without authorization or when they deviate from their intended route.
  3. Increased productivity: By automating tracking and monitoring processes, companies can reduce manual labour, increase productivity, and save time and money.
  4. Better customer service: With real-time information on the location and status of goods, companies can provide more accurate delivery estimates and better customer service.

Overall, an IoT Asset tracking solution can help companies streamline their supply chain operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs while providing better visibility and control over their assets.

The development of IoT asset tracking has been a significant advancement, with technologies such as GPS, 6LoWPAN, and BLE being some of the most commonly used. The purpose of this technical document is to discuss these technologies in more detail and the challenges encountered in both indoor and outdoor positioning and tracking.

GPS (Global Positioning System):

GPS technology has been around for several years and is a well-known technology used in IoT asset tracking. GPS relies on a network of satellites to determine the precise location of an asset. GPS has become the standard for tracking vehicles and other mobile assets, as it provides accurate location data and works well in most environments.

GPS technology has revolutionized the way businesses manage their mobile assets by offering several benefits, which include:

  • Accurate location data: GPS technology provides accurate location data, which enables businesses to track their mobile assets’ precise location in real-time. This data can help businesses optimize their operations and make informed decisions based on the asset’s current location.
  • Reliable performance: GPS technology has been around for several years, and its reliability is well established. Businesses can rely on GPS technology to track their assets without worrying about the technology’s performance.
  • Robustness: GPS technology can withstand harsh weather conditions, making it suitable for outdoor tracking applications. This robustness makes the GPS technology ideal for tracking assets in challenging environments, such as construction sites or mining operations.
  • Enhanced safety and security: GPS technology offers enhanced safety and security for mobile assets by enabling businesses to track their assets’ movements in real-time. This feature can help prevent theft, loss, or damage to valuable assets and ensure the safety of employees who operate these assets.

However, GPS has its challenges. It requires a clear line of sight to the sky to function correctly, meaning it may not work well indoors or in areas with poor signal coverage.

6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks):

6LoWPAN is a wireless mesh network that allows for low-power, low-data-rate communication between devices. This technology is particularly useful for tracking assets in areas with poor cellular coverage or where it may be impractical to install wired infrastructure.

6LoWPAN technology offers several benefits, including:

  • Low power consumption: 6LoWPAN is designed to consume low power, making it suitable for battery-powered devices.
  • Low data rates: 6LoWPAN devices have low data rates, which makes them ideal for tracking applications that do not require high data rates.
  • Easy to install: 6LoWPAN devices are easy to install, making them ideal for tracking applications where installation time is a critical factor.
  • Sub-GHz frequencies: 6LoWPAN technology can operate in sub-GHz frequencies, which allows for longer-range communication and better penetration through obstacles such as walls and floors. This makes it ideal for indoor tracking applications, where GPS may not work reliably. 
  • Scalability: 6LoWPAN is highly scalable, allowing for the deployment of large-scale tracking systems without significant infrastructure costs. 
  • Low cost: 6LoWPAN technology is relatively inexpensive, making it an affordable option for businesses that require large-scale asset tracking. 
  • Interoperability: 6LoWPAN is an open standard, which means that it is compatible with a wide range of devices from different manufacturers. This allows for greater flexibility in choosing devices and reduces the risk of vendor lock-in.

However, 6LoWPAN also has its challenges. One of the major challenges is that it has a limited range, making it difficult to track assets in large areas. Additionally, 6LoWPAN devices are susceptible to interference, which may affect their performance.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE):

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is another technology used in IoT asset tracking. BLE is a low-power wireless communication protocol that enables devices to communicate with each other over short distances. BLE is particularly useful for tracking assets in indoor environments, as it has a shorter range than GPS and can function well in areas with limited signal coverage. BLE-enabled tags or beacons can be attached to assets, and their movements can be tracked using BLE-enabled gateways or receivers.

BLE technology offers several benefits, including:

  • Low power consumption: BLE devices consume low power, making them ideal for battery-powered devices.
  • Low cost: BLE devices are relatively inexpensive, making them ideal for tracking applications that require a large number of devices.
  • Easy to install: BLE devices are easy to install, making them ideal for tracking applications where installation time is a critical factor.
  • Low latency: BLE has a low latency, which means it can quickly establish connections and transfer data between devices. 
  • Security: BLE technology offers various security features, including encryption and authentication, to protect data and prevent unauthorized access to devices and networks.
  • Compatibility: BLE technology is compatible with most smartphones and other devices, which makes it easy to integrate with existing systems and applications.

However, BLE also has its challenges. One of the major challenges is that it has a limited range, which makes it difficult to track assets in large areas. Additionally,

BLE devices can be affected by interference from other wireless signals and obstacles such as walls, which can hinder their performance in some indoor environments.

Indoor and Outdoor Positioning Challenges:

While GPS, 6LoWPAN, and BLE are all useful technologies for asset tracking, they each have their limitations when it comes to indoor and outdoor positioning. Indoor positioning, in particular, can be challenging due to signal interference from walls and other obstacles, which can cause inaccurate location data.

To overcome these challenges, different approaches to indoor positioning have been developed, including using Wi-Fi, Ultra-Wideband (UWB), and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies. Each of these technologies has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of which technology to use will depend on the specific application and environment.

In outdoor environments, GPS is the most commonly used technology for asset tracking due to its accuracy and reliability. However, GPS can still encounter challenges in areas with poor signal coverage or in areas with high levels of signal interference.

Conclusion:

There are several technologies available for tracking applications, each with its own set of benefits and limitations. The choice of technology depends on various factors such as the type of asset being tracked, the required accuracy of location data, power consumption, and installation time.

Sub-GHz and 6LoWPAN technologies are suitable for applications that require low power consumption, low data rates, and easy installation. These technologies are ideal for tracking assets that are stationary or moving slowly, such as containers and equipment in warehouses.

BLE technology is suitable for tracking applications that require a large number of devices at a relatively low cost. It is ideal for tracking assets in indoor environments, such as in hospitals, factories, and warehouses.

GPS technology, on the other hand, offers accurate and reliable location data, making it ideal for tracking mobile assets such as vehicles, ships, and aircraft. It is also suitable for outdoor tracking applications due to its robustness.

Overall, the choice of technology for a particular tracking application depends on various factors, and it is important to carefully evaluate the benefits and limitations of each technology before making a decision.

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