The basic start to today’s complex industrial asset management systems probably started with a simple question like, “Where the heck is that skip loader when we need it?” It was driven by frustrated foremen or site managers who were tired of wasting time and money conducting labor-intensive searches for tools, vehicles and equipment that weren’t where they were supposed to be.
From one simple question, a multi-billion-dollar industry has emerged that is transforming the way industrial companies operate. Asset management may have started by making it faster and easier for supervisors to answer the “Where is it?” question. However, today’s fully integrated asset management platforms are letting people at all levels of the organization answer questions that enable industrial businesses to unlock more value from their capital assets and make better business decisions.
Advances in Wireless Technologies to Support IoT
With each technological advancement, asset tracking was transformed from pen and paper to spreadsheets, and now onto web-based, mobile IoT platforms using various technologies such as QR readers, RFID scanners, Bluetooth beacons and cellular devices.
The latest big advancement in asset management is the integration of wireless cellular communications into asset tracking systems. Using GPS trackers, companies can now track assets anywhere at any time with a cellular signal. LoRaWAN, or long-range, wide area network, trackers recently followed, allowing for GPS tracking in areas without cellular coverage to maintain the transmission of IoT data.
To make IoT tracking technologies more useful and usable, cellular companies are now introducing tracking devices that take into account the unique challenges of IoT tracking. For example, unlike cell phones and other cellular devices, IoT asset trackers tend to transmit small, infrequent bursts of data. They also frequently operate in remote mobile locations, which often require off-the-grid power sources. Those that do have access to grid power need reliable backup battery power in case the grid goes down.
The next generation of cellular technologies – LTE Cat M1 and Narrow Band for IoT and LTE Cat NB1 – are specifically designed to address these issues. Lower in cost compared to 3G and 4G coverage, these tracking devices use existing cellular networks to connect to a global navigation satellite system in order to provide asset location, navigation and timing services. These trackers offer almost unlimited geographic range. Their lower data cost enables flexible pricing, and the trackers come with batteries that last almost twice as long as earlier generations of mobile tracking devices.
Slower data speeds make the rate plans more affordable, and the longer-life batteries reduce power outages. As a result, industrial companies can get more efficient and cost-effective asset tracking anywhere at any time with reliable cellular coverage.
It’s Not Just Having the Data, It’s What You Do With It
With each advancement in asset tracking technology, the benefits of using the system spread and began to permeate more levels of management. Today, everyone from superintendents and operations managers to CFOs and other senior executives use asset tracking to make critical decisions that affect operations, the future direction of the company and their bottom lines.
- By making decisions based on real-time asset tracking data, onsite managers can move assets in a timely manner to complete daily tasks while reducing downtime, mistakes and rework.
- From the office, operations managers can oversee timely completion of projects, help to resolve onsite problems and improve overall management of company assets.
- Armed with accurate data on operational costs, senior financial officers can better manage those costs, minimize financial risk and generate optimal returns on financial investments.
- At the ownership level, digital asset management offers a powerful tool for increasing transparency throughout the organization, generating new business growth, planning the future direction of the business and putting more money on the bottom line.
From Basic Tracking Tags to Internet of Things (IoT) Technology
Perhaps the biggest advantage of IoT asset tracking is the way it connects all your asset data into one integrated system. In the early days of asset tracking, companies tended to use one or two types of asset trackers to solve specific problems.
While there is no “one size fits all” solution, companies can use today’s varying technologies together to connect all of their assets through IoT.
By connecting all assets using a variety of asset tracking technologies, you can now get more value from your assets and more data to support critical business decisions at all levels of the organization.
Having one integrated platform like Tenna’s allows you to dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiencies by automating asset management through every stage of an asset’s lifecycle. All of this leads to smarter business decisions based on data derived from online dashboards, customized reporting and seamless data sharing throughout the organization.
With today’s new generation of cellular trackers, industrial companies can boldly go where they have never gone before in terms of opening up new opportunities for growth and profits.
About Jolene Pierangeli