Asset Tracking

65 Percent of Businesses Plan to Use RFID and IoT for Asset Tracking by 2027

12 Min
May 02, 2024
Asset tracking use case

What to Expect?

Asset tracking stands for efficiency, transparency, value retention, functionality, and security. An important aspect of this is the connection to the Internet of Things (IoT). In order to optimally use, protect, and manage equipment and assets, sensors or tags are increasingly being integrated into assets and are continuously being monitored in real time. At the Istanbul Airport, for example, LoRaWAN technology is already being used to track assets and people, both indoors and outdoors.

1. Status Quo

What is Asset Tracking?

The technical term ‘asset tracking’ can be classified under several topics. It involves securing the digitalized supply chain, controlling operating assets and safeguarding production steps, as well as all process steps. Facility management, fleet management, inventory control and management, warehouse management, load carrier management, which includes container tracking, and inventory are concepts that are closely linked to asset tracking. These examples already show how comprehensive an asset and equipment tracking system can be.

The main objective of asset tracking is to track the location, condition and other relevant information about assets in real time or with prompt updates. Parameters such as location, condition, temperature, humidity, movement, and usage are captured and transmitted wirelessly to networks or IoT platforms. Typically, radio-system-based wireless technologies are used for this purpose. An IoT asset management system with an asset tracking software or asset management software can be used to check the location of goods at any time. As far as localization is concerned, both the indoor tracking and outdoor tracking of assets is practiced. The entire range of RTLS solutions is suited for this.

What are Assets?

The term ‘asset’ stands for material and movable or immovable tangible goods, assets, or operating resources. This includes containers or load carriers, but also assets that are integrated into the operational activities of a company in order to generate revenue. These include, for example, production systems, machines, tools, instruments, furniture, work equipment, fasteners, work clothing, building inventories such as fire extinguishers or even delivery vehicles and robots. The term ‘operating assets’ is therefore often used.

Elevators and door systems could also be regarded as immovable assets and operating resources. Even if they are permanently integrated into a building, they are material resources. They secure operational processes and have an economic value. It is precisely this value that is important. Assets must be monitored, controlled, and also maintained so that they can perform their function within production processes and logistics operations as planned. It is irrelevant whether assets are an integral part of the building infrastructure or belong to production and logistics.

Wireless IoT Technologies and Asset Tracking

  • RFID

    With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking, an RFID tag with a unique electronic serial number is attached to an asset. An RFID reader connects to the tag’s antenna and reads the stored data.

  • LPWAN

    Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) such as LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, mioty or Sigfox also offer long ranges and are suitable for asset and equipment tracking in outdoor areas. They enable assets to be tracked over long distances. This applies in particular to rural or remote areas where there is no stable mobile network coverage.

  • Bluetooth LE

    Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) can be used for precise indoor localization. Compared to conventional Bluetooth, BLE asset tracking consumes significantly less energy. This means that BLE-enabled devices, such as beacons or tags, can be operated over long periods of time without the need for frequent battery changes.

  • NFC

    Near Field Communication (NFC) is cost-effective compared to other tracking technologies. As most modern smartphones support NFC technology, companies can use their employees’ existing devices to capture asset data.

  • UWB

    Asset tracking with Ultra Wide Band (UWB) tags for real-time localization offers high accuracy in positioning, a good range and the ability to penetrate obstacles.

Hardware Integration in Asset Tracking

An asset tracking system requires a suitable network infrastructure to transfer the data between the tracking tags, readers, and central systems. This can include wired or wireless networks such as WLAN, mobile networks, Bluetooth or LoRaWAN. In most applications, the asset tracking system is modular. Tagging assets with tags or IoT sensors enables them to transmit data to stationary or mobile receivers or gateways that communicate with the associated system. In most cases, once the information has been interpreted, the data is made available online. All data transmitted by wireless networks to the IoT can be evaluated by analysis tools.

For the integration of hardware into a wireless network, it is advisable to commission a system integrator, a system house or a distributor with a proof of concept. In some cases, manufacturers themselves also have extensive integration expertise, as they are most familiar with their products and their modifications. Depending on the financial framework, the application, the environmental conditions, and the objective, the choice of hardware and technology can vary greatly. Working with an expert also sheds light on legal aspects, data security, and difficult environmental conditions such as metal or concrete walls. Depending on the application, a hardware concept can include sensors, transponders, labels, antennas, gateways, mobile and stationary read/write devices, asset tracking IoT scanners, handhelds, wireless label printers, and tunnel readers.

As far as inventory management software is concerned, there are numerous IT products available on the market. These may vary depending on the specific requirements of the application and the budget of a company.

In principle, the integration of asset tracking with IT systems such as ITSM (IT Service Management) or ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) enables the management of assets. To do this, it is essential to consider individual requirements. This includes questions such as: What type of assets should be tracked, and what information is required? How important is precise location tracking? Should the data be integrated into other systems? Does the solution need to be scalable?

Facts & Figures

According to a report by the market research platform ‘Gitnux’, the market for asset tracking solutions was valued at over 17 billion USD in 2020. This number is expected to grow to over 36 billion USD by 2027. 65 percent of businesses have plans to implement RFID and IoT technologies for asset tracking by 2027. It is estimated that 35 million assets are already being tracked with IoT asset tracking solutions in 2024.

This market growth in asset tracking solutions is driven by rapid digitalization in all industries including healthcare, industry, and retail, among others. Asset tracking in retail involves tracking clothing items and jewelry, among other material goods and operational resources, for example. According to a report by the global provider of market insights and strategic business intelligence ‘IoT Analytics’, there were over 14 billion IoT connections globally in 2022. 31 percent of these connections are Wi-Fi-based. 27 percent of these connections rely on BLE technology. It is predicted that the number of global IoT connections will grow to over 29 billion by 2027.

2. In Practice

Asset Tracking in Practice

The protection of assets is essential for the success of a company. In short, all operational processes must be as efficient and cost-effective as possible. The use of tracking systems can support these goals. But what needs to be considered when deciding on a tracking system? First of all, it is important to clearly define the objective. What should be tracked, to what extent, how precisely, and what could a further expansion stage look like? This determines which data should be evaluated. This includes relevant asset data such as location, condition, maintenance history, and value. An inventory of assets is essential. Priorities should then be set: which assets are the most relevant for business operations?

The next step is to clarify whether contactless technologies such as RFID, BLE, LPWAN, UWB, or Global Positioning System (GPS) will be used. Questions about the asset management software and data management must also be answered. The selection of the appropriate technology depends on the specific requirements and the budget. Both compliance requirements and the issue of data security are part of the final tracking solution. After implementation, it is advisable to carry out regular audits to identify potential for improvement. The following success stories are examples of possible solutions.

Asset Tracking at Istanbul Grand Airport

Istanbul Airport uses a complex LoRaWAN network in parallel with IT networks for asset tracking. This LoRaWAN network includes nodes, modules, gateways, and sensors. In 2020, 6,000 LoRaWAN modules were in use, along with 5,500 WiFi access points throughout the airport. 107 IoT gateways were installed to collect information across the entire airport infrastructure.

A local ICT network is used for communication between the gateways and the servers. Vehicles, goods, and devices are localized via sensors. Wireless sensors are used to manage assets outside the main airport building. GPS and LoRaWAN systems are used to track objects outside the airport. LoRaWAN beacons are used to track people and objects such as wheelchairs inside the building.

Teaser: LoRaWAN for Real-Time Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance at İstanbul Airport
LPWAN Monitors One of the Largest Airports in the World

“A comprehensive LoRa network was set up during the construction of the Istanbul Airport. The network supports numerous processes in asset and maintenance management. We use 107 LoRa IoT gateways to cover the entire airport in Istanbul, including the terminal buildings, the outdoor area and all other buildings.”

Bilal Yildiz

Electronic Systems Manager, İstanbul Airport

Logo IGA Istanbul Airport

Workwear Tracking at Norland Hospital

In 2021, the Nordland Hospital in Norway installed a central room solution from Deister Electronic for laundry management with an RFID-based access and identification system. The aim is to ensure that staff are provided with sufficient clean workwear. The hospital has over 30,000 items of non-personalized workwear. Each of these garments has a button-sized UHF RFID chip sewn onto it that can withstand over 200 wash cycles. The hospital asset tracking solution for laundry works like a walk-in closet. Each employee can remove up to 6 items of laundry.

Borrowed laundry items must be returned before new items can be removed. The laundry is returned via return cabinets. The focus of the room solution is on the fast and automated registration of employees and clothing in order to avoid waiting times. The result: textile waste has been reduced by 70 percent. With the new textile management solution, there is now sufficient clean laundry available around the clock. There are 20,000 fewer items of rented laundry in circulation, resulting in cost savings of 175,000 euros over a rental period of 5-10 years.

Improved Textile Management in Northern Norway
Improved Textile Management in Northern Norway

“The new RFID solution benefits everyone: the patients, the employees, hygiene, the environment and – through the cost reduction – also the clinic’s management.”

Vibeke Mikalsen

Head of Operations, Nordlandssykehuset

Logo Nordlandssykehuset

Stadium Tracks Assets with UHF RFID

In order to increase visibility and efficiency in asset tracking, sportswear retailer Stadium has deployed a UHF RFID solution. UHF RFID labels from SML RFID measuring 4 x 6 centimeters are directly attached to goods during production. The tagged goods and third-party goods are then shipped and transported to the central warehouse in Norrköping, Sweden. Upon arrival, items are passed through one of four RFID tunnels. Bulk reading takes place. RFID-tagged items go directly to picking.

Items without RFID tags are transported to an RFID printing station. Each distribution center has five RFID printers that provide un-tagged goods with an RFID tag. Newly tagged goods are then transferred to the warehouse. RFID handhelds are used to quickly and accurately locate products in the stores. Sold products are immediately placed on a replenishment list. A real-time monitoring of products to ensure timely replenishment is therefore possible. The result: Improved customer satisfaction.

Teaser: RFID-controlled Supply Chain at Stadium
RFID-Controlled Supply Chain at Stadium

“For Stadium, RFID technology works like an innovation engine. We will fully automate the planned new distribution warehouse and we intend to further optimize the supply chain with RFID. We are also discussing how Stadium can use RFID together with AI or NFC to optimize the customer journey. These, as well as six new Scandinavian stores in 2022, are concrete plans for the future.”

Johan Stenström

Supply Chain Developer and Project Manager, Stadium

Logo Stadium
3. Panorama

Risk Assessment and Maintenance with APM

APM (Asset Performance Management) refers to a data-driven and proactive approach to asset management. It is not just about the breakdown of an asset, but about analyzing the unexpected reasons why this asset can no longer be used or found. If the ‘why’ is known, decisions can be made that prevent similar situations in the future and thus reduce the risk for critical operating processes.

APM includes the analysis of operational data to evaluate and optimize the performance of assets. This can enable the identification of bottlenecks, inefficient processes or improvement potential to increase overall efficiency and profitability. In short, APM is a strategy that increases the performance of plants and processes by minimizing risks. In addition to risk assessment, AMP also includes diagnostics and predictive maintenance to reduce unplanned downtime.

Benefits of Asset Tracking and IoT?

The profitability and quality of operational services are the biggest advantages of asset tracking. This is especially true if the asset tracking solution is an IoT solution and thus meets the requirements of digitalization. Other benefits include optimizing resource utilization, improving maintenance, preventing theft and loss with solutions like RFID anti-theft protection, using real-time data for resource planning, meeting compliance requirements, and complying with environmental regulations.

Overall, the company’s resilience is increased as operational start-ups run more efficiently, the supply chain is more resilient, and the assets are more durable.

Advantages of Wireless IoT

  • Real-time localization
  • Accurate delivery
  • Resource planning
  • Reduction of empty runs
  • Pool solution

Partners Spezialized in Asset Tracking Solutions

Hurdles in Asset Management

Although asset tracking offers many advantages, there are also some challenges associated with it. First and foremost, it is the assets themselves that can present challenges. In most cases, assets are very diverse. From movable goods such as furniture, to large equipment, to a pallet or an industrial truck. As a result, the choice of labeling solution is not always easy. Different types of assets require different tracking methods and technologies.

As the investment in hardware and software for a complex system can also generate costs, it is advisable to work with an expert and clarify all challenges in advance. The costs include the purchase of hardware, software, and staff training, as well as the integration costs. In almost all cases, the long-term benefits justify these costs.

Data security and data protection are part of the proof of concept right from the start. Sensitive data must be protected at all times. If the new asset tracking system is to be integrated into an existing system, various divisions must be involved in order to enable seamless integration. If the scalability of the asset tracking solutions is to be possible from the outset, as the permanent inventory of assets is constantly changing, this requirement also has an impact. The system must be able to keep pace with the company’s growth and adapt to new requirements.

Outlook – Next-Level Asset Tracking

How will asset tracking develop in the future? Emerging trends such as blockchain and AI in companies, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the optimization of battery technology will make asset tracking more efficient and convenient in the future.

Blockchain and AI

Blockchain is still a buzzword. Only a few well-known applications rely on blockchain in asset tracking. Nevertheless, this approach can improve the transparency, security, and traceability of assets. By using decentralized and immutable databases, companies can ensure that asset tracking data is secure. Asset tracking solutions that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze large amounts of asset tracking data, recognize patterns, make predictions, and make automated decisions are on the rise.

It sounds futuristic, but it is the future of asset tracking. Reliable diagnostics and risk assessments can help companies to actively and proactively improve the efficiency of all operating processes and identify problems such as maintenance requirements or theft at an early stage.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

The keyword maintenance includes augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR technologies can save time and money when visualizing asset tracking data and training employees for the remote maintenance and inspection of assets. They allow users to visualize information and interact directly.

Battery Technology

Asset tracking is also gaining momentum in a completely different sector. This involves the continuous optimization of battery technology. The development of more powerful and longer-lasting batteries enables the use of asset tracking devices in places where access to electricity is limited due to construction constraints. These powerful batteries offer longer battery life, and therefore, the continuous monitoring of assets.

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