Asset Tracking Software Insights

We previously wrote about Using Beacons, iBeacons for Asset Tracking and Bluetooth vs UWB vs RFID for RTLS. This post considers the strengths of Bluetooth for asset tracking and provides some insights if you looking for asset tracking software.

The traditional way of tracking assets using barcodes, NFC or RFID requires that someone of something scan the items at very close range. Bluetooth has the advantage that it works up to 70m, sometimes up to 300m allowing the reading to be done:

  • Without moving the items, saving infrastructure such as conveyor belts
  • Without human involvement, saving time
  • Continuously

The affect of ‘continuously’ is subtle but powerful. With traditional scanning, information as to the whereabouts of an item is only as good as the last scan that could be minutes, hours or even days ago. If the item moves without scanning, finding it can be very difficult. Bluetooth asset tracking is updated continuously.

Although beacons cost more than barcodes, NFC and RFID, the readers, usually gateways, cost considerably (x10) less. As the beacons are Bluetooth, for some scenarios the readers are ‘free’ as you can use smartphones already in use. Nevertheless, beacons cost ($5 to $40) more than barcodes so tend to be used on aggregated items such as pallets and sub-assemblies or on single valuable items.

Beacons go beyond simple simple assets tracking into the Internet of Things (IoT). The same beacons can monitor quantities such as vibration, temperature, humidity, light, proximity, smoke and gas. Using beacons for extra purposes such as sensing and providing triggered information about assets can often be the most compelling aspect of using beacons.

When it comes to software, think carefully. Most people expect functionality similar to traditional barcode-based asset tracking with software on a server somewhere. While the equivalent exists in the form of RTLS systems that put beacons onto maps and plans, it’s sometimes possible to implement a simpler solution to get the job done. Could your requirements be met with just an app? One such example is the work we did for Malvern instruments that’s a simple app that does a stock check by scanning for beacons as the user moves about their site. Also, we have found that many organisations don’t actually need a full asset management solution but instead need something that can capture beacon data and make it available to their existing systems. Our BeaconServer™ fulfils that role.

Read about Asset Tracking for Manufacturers