How rich, real-time data is cutting costs, informing decisions and improving safety
Few areas of commerce have benefitted from the Internet of Things (IoT) as much as asset tracking.
The ability to instantly locate and check the condition of products, equipment, vehicles and other assets is a critical advantage. This has led countless businesses across a variety of industries to integrate IoT sensors and technology into their operations. And with the expanding use of low-power, low-data-usage WANs, like Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) and narrowband (NB)-IoT networks developed explicitly to make massive IoT deployments more feasible and affordable, any company that isn't already managing assets with connected sensors probably soon will be.
One reason many businesses are holding out might simply be the pace of change. Managers who remember recent transitions to other asset tracking systems – such as QR codes – may not feel justified investing in even more technology. But the benefits of IoT asset tracking are getting harder to ignore. It's automated, provides instant access to accurate data, and requires almost no human input, eliminating many of the costs, delays and errors that come with manual asset management. It pays for itself and then keeps on saving time and money while eliminating headaches.
Here are some common use cases in familiar sectors that illustrate how IoT technology is providing critical, actionable information to the people who need it to save money, increase customer satisfaction and improve safety.
Tracking equipment and machinery
Consider a construction company's fleet of heavy machinery. Making the most of this equipment requires knowing where each machine is at all times, as well as its operational status. Without real-time information, machines waste time sitting idle. Sometimes they're in an unknown state of disrepair, leaving them unready when needed. Worse, when workers go to retrieve them they may not be where they were last reported – perhaps because someone forgot to properly sign them out (or even because they were stolen)resulting in costly delays.
Savvy managers have learned that these problems can be mitigated or even completely eliminated with IoT sensors that provide a rich set of data available anytime and anywhere to the people who need it. Sensors installed in machinery and vehicles can not only provide real-time data on where these assets are, but also their current status and whether they need maintenance or repair, ensuring each piece of equipment is utilized as efficiently and as thoroughly as possible.
Managing stock in wholesale and retail
Wholesalers and retailers face similar tracking problems. The best way to serve clients and shoppers is to have the products they want when and where they want them. But manual tracking can result in inaccurate stocking information and delays, making it hard to locate goods or learn about shipping and transit problems.
Companies using IoT to help manage stock, on the other hand, have constant access not only to the precise location and supply of specific goods, but also the conditions they're being stored in – potentially vital information for delicate and perishable products. This lets decision makers take action to either protect or re-order the items they need and ensure they continue to meet client and customer demand.
Government-mandated inspection and certification
Companies and governments mandated to ensure the safety and quality of water, food and the environment have always relied on human inspectors to perform regular checks. But these inspectors can't be everywhere all the time, which means even a careful, error-free inspection resulting in certification is valid only at the time it's conducted.
That's why both public agencies and private entities responsible for managing vital resources have begun to use connected sensors to monitor water supplies, farm conditions, and the environment. These IoT devices provide up-to-the-moment information on relevant conditions and instantly detect abnormalities and changes that can affect safety and quality, helping managers identify and remedy issues before they spread.
Real-time information supplied by the Internet of Things may still be considered a luxury regarding some applications, but when it comes to asset management, tracking, inspection and certification it's fast becoming a must-have. It's reached a tipping point in cost-efficiency, availability and ease-of-deployment that is making it an essential part of many business operations.