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Understanding Your Asset-Tracking Options

Each type of location-tracking technology has its own benefits and drawbacks. Here's an overview of what you should consider.
By Martyn Mallick and Matt Teskey
Jun 25, 2007The ability to track the location of assets, people and equipment—or anything of value to a business—has been garnering a lot of attention lately. This is evidenced by the number of demonstrations, sessions and announcements at industry trade shows; the emergence of companies with RFID and sensor hardware or software offerings; and, most importantly, the variety of use cases and real-world customer success stories being discussed.

When it comes to picking the best technology with which to track assets for a specific situation, companies have a wealth of options from which to choose. The ultimate decision is usually based on:
  1. The value, size and number of assets to be tracked. This provides guidance with regard to the amount of money justifiable per asset, as well as the possible tag form factors.
  2. The required level of location granularity or preciseness. Do you need to know the exact path of an asset around a building at frequent intervals, or just whether it is in a room? Do you need to know where an asset is in real time, or just where it was last seen?
  3. Existing technology investments. Have you already invested in passive RFID or mobile devices? Do you have an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure throughout the area that can be utilized?
  4. Other business or technology requirements. These include cost, integration, existing expertise and so on.

Factoring in all of these requirements, some companies may opt to use multiple technologies in conjunction with one another, to provide the desired performance or track different classes of assets from a single system.

This article provides an introduction to the range of technology options that can be used for asset location tracking. Typically, the overview sections discuss how companies can employ the technologies to track individual assets by attaching a tag or sensor to each unique asset. In some solutions, it may be enough to simply tag and track handheld readers, forklifts or other equipment, rather than tagging every asset.

If you track the location of equipment, you can use that location as the position of assets read by the mobile device (if the mobile device is an RFID reader), or of assets with which the mobile device is in some way interacting—for example, if a forklift at position X,Y has just dropped off shipment ABC, you can record that shipment ABC is stored at or near position X,Y. By using this model, companies may be able to reduce costs by tagging a small amount of equipment, as opposed to a large asset population.

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