Numerex Launches Managed Service for Asset Tracking

By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The new offering is designed to help manufacturers or logistics providers keep tabs on valuable mobile assets.

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Though its name sounds like the latest consumer product from Apple, iManage is made for manufacturers or logistics providers. The new managed service from Numerex, an Atlanta-based provider of interactive and on-demand machine-to-machine (M2M) enterprise solutions, is built on Numerex’s cloud-based nxFAST software application, used for locating and tracking valuable assets outfitted with Numerex sensors. This service includes all provisioning and subscription services that a customer needs to quickly launch the iManage platform.

Numerex’s senior VP, Scott Wiley, says customers will most likely use iManage to help them keep tabs on mobile, rugged carts used to transport large parts or products, because these fixtures represent a significant investment and often end up—whether intentionally or not—in the possession of customers or supply chain partners.

Scott Wiley

“If the fixture remains inside a factory, the owner would probably be using RFID [to track the asset],” Wiley says. “But outside the factory, [those assets] would be a blind spot to them.” Companies that sign up for the iManage service will receive an nxLocate tracking device for each asset they’d like to track. (The nxLocate tags can be outfitted with satellite communication as well, but the iManage service is built on the base model, which communicates via cellular networks.) The tag contains a subscriber identity module (SIM) card that comes pre-commissioned, so that as soon as customers receive the tags, mount them onto assets and create an iManage account in the nxFAST (Foundation Application Software Technology) software, they can begin tracking.

The nxLocate tag also contains a three-axis accelerometer. A user can set the tag to report, via its communication network, whenever the tag moves or tilts. Or, it can store this data and transmit it during regularly scheduled transmissions. The tag utilizes a replaceable AA lithium battery that has an expected lifespan of three to four years if the tag is set to transmit data two times per day.

Wiley explains that this contrasts with Numerex’s previous à la carte offerings, in which it sold tracking devices, cellular network access and the nxFAST application licensing fees separately. With iManage, he says, customers will pay only a monthly fee, per tracking device, based on the number of data transmissions they request. If customers set the nxLocate devices to transmit their location twice daily, he adds, their subscription fees will be $20 per month, per device.

Wiley says mobile assets, such as rugged carts, cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 apiece. “They tend to go missing,” he explains. “They get left behind or stolen. With iManage, our customer can easily log in and see that a wayward asset is at a customer location, dispatch a truck and retrieve it. They can go in and drill down on a Google map to find it.”

The iManage service could be used for more than just looking up an asset’s location, however. For instance, users can establish a geofence around a storage yard and set iManage to alert them if the yard falls below a minimum number of assets that the company needs to ensure it can ship or process goods. Or, they can use the dwell-time feature in the nxFAST application, which tracks the amount of time a tagged asset remains in one place, as well as every time it moves or tilts. This feature could help a customer view which locations have more tagged assets than they need.

Since iManage’s launch earlier this month, Wiley says, Numerex has been receiving calls from companies outside the manufacturing industry. That includes a firm that manages a chain of automotive dealerships. Unlike RFID tags, which are often used to conduct regular inventory counts on sales lots, the Numerex tags would allow the dealer to know the locations of cars stolen from its lot (the caller had experienced a recent spate of thefts).

During very busy periods or when the dealer was understaffed, iManage would also enable the company to allow customers to test-drive a vehicle without a sales representative coming along for the ride. “They could set a geofence,” Wiley states, “and if the test driver exceeds it and appears to be stealing the car, they can call him and say, ‘You know, you’ve not purchased the car yet.'”

The dealer is also interested in using the dwell-time tracking capabilities in the iManage application in order to view inventory that has not been driven regularly. It could then decide, based on this information, to offer a special price designed to move inventory.