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A Guide To Asset Tracking Systems

asset tracking

What Is Asset Tracking?

Asset tracking is a way of keeping track of a company’s cargo and fleet by means of scanning or GPS technology. There are 3 ways to accomplish this, with each containing its own merits.

  1. Barcode Asset Tracking
  2. GPS Asset Tracking
  3. RFID Asset Tracking

1) Barcode Asset Tracking

The most old fashioned and least efficient asset tracker, barcode scanning is a tried and tested method of processing deliveries and stock taking. Although it is an accurate method when used properly, barcodes are slow, laborious and prone to human error.

The barcode of a particular package must be scanned by hand and most barcode scanners are not capable of scanning from distances of over a few feet, even for the more hardy industrial warehouse models. As such, barcode scanner systems are somewhat outdated for most operations.

2) GPS Asset Tracking

Because GPS asset tracking works in real time, it is an easily manageable process that offers a convenient overview of the entire process. This is particularly useful for companies that need to track their fleet and cargo internationally. In previous years there have been issues with GPS asset tracking and larger vehicles but with the advent of improved systems and satellite technology, GPS asset tracking is a far more reliable method as well as being extremely efficient and accurate.

Asset Monitoring

GPS asset tracking is an ideal solution for businesses that need to consistently monitor assets. With live GPS tracking, asset managers are able to pinpoint the exact location of their assets, this information can then be used to improved business efficiency and improve customer service. As opposed to manual barcode tracking, a GPS asset tracking system is extremely beneficial for businesses that transport assets over long distances. Having the ability to track assets in real-time provides a huge advantage over manually scanning the assets at different points throughout the asset's journey.

3) RFID Asset Tracking System

RFID, or radio frequency identification, is not a new technology but it has, in recent years, enjoyed something of a resurgence. Although it does not boast the benefits of real time updating that GPS asset tracking offers, it is the most dependable system available as it does not rely on the sometimes-problematic satellite technology that GPS systems use.

RFID Tags and Chips

RFID works by placing a tag on the cargo or vehicle that needs to be tracked, which in turn is read by scanners as it passes. The information is then automatically uploaded to a tracking system. Unlike barcode scanning, the RFID range can be vast, up to 2000 meters with some devices.

RFID Antenna

RFID antennas are responsible for powering energy to RFID tags and communicating with RFID readers. The larger the RFID antenna, the greater the read range. In brief, RFID antennas are the components that provide the communicate between the tag to the reader and as a result, track the location of assets.

The main disadvantage of using RFID asset tracking is that it is more expensive than GPS tracking, but because of its reliability and suitability to warehouse environments, RFID tracking systems are conducive to asset tracking systems. However, note that RFID antennas with only a single antenna are not as reliable as those with multiple.

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Differences Between Asset Trackers And Normal GPS Tracking

At this point the differences between asset tracking and normal GPS tracking should be pointed out. The simplest dissimilarity between the two is that normal GPS tracking devices are generally designed for more rugged environments, such as warehouses and large vehicles. The average tracking device for smaller vehicles would probably not last long when placed in industrial settings so you should choose your device carefully if this is relevant to your surroundings.

Another large difference between the two types of trackers is that asset trackers are usually powered by battery as opposed to normal trackers, which are hard wired to the vehicles electronic system. By using batteries to power the device, the trackers can then be used much more flexibly, on cargo, vehicles or even mini cranes and forklifts. Asset tracking is often used for trailers, including HGV trailers, so that it is possible to track the whereabouts of a trailer regardless of whether it is hitched to a cab. It is also used for haulage containers and rolling stock.

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Asset Tracking Software

There are a huge amount of options available for asset tracking software. Taking time to understand the differences may be vital to accessing all the full benefits of asset tracking.

Open source asset tracking software is a very popular method for asset tracking, and can be suitable for all but the most complex operations.

There are some free asset tracking software packages that exist, but free does not always mean the most cost efficient. Just how effective each package is depends largely on your business’ needs and type.

There are many paid asset tracking software options, and these can usually offer the best levels of support and business integration.

Complex ventures would do well to research the software side of asset tracking systems to find exactly which type works best for them.

Next Steps

With so many different systems, suppliers and devices available, asset tracking can be a confusing market to compare services and suppliers. Asset tracking has the ability to transform any business into a more efficient and profit maximising operation, so it is worthwhile considering your options carefully.

By filling in our simple form, which should take no longer than a minute, you can compare the suppliers and services that are right for your size, budget and type of business.