1 The Definitive Guide to Selecting the right Asset Tracking Solution Nimble Wireless Powering Asset Transformation
2 Contents Introduction...3 GPS based Asset Tracking Solution definition...3 Asset Tracking Vs Fleet tracking/management...4 Asset tracking Segment eco-system...5 Customer Vertical Segments...6 Key Characteristics of a Asset Tracking Solution...7 Conclusion... 12
3 Introduction The objective of this primer is to provide the reader with an understanding of the GPS based Asset tracking solutions and define key characteristics of the same that the operations or IT managers should consider while deploying an asset tracking solution. GPS based Asset Tracking Solution definition In this context, Asset tracking solutions (ATS) refer to GPS, Cellular and/or satellite based asset tracking solutions used to track, locate and/or safeguard a high value asset. The solution comprises of 3 elements namely a) The tracking device (also referred to as the sensor or device or Hardware or tracker), b) the back end (mostly cloud based) application (usually referred to as backend or application or SW or platform) and c) the Cellular or Satellite Network for the connectivity between the tracking device and the backend application. Use cases: In a typical use case, the Tracking device is attached to the asset (such as a package or construction equipment, pallet or trailer etc.). This tracking device calculates the location using GPS satellite signals and then conveys this location information (along with other maintenance and sensor information if applicable) back to the cloud application over the cellular data network. The most common motivation factors for using the asset tracking solution are the safety of the asset, Inventory management, tracking the location to provide ETA to the customer all these in one way or the other resulting in better utilization of the asset that is being tracked or managed.
4 Asset Tracking Vs Fleet tracking/management Asset tracking solutions differ from the traditional fleet tracking/management solutions (also referred to as the vehicle tracking solution or systems) in the sense that these solutions are to mainly safeguard the asset and not meant to track the asset on a minute by minute basis for route optimization/fuel efficiency and dispatch related logistics. In other words the asset tracking solutions are to keep an eye on the high value asset on a periodic basis (say once in 4 hours or once in a day) and not a dynamic location tracking system. The key difference is fleet management solutions are used only on fleet (trucks, buses etc.) and provide a source of power for the tracking device but the asset tracking segment is where the assets have no source of power and hence the tracking device has to work on its internal battery all the time and hence should have excellent battery life for the duration of the solution. Tracking interval Asset tracking Infrequent (once/twice a day) Fleet tracking Every 60/30 seconds Power source Powered by Internal battery Powered by vehicle battery Sensors Mostly none, but some solutions offer Temperature sensors. Ignition, Fuel, OBD2 and door sensors Installation Slap and track or portable Fixed /permanent installation Terrain Indoor + Outdoor Outdoor GPS technology Assisted and GPS/GNSS Legacy GPS Use cases Cons equipment, Packages, Pallets, Rollout containers, Golf Carts etc. Trucks, Taxis, Buses, Fleet
5 Asset tracking Segment eco-system The key players can be categorized into 5 categories as below based on the product /service piece they provide which put together form an asset tracking solution Device OEMs (the companies that manufacture and supply tracking devices and related sensors) Application/Vertical solution providers (companies that provide the application using their own or 3rd party devices) Network operators/airtime aggregators (Cellular and Satellite air time service providers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, KoreTelematics, Numerex etc) Application Platform providers - these companies provide horizontal application platform that help speed up the application development by total solution providers Total Vertical Solution Providers - These companies provide the complete end to end solutions that cater to specific vertical industries such as Logistics/Supply chain, Waste Management etc. Their solution is a one stop solution and includes the hardware devices/sensors required, backend application and any customization required and the air time cellular data plan. (For example, Nimble Wireless offers asset management solutions for one low monthly fee and no contract ) Value added resellers/distributors (Distributors/re-sellers that carry and distribute the above products/services)
6 Customer Vertical Segments The asset tracking solutions are used by various Industry/vertical segments as listed below A. Law enforcement agencies (FBI/Police): These departments use the device to slap it under the car of a suspect for surveillance purposes. B. Package/Cargo tracking: used to track high value shipments C. Pallet tracking: Used to track the plastic/wooden pallets. D. Commercial/residential construction trailers/dumpsters E. Waste management/re-cycling
7 Key Characteristics of a Asset Tracking Solution TCO & ROI This is the most important factor to consider. TCO refers to the total cost of ownership and ROI refers to the Return on Investment. The Asset tracking solution is deployed to enable a significant improvement in the operations efficiency and transform the asset value both providing bottom line savings and improved customer service. Factors such as initial investment, ongoing monthly expenses, maintenance and the savings projected to get a complete picture of the TCO and ROI. Please refer to Nimble s white paper Calculating the ROI on your asset tracking solution for factors to consider while computing the ROI.
8 Indoor or Outdoor Tracking One of the early determining factors in selecting an asset tracking solution is to identify whether the assets to be tracked in the field are mostly outdoors or indoors. Indoor tracking is a challenge is there is no GPS satellite signals visibility indoors and hence most GPS receivers are not able to find a location in the absence of satellite signals. This is important as most tracking solutions do not work indoors unless they are equipped with the AGPS (assisted GPS) feature. There are many variants of AGPS technologies ranging from the simple Cell ID based to the more complex MS- Assisted or MS-Based and tend to vary greatly in their efficacy of finding a location indoors in the absence of GPS satellite signals. Fleet tracking solutions do not have this consideration as the fleets of vehicles are outdoors most of the time enabling. Nimble s Toucan family of asset trackers support many AGPS modes that allow the user to select between accuracy, time to fix, battery life and cost. Nimble s Toucan also allows mixed mode ( indoor + outdoor ) tracking with its proprietary SmartMode setting. Please refer to Nimble s primer on Assisted GPS technologies for Asset tracking for more information on these modes.
9 Battery Life As indicated in the previous sections, an asset tracking solution is deployed to typically monitor remote high value assets. These assets mostly do not have any source of DC or AC power to power the asset tracking device and associated sensors. Hence, the asset tracker should work off of its internal battery and sport very intelligent power management algorithms to extend the life of the battery to several months and in some cases up to a few years. Battery life is a function of the reporting frequency of the tracking device and hence needs to be optimized based on the need/application. Please refer to Nimble s application note APPNOTE: 0021 Enhancing battery life of your asset tracking solution for more details on this. Re-charge mechanism: As these assets are remotely distributed, it may be a logistic challenge to re-charge the device very often and in addition the re-charge method should be very simple to enable re-charging the device when the asset is back at head-quarters or the warehouse. For example, Nimble s Toucan asset trackers provide a USB charging port to enable charging the batteries from a regular cell phone or table charger adaptor. These chargers charge the internal battery of the Toucan device in a matter of hours to ease the re-charge logistics.
10 Ruggedness of the device & ease of installation As these assets are left in the open field, the tracking device may be exposed to the elements and should feature a rugged weatherproof packaging to avoid damage to the device/sensors. In addition these devices need to have provisions for easy but reliable installation so as to not fall off the asset during asset movement. Please refer to the BLOG Installation ideas for Asset tracking solutions on the Nimble Wireless Support page for more details on this. Activation/Suspension/De-activation/Re-activation The tracking devices are installed in batches when the assets are at the headquarters. So initial installation may happen over a several month period. It is due to this reason that the tracking device should have the provision to be able to be activated/de-activated remotely over the air at any time. It is also important that certain assets may go out of operation from time to time and during these times, the tracking devices need to be suspended so as to avoid false alerts and avoid un-necessary data charges. It is also equally important that these devices be able to be re-activate when the asset goes back into operation. This re-activation feature is an advanced feature and the lack of it may pose serious logistics challenges for
11 the operations and IT team. Nimble devices all feature OTA (over the air) activation, de-activation and reactivation features to help the operations/it team to optimize their deployment. Ease of use of the backend application An often forgotten or least considered factor is the ease of use of the backend application. Please note that the backend application is the user interface for the Operations/IT team for tracking, monitoring and managing their valuable assets. Most tracking applications these days are cloud based and are offered on a SaaS (Software as a Service) model. The user is provided with login credentials which enable the user to access the application from anywhere in the world from an internet connected computer. Most of these applications are invoked from a standard browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Total solution providers also provide mobile versions of these applications so the operations/it team can access the application from their android or ios based smart-phones or Tablets.
12 Tracking backend applications often tend to go overboard with a lots of features that the user is often lost in the numerous menus and pop-ups and the flurry of data presented and tends to lose sight of the most critical data. Users should carefully evaluate what their needs are and what alerts are critical to their operation and check the asset tracking solution back end application features to ensure that it offers a solution to those needs and nothing more or nothing less. Please refer to Nimble s primer on Tracking backend application for more details on the tracking and geo-fencing/alert features and their use cases. Conclusion Choosing a Tracking solution for protecting/managing your valuable assets in the field is an important decision for your IT/operations team and choosing the right solution could mean a significant savings to your bottom line. Please talk to a solutions expert at Nimble Wireless for more information on how we can help your operations/it teams with cost effective asset tracking solutions that yield a quick ROI. You can also visit for more white papers and information on Asset tracking solutions.
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