How can beacons help with asset tracking and management?

asset tracking

When we talk about beacon deployment, there’s a tendency to focus on consumer-facing applications. Retail has been the sector driving adoption in many cases, and being able to track customer flow – or even a specific customer – has clear, measurable value.

However, customers aren’t the only thing that has value within an organisation. While it may be less ‘sexy’, asset management is an area where beacons can provide massive business value. I thought it would be useful to look in more detail at asset management here, and lay out a few simple use-cases.

What is asset management?

Before we get started, let’s define our terms. Put simply, a beacon can tell you where any given asset is at any given time. So no more lost equipment, much faster and more accurate stocktaking, and even status monitoring. If something goes down, you can know about it right away. 

Using beacons to track items is also extremely simple. You can simply attach a beacon to the item and monitor these through a management device like our superHub.

Let’s consider a few typical use cases.

Locating assets.

A number of organisations have experimented with tagging items with RFID chips in the past. While these are useful, they have a limited range, which means they are not useful for larger spaces. Beacons have an advantage here, partly because they have a larger range, but also because they can be deployed in groups.

Beacons_asset_Management
You can easily cover a large warehouse space with just a few beacons. For other internal spaces (where you have to deal with smaller rooms, corridors, lifts etc.), you can quickly deploy beacons in fleets to give total coverage.

It’s also worth noting that beacons offer greater security, and more control over the type of signals being broadcast and accepted.

One case that we have talked about internally is hospitals. Medical equipment is very high-value, and quickly locating the right device can literally be a case of life and death.

Beacons_asset_Management

Medical scanners and devices are routinely wheeled from place to place within hospitals; so tagging them with BLE beacons makes perfect sense. Because beacons use low-energy signals, they also avoid interfering with device operations.  This also allows usage patterns to be monitored and optimised.

Inventory and logistics.

Warehouse inventory can be a time-consuming process with a great deal of manual work involved. Staff are often required to scan stock in and out of various warehouses for transit, and stocktaking often involves manually recording each and every item in turn. 

With beacons it’s easy not only to monitor the position of a given asset or container of assets, but you can also receive real-time information on position and stock levels. Transport hubs or even individual vehicles can be easily equipped with beacon monitoring equipment so that any asset can constantly be monitored.

This reduces logistics workload, increases security and enables businesses to optimise their logistic workflows. In the current business environment, where everyone struggles to provide speed and agility, the ability to quickly locate and distribute goods can offer a real competitive advantage.

Process management.

It’s also worth mentioning that the ability to monitor assets does not end with finished products in a warehouse or on a shop shelf.

It’s also possible to monitor parts and materials during the manufacturing process, which again can help avoid bottlenecks in the process and aid fulfilment, and even assign staff to specific tasks based on their current proximity to particular assets. This is a low-cost way to greatly improve efficiency.

There are endless other possible asset management use-cases available, from mobile device management to optimising transport. Take a look at our other use case examples to get inspired, or check out our range of beacons to see which best fit your business.

Matt Owen

  • Onur Sagaltici

    Great blog, Matt! Thank you.

    I would like to order your products for our indoor asset tracking project and I have some questions regarding the system.

    I consider our tracking system for warehouse as:

    1 BlueSense Beacon Long Range (to attach to object and move with it)
    4 BlueSense Beacon Management Hub (fixed nodes)
    PC or Tablet to monitor tracking when needed. (NOT smartphone)

    Trilateration at a fixed point:
    1st Management Hub sends dBm of Beacon to the PC. (if reading)
    2nd Management Hub sends dBm of Beacon to the PC. (if reading)
    3rd Management Hub sends dBm of Beacon to the PC. (if reading)
    4th Management Hub sends dBm of Beacon to the PC. (if reading)

    For example:
    Beacon X, Management Hub A, 22.06.2016 09:34:43, -76 dBm
    Beacon X, Management Hub B, 22.06.2016 09:34:43, -81 dBm
    Beacon X, Management Hub C, 22.06.2016 09:34:43, -79 dBm
    Beacon X, Management Hub D, 22.06.2016 09:34:43, -97 dBm

    Possible to perform such system?