Jeanine Sterling's Blog

Mobile Asset Tracking Solutions Cast a Wide Net

31 Dec 2011 | by Jeanine Sterling
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The Mobile Asset Tracking category is part of a growing collection of premium next-generation wireless data applications that are designed for use by businesses. This is a category that is still defining itself; however, as a whole, it encompasses enterprise solutions that utilize wireless and location technology to remotely locate and track mobile and semi-stationary assets in the field.

Some mobile asset tracking devices are the size of a pack of cigarettes -- small enough to place unobtrusively into shipping pallets or boxes. Other devices are larger and more brick-shaped, designed to be attached for prolonged periods of time to large pieces of company equipment out in the field. In addition to the hardware (typically a cellular modem with a GPS receiver, battery, and one or more sensors -- all packaged within a ruggedized outer casing), the mobile asset tracking solution is usually comprised of application software, a web-based administrative portal, data network service (for connectivity and location pings), and selected support services. Sensors can monitor motion, vibration, temperature, light, humidity, and tampering. Solutions can be pre-configured or customized.

Businesses are exhibiting growing interest in tracking a broad range of asset types, including:

  • Semi-stationary company equipment, such as trailers or containers, that are deployed for long periods of time in the same general location.
  • Large pieces of company-owned equipment that are shifted often from place to place, such as generators, recycling bins, or construction equipment.
  • High-value consumer products which are in transit from Point A for delivery to Point B, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, or tobacco products.
  • Cars or other vehicles which are under surveillance and being covertly tracked by law enforcement officials.

These various asset types and use cases are driving the creation of an array of tracking devices. As a result, hardware can vary in terms of:

  • Form factor (size, shape, ruggedization)
  • Battery life (rechargeable or not)
  • Portability
  • Price
  • Frequency of locates ("pings")

Mobile asset tracking solutions appeal to all sizes of businesses and a broad range of vertical industries, including transportation, construction, energy, business services, and the government. Three major benefits emerge from this ability to shine a light on remote assets which had previously enjoyed no or low visiblity:

  • Efficiency -- Especially in the context of mobile supply chain management, being able to know the real-time location and condition of a mobile asset results in cost savings on multiple fronts. It reduces the labor required to manually locate, inventory and report on products. It can also locate equipment that is closest to job sites, reducing transportation costs and employee downtime.
  • Security -- Certain industries have been ripe for theft and shrinkage. Construction sites are prime examples. As are high-value consumer goods such as electronics and tobacco.  Mobile asset tracking solutions alert when an asset is moved out of a pre-defined geofencing zone, and then help in subsequent asset recovery.
  • Revenue Generation -- Businesses that track consumer goods in transit are beginning to quantify this capability's value-add and charge their customers for certain mobile asset tracking services, such as real-time status reports and alerts.

Mobile asset tracking solutions are perfectly aligned with the wireless carriers' goal to increase the number of data connections and expand their overall revenue stream.  These solutions are now viewed as a subset of the larger M2M category, which is receiving strong attention and resources from each of the carriers. 

Other large distribution channels are on the horizon, including major corporate software vendors and traditional security firms.  Once the carriers, CSVs, and security companies are all fully engaged in this sector, application revenues are projected to rapidly increase.