Asset tracking technologies serve as a fundamental support for managing assets and processes. In the market today, there is an abundance of asset-tracking products that cater to different characteristics and technologies. When comparing asset tracking technologies, we can think of them as leaves on a tree – perhaps there are two leaves that look alike, but no two are exactly the same. Fortunately, in asset tracking technologies, everyone can find the technology that suits their needs.
In this article, we will provide a detailed introduction to several different wireless technology applications, including RFID, GPS-based, Bluetooth, LoRa, NFC, WiFi, 5G, UWB, cellular, NB-IoT, and Zigbee. By exploring their functionalities and application scenarios, we can gain a deeper understanding of the advantages and suitability of each technology for specific tracking requirements. Finally, we will provide several factors for your consideration when selecting the technology that best fits your asset-tracking application.
A Comparison Table of the 11 Types of Asset Tracking Technologies
To select the technology that best suits our needs, let’s first conduct an in-depth analysis of the key asset tracking technologies available in today’s market through comparative studies.
Detailed Information regarding the 11 Types of Asset Tracking Technologies
GPS Asset Tracking
GPS asset tracking utilizes the technology of the Global Positioning System to accurately monitor and track the real-time location of assets. It offers precise and dependable location information, making it well-suited for tracking assets that are frequently mobile or situated in outdoor settings. Compared to other technologies, GPS asset tracking has slower transmission rates and is more expensive than other technologies, but it offers wide coverage and global positioning capabilities, making it ideal for applications such as fleet management, logistics, and supply chain operations.
MOKOSmart’s GPS Asset Tracking
MOKOSmart’s GPS asset tracking products include the LWO01-BG PRO GPS Tracker and more. These asset-tracking products are primarily used in outdoor scenarios such as tracking vehicles and assets. These products are highly sought after by many businesses due to the following features:
- Supports both indoor and outdoor positioning
- Support offline fix
- Local data backup for uplink payloads
RFID Asset Tracking
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) asset tracking uses radio waves to identify and track assets equipped with RFID tags. RFID tags are equipped with distinctive identifiers that can be detected and read by RFID readers or scanners. This technology allows for quick and automated asset identification and tracking, eliminating the need for manual data entry. RFID asset tracking is suitable for various industries, such as retail, manufacturing, and healthcare, where efficient inventory management and item-level tracking are essential. Compared to GPS, RFID has a shorter range but offers better accuracy for asset identification in close proximity.
MOKOSmart’s RFID Asset Tracking
MOKOSmart’s RFID asset tracking products include the H5 RFID beacon, among others. These asset-tracking products are mostly used in indoor, short-range scenarios such as inventory management and access control. These products are highly sought after by many businesses due to the following features:
- Ultra-low power consumption chipset NRF52 Series.
- 6 slots that can be configured.
- RFID frequency of 13.56MHz, with a mobile phone sensing distance of 5mm and a card reader sensing distance of 40mm.
- Configuration options for G-value, sampling rate, and sensitivity of the 3-axis accelerometer sensor.
Bluetooth Asset Tracking
Bluetooth asset tracking utilizes Bluetooth technology to establish short-range wireless connections between assets and tracking devices. It facilitates asset tracking within a restricted distance, typically reaching a maximum of 100 meters. Bluetooth asset tracking is commonly used for indoor asset tracking scenarios, such as in warehouses, hospitals, or retail stores, where close-range tracking is sufficient. It provides energy efficiency, affordability, and compatibility with a diverse array of devices. However, its range limitations make it less suitable for outdoor or long-range tracking compared to GPS or cellular tracking.
MOKOSmart’s Bluetooth Asset Tracking
MOKOSmart’s BLE asset tracking products include H2 Navigation Beacon, M2 Asset Tracking Beacon, M3 Industrial Beacon, M4 Lite Tag, and more. These asset-tracking products are widely used in indoor short-range scenarios such as personal item tracking and proximity detection. These products are highly sought after by many businesses due to the following features:
- Cost-effective – Accurate data collection brings high ROI.
- High capacity – Deliver 800% more broadcast messaging capacity.
- High accuracy – 0.1 to 0.5 meters
- Long battery life – up to 5 years
- Small size
- Fast data transfer – Almost twice as fast as other short-range technologies.
- Easy installation – No extra infrastructure is needed.
- Improved security – BLE signals are transmitted through a secure cellular network.
LoRa Asset Tracking
LoRa (Long Range) asset tracking utilizes a low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) technology called LoRaWAN. It offers long-range communication capabilities with low power consumption, making it suitable for tracking assets over large areas. LoRa asset tracking is ideal for applications such as agriculture, smart cities, and industrial monitoring, where assets are spread across vast areas and require long-range connectivity. Compared to GPS or cellular tracking, LoRa provides a cost-effective solution for low-power, long-range asset tracking, but with lower accuracy and real-time tracking capabilities.
MOKOSmart’s LoRa Asset Tracking
MOKOSmart provides a selection of asset-tracking solutions that utilize LoRa technology. These solutions encompass the LWO01-PG PRO GPS Tracker, LW004-PB Panic Button, LoRaWAN Info Button, LW008-MT Small LoRaWAN Tracker, and various other cutting-edge products. These asset-tracking products are widely used in outdoor remote scenarios such as asset tracking and smart cities. These products are highly favored by many businesses due to the following features:
- Coverage in challenging environments- Provide coverage in rural areas up to 60 kilometers away or in difficult-to-reach environments such as dense urban areas or indoors.
- License-free Operation – The LoRa system operates on unlicensed frequencies, eliminating the need for licensing fees that are required in licensed cellular bands.
- Simplicity and ease of deployment – Simple to deploy and set up, making it convenient for businesses to implement them in their operations.
NFC Asset Tracking
NFC (Near Field Communication) asset tracking is a short-range wireless communication technology that allows devices to establish a connection by bringing them into close proximity. It enables secure and contactless communication between devices, making it suitable for applications such as access control, contactless payments, and small-scale asset tracking. NFC asset tracking offers quick and convenient asset identification but has limited range and requires close proximity, making it less suitable for long-range or outdoor tracking compared to GPS or RFID.
WiFi Asset Tracking
WiFi asset tracking leverages existing WiFi infrastructure to track and monitor assets within the coverage area of WiFi networks. It utilizes WiFi signals and triangulation techniques to estimate the location of assets. WiFi asset tracking suits indoor environments such as offices, hospitals, or retail spaces where WiFi networks are available. It provides a relatively high level of precision and can be seamlessly incorporated into existing WiFi networks. However, its coverage is limited to the range of WiFi networks, making it less suitable for outdoor or large-scale asset tracking compared to GPS or cellular technologies.
5G Asset Tracking
5G asset tracking utilizes the latest generation of cellular network technology, 5G, for tracking and monitoring assets. It offers high-speed data transmission, low latency, and increased network capacity, enabling real-time asset tracking and advanced applications such as AR and VR. 5G asset tracking is suitable for various industries, including logistics, transportation, and smart cities, where fast and reliable connectivity is crucial. Compared to previous generations of cellular technologies, 5G provides enhanced performance, improved network coverage, and better support for massive IoT deployments.
UWB Asset Tracking
UWB asset tracking utilizes ultra-wideband technology to accurately track and locate assets in real time. UWB emits short-range, high-frequency radio waves that enable precise positioning with centimeter-level accuracy. It is suitable for applications requiring highly accurate asset tracking, such as industrial manufacturing, healthcare, and indoor navigation. UWB asset tracking offers superior accuracy compared to other wireless technologies like GPS or Bluetooth, but it typically operates over shorter distances.
Cellular Asset Tracking
Cellular asset tracking utilizes cellular networks to track and monitor assets. It relies on cellular communication for transmitting location data and asset information. Cellular asset tracking is suitable for assets that require wide-area coverage and mobility, as it leverages the existing cellular infrastructure. It is commonly used for vehicle tracking, fleet management, and asset monitoring in remote locations. Compared to other technologies, cellular tracking offers broader coverage and better scalability, but it may have higher power consumption and associated network costs.
MOKOSmart’s Cellular Asset Tracking
MOKOSmart’s cellular asset tracking products include AT001 Asset Tracker, GT001 Goods Monitor Tracker, VT001 Vehicle Tracker, and more. These asset-tracking products are widely used in outdoor scenarios such as fleet management and logistics. These products are highly favored by many businesses due to the following features:
- Equipped with multi-constellation GNSS
- Ultra-long standby
- T&H monitoring
- Visual data platform
- Remotely control engine
NB-IoT Asset Tracking
NB-IoT asset tracking is a low-power, wide-area network technology designed for IoT applications. It offers extended coverage over significant distances while consuming minimal power, making it well-suited for tracking assets across expansive areas. NB-IoT asset tracking is ideal for applications such as logistics, agriculture, and environmental monitoring, where long battery life and extended coverage are essential. Compared to other cellular technologies, NB-IoT offers better energy efficiency, extended battery life, and lower deployment costs.
Zigbee Asset Tracking
Zigbee asset tracking utilizes the Zigbee wireless protocol, which is specifically engineered for low-power, short-distance communication. Zigbee facilitates the connection and communication between devices within a mesh network topology. It is commonly used in home automation, smart buildings, and industrial monitoring applications. It offers low power consumption, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. However, its range is limited compared to other technologies like GPS or cellular, making it more suitable for indoor or localized asset tracking scenarios.
GPS vs RFID vs Bluetooth vs LoRa vs NFC vs WIFI vs 5G vs UWB vs Cellular vs NB-IoT vs Zigbee: Which one is better?
Each asset-tracking technology has its own characteristics and advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look at their advantages and disadvantages, and use some factors to determine the most suitable technology for us.
GPS vs RFID vs Bluetooth vs LoRa vs NFC vs WIFI vs 5G vs UWB vs Cellular vs NB-IoT vs Zigbee: Pros and Cons
Pros and Cons of GPS Asset Tracking
- Global range
- Low power consumption
- Medium accuracy
- Real-Time tracking
- Practically interference-free
- The global visibility of tracked assets
- GPS-based asset tracking systems have the ability to be easily expanded by simply attaching GPS tags to assets.
- Extensive collection of reliable GPS tracking applications.
- GPS integration into many professional and consumer devices.
- Infinite potential for scalability and dependable sensors.
- You can configure notifications within a specified geographic boundary.
- Limited to outdoor environments
- Meter level accuracy- low accuracy of 10 to 33 ft.
- High power consumption
- GPS may be less reliable in areas with rugged landscapes or near tall buildings.
- End-users cannot repair or adjust the space or control segments
- Expensive hardware- The cost of acquiring GPS tracking devices for each individual asset can vary depending on the number of assets you intend to equip.
Pros and Cons of RFID Asset Tracking
- No battery required
- Long device longevity
- Small tags—especially passive ones
- Small radio signature
- Various low-cost options for tags
- Low accuracy
- Variability of precision
- Battery hassles with large deployments of active tags
- Inability to provide location data in real-time
- High interference – Passive RFID technology has high metal and liquid interference.
- Complex system installations, sometimes requiring manual scans
- Higher cost readers
Pros and Cons of Bluetooth Asset Tracking
- Wide reading range of 100 to 270 ft
- Low energy consumption
- Accurate up to a few meters
- Real-time updates
- Wide standardization
- Cross-functionality with common consumer devices
- Compatibility with existing infrastructure
- Easy to Manage – BLE readers are generally less expensive than readers for other technologies. Since the majority of smartphones come with Bluetooth capability, there is no need to acquire excessive equipment, and in some cases, smartphones themselves can be used for the task.
- Short range
- Medium latency
- Risk of interference from devices in the shared frequency spectrum
- Security vulnerabilities
- Interference can lead to losing data points
- BLE solutions do not work well in highly cluttered environments with a large number of metals or reflective surfaces and environments where moving parts cause interference.
- Requires a high density of transmitters- Ensure adequate coverage and proximity detection in large or complex environments.
Pros and Cons of LoRa Asset Tracking
- Long range
- Low power consumption
- Indoor and outdoor tracking
- Lower data rates
- Limited bandwidth
- Lack of global standardization
Pros and Cons of NFC Asset Tracking
- Fast set-up time
- Inexpensive tags
- The scanning is minimally affected by the wearing of the tag.
- NFC tags are capable of being scanned by consumer devices equipped with NFC technology, such as smartphones and laptops.
- Short working distance makes NFC suitable for high-density applications.
- Capable of seamlessly integrating with pre-existing passive RFID infrastructures.
- Short read range
- Not capable of tracking the location of assets within a 2D or 3D space.
Pros and Cons of Wi-Fi Asset Tracking
- Real-time location tracking
- Fewer data bridging systems are needed
- Range of 60-100 meters
- High data throughput
- Ability to collaborate with a wide range of WiFi-enabled devices
- Potential operability with existing WiFi networks, lowering installation costs
- WiFi standardization simplifies development and interoperability
- low implementation costs
- Lack of scalability
- Inaccuracy- only to within 15 meters
- Tags are power hungry
- Congestion of existing WiFi networks
- Some ongoing security risks
- Does not scale
Pros and Cons of 5G Asset Tracking
- Greater coverage
- High-speed and low latency
- Enhanced device density- 5G networks can support a large number of connected devices within a specific area. This enables businesses to track a vast number of assets simultaneously, making it suitable for industries with extensive asset portfolios.
- Improved reliability- 5G networks provide enhanced network reliability, ensuring consistent connectivity for asset-tracking applications.
- Limited availability- Remote or less developed areas may not be covered.
- Compatibility challenges- Upgrading existing asset tracking systems or devices to be compatible with 5G technology may pose compatibility challenges.
- Infrastructure requirements- 5G asset tracking relies on the availability of 5G network infrastructure, including towers, base stations, and network equipment. Establishing and upkeeping this infrastructure can be costly and time-consuming, especially in regions with restricted network availability.
Pros and Cons of UWB Asset Tracking
- Enables top location accuracy—often within inches
- Highly power-efficient – Low data rate UWB tags exhibit low-duty cycles, resulting in minimal power consumption requirements.
- Transmission of data across numerous walls and obstacles.
- Real-time updates
- Does not cause interference with the majority of other RF signals and devices.
- Distinctive radio signatures and enhanced capability to mitigate multipath propagation.
- More resistant to multipath interference – Since UWB pulses are very short, reflected pulses are less likely to interfere with the ‘true’ pulse used to measure location.
- Signal strength restrictions
- Less mature standards and protocols for interoperability
- General reliance on time-syncing for location and tracking
- Often requires more power than other wireless tracking technologies
- Low emission limits
- Cabling is necessary for data and time synchronization – When utilizing UWB pulses to achieve accurate TDoA measurements, it is essential to synchronize the timing between sensors. This synchronization process requires the use of cables.
- Costly – UWB systems incur higher expenses compared to RFID systems as they necessitate a network of sensors to cover areas and active power supply for the tags.
Pros and Cons of Cellular Asset Tracking
- Long range – Near global reach
- Wide standardization
- Thoroughly examined and verified technological foundation
- Very high power requirements
- Low tracking accuracy
- Limited use in indoor or underground locations
- Potential for signal dead zones in areas with limited signal coverage.
- End-users depend on a third party for network coverage and lack the ability to restore the system in situations where coverage is lost.
Pros and Cons of NB-IoT Asset Tracking
- Low power consumption
- Wide coverage
- Reliable connectivity
- Limited bandwidth
- Higher latency
- Network coverage
Pros and Cons of Zigbee Asset Tracking
- Low power consumption
- Mesh networking- Allows reliable asset tracking in complex environments with obstacles or signal interference and extends network range.
- Limited range
- Low data rate
- Interference from other devices operating in the same frequency range.
GPS vs RFID vs Bluetooth vs LoRa vs NFC vs WIFI vs 5G vs UWB vs Cellular vs NB-IoT vs Zigbee: Factor Consideration
The most suitable asset-tracking technology depends on various factors including the nature of the assets being monitored, the desired level of accuracy, the scale of the deployment, the tracking environment, and the available budget. When choosing asset tracking technologies, there are several factors to consider:
Required location accuracy: The level of location accuracy needed depends on the specific tracking requirements of the assets. For example, if high precision is essential, GPS-based and UWB asset tracking systems can provide accurate real-time location information.
Objects to track: The type and characteristics of the objects being tracked will influence the choice of technology. For small and lightweight assets, RFID asset tracking or NFC asset tracking can be suitable. These technologies are commonly used for tracking items like inventory, tools, or personal belongings. Bluetooth asset tracking is also versatile and can track various objects, including devices, equipment, or assets within a proximity range.
The number of objects to track: The scalability of the tracking solution is important when considering the number of assets to be monitored. Technologies like RFID and Bluetooth can handle a large number of assets simultaneously, making them suitable for tracking a high volume of objects.
Value of the monitored assets: The value of the assets being tracked may influence the choice of technology. For high-value assets, more robust and secure tracking solutions, such as cellular asset tracking or GPS-based trackers, may be preferable to ensure their protection.
Budget considerations: The allocated budget for asset tracking is a crucial factor in determining the suitable technology choice. Different technologies vary in cost, and businesses need to assess their financial resources and choose a solution that fits within their budget. Technologies like Bluetooth asset tracking, RFID asset tracking, or Wi-Fi asset tracking are often more cost-effective options compared to GPS asset tracking or cellular asset tracking.
Scalability and future expansion plans: Consider the potential growth of your asset tracking needs. Choose a technology that can scale as your business expands. Solutions like LoRa, which offer long-range and low-power capabilities, are suitable for scalable deployments.
Integration with existing systems: Assess the compatibility of the selected technology with your current systems. Compatibility with your infrastructure and software platforms is crucial for seamless data integration and streamlined asset management. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi asset tracking technologies are often easily integrated with existing IT infrastructure.
Security and data privacy requirements: Evaluate the security and data privacy needs of your organization. Technologies such as cellular asset tracking and NB-IoT provide secure communication and encryption protocols, ensuring the confidentiality of tracked asset data.
Why Asset Tracking is Essential?
Streamlining inventory processes: Asset tracking systems provide real-time visibility and accurate data on asset locations and quantities. This streamlines inventory management processes, enabling businesses to efficiently track, locate, and manage their assets. Automating inventory counts, eliminates the necessity for manual tracking, minimizing errors and saving valuable time.
Minimizing costs associated with lost or stolen items. Asset tracking helps prevent the loss or theft of valuable assets. By implementing tracking technologies, businesses can monitor asset movements, set up alerts for unauthorized activities, and quickly recover lost or stolen items. This reduces the financial impact associated with replacing lost assets and helps protect the bottom line.
Limiting shrinkage or spoilage losses on assets with expiration dates: Asset tracking becomes crucial for assets with expiration dates, such as perishable goods or medications. By tracking expiration dates and implementing automated alerts, businesses can minimize shrinkage or spoilage losses by ensuring timely consumption or disposal of assets before they expire.
Identifying errors in work processes: Asset tracking systems provide insights into work processes and can help identify inefficiencies or errors. Through the analysis of data on the movement of assets, companies can identify areas of congestion, streamline processes, and optimize the allocation of resources. This ultimately results in enhanced operational efficiency and financial benefits.
Maximizing work hours for those tasked with finding missing items: Asset tracking eliminates the time-consuming task of searching for misplaced or missing items. With accurate location data, employees can quickly locate assets, saving valuable work hours that can be directed toward more productive activities.
Increasing work output and revenue overall: By effectively managing assets, businesses can ensure that the right assets are available at the right time and in the right place. This maximizes work output, reduces downtime, and enhances overall productivity. Improved asset management contributes to increased revenue generation and customer satisfaction.
Where Needs Asset Tracking?
Here are some common use cases for asset tracking along with the suitable wireless technologies for each application:
– Use Case: Tracking tools and equipment in industries such as construction, manufacturing, or maintenance.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: RFID, Bluetooth, LoRa, Cellular.
Personal Item Tracking
– Use Case: Tracking personal belongings such as wallets, keys, or bags.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: Bluetooth, NFC.
Vehicle Fleet Management
– Use Case: Tracking and managing a fleet of vehicles for logistics or transportation purposes.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: GPS, Cellular.
Vehicle Access Control
– Use Case: Monitoring and controlling access to vehicles, such as rental cars or shared vehicles.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: NFC, Bluetooth.
– Use Case: Tracking containers during transportation and logistics operations.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: GPS, Cellular.
Assessing Equipment Utilization
– Use Case: Optimizing the utilization of equipment in industries like manufacturing or construction.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: RFID, Bluetooth, LoRa, Cellular.
– Use Case: Managing assets and inventory within a warehouse or storage yard.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: RFID, Bluetooth, LoRa.
– Use Case: Tracking medical equipment, devices, or patient assets in healthcare facilities.
– Suitable Wireless Technologies: RFID, Bluetooth, Cellular.
Emerging Trends and Future Developments of Asset Tracking
The field of asset tracking is constantly evolving, driven by advancements in wireless technologies, IoT, AI, and data analytics. Emerging trends are shaping the future of asset tracking, revolutionizing the way businesses track and manage their valuable assets. One prominent trend is the integration of multiple technologies to create hybrid tracking solutions. By combining GPS, RFID, Bluetooth, and cellular technologies, businesses can achieve greater accuracy and reliability in tracking assets across various environments and use cases.
Another significant trend is the adoption of edge computing, which brings data processing and analysis closer to the edge of the network. This empowers real-time analysis and expedited decision-making, amplifying the overall efficiency and efficacy of asset-tracking systems. Moreover, there is an increasing emphasis on fortifying security functionalities in asset tracking. Encryption protocols, authentication mechanisms, and tamper-proofing technologies are being developed to protect assets from theft, unauthorized access, and data breaches.
There is often no direct conflict between different asset tracking technologies. With some creativity, it is possible to blend, combine, and utilize them in numerous valuable ways. MOKOSmart’s solution, which integrates LoRaWAN, WiFi, and GPS, exemplifies this approach.
The choice of technology for asset tracking depends on the specific use case. For instance, equipping every box in a warehouse with GPS transmitters may not be necessary. Similarly, relying solely on a BLE beacon may not suffice for tracking high-value assets like pharmaceutical shipments or valuable tool containers.
If you are unsure about which asset-tracking technology to employ, MOKOSmart can assist you. There are numerous technologies available to explore and consider.
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