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Why are location services so crucial for asset tracking?

Digital logistics asset tracking

Logistics companies can manage their supply chains and respond to issues more efficiently when they have a clear and continuous view of the location of assets carried by containers and pallets. Asset tracking enables them to have this. And it goes beyond mere logistics.

It could also help them address some of the $2.4 billion lost annually to cargo damage or loss and some of the more than $30 billion resulting from theft.

The benefits of asset tracking extend beyond logistics. Healthcare providers can track critical equipment such as ventilators and beds, and construction companies can track the use and movement of equipment on worksites, allowing them to optimize for future projects.

There are even potential applications in the consumer sector, as reflected in the growing demand for tracking devices for pets.

Cellular IoT fleet management poses challenges to asset tracking

LTE-M and NB-IoT are developed primarily to support the lower data and lower power requirements of cellular IoT. Cellular IoT asset trackers rapidly gain popularity with the networks’ global rollout of LTE-M and NB-IoT.

Unlike GPS-only trackers, cellular IoT trackers work indoors, offer long battery life, and deliver benefits beyond location tracking. For instance, they can host sensors that monitor the temperature and condition of fragile or perishable goods.

The popularity of cellular IoT means that logistics companies and others want to employ many asset trackers. It can then be challenging to configure, manage and update these devices and aggregate and interpret their data.

Some commercial cloud solutions are of help, but because they have not been designed explicitly for cellular IoT, they can be clunky and difficult to use for the inexperienced, especially when dealing with hundreds or even thousands of devices.

nRF9160 SiP location services - designed for better asset tracking

Nordic Semiconductor has launched nRF Cloud Location Services to address the drawbacks of conventional cloud products. The solution is specifically designed to address the needs of cellular IoT solutions based on Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP.

nRF Cloud Location Services is optimized for configuration, management, and maintenance (including over-the-air firmware updates) of fleets of cellular IoT devices.

In addition to these services, nRF Cloud Location Services offers users several location methods, allowing users to choose the one that best manages the trade-offs between accuracy and power consumption for their application.

For example, single-cell and multi-cell location features save power by not using GPS to pinpoint the asset’s whereabouts. The trade-off is a maximum precision of several hundred meters.

Greater accuracy comes from nRF Cloud Location Services’ Assisted- and Predicted-GPS. Although requiring more power, this is still more battery-friendly than GPS alone and narrows down asset location to just tens of meters.

Location services for the future of asset tracking

The emergence of cellular IoT solutions promises a bright future for the asset-tracking sector. As cyber threats increase, the high level of security built into asset tracking solutions will be ever more critical.

Cellular IoT tracking solutions build off the established safeguards of the cellular networks, while cellular IoT solutions provide additional layers of security.

Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP uses Arm TrustZone’s hardware-enforced isolation of critical components. nRF Cloud Location Services adds further security layers by using authentication and encryption for data that moves between devices and the cloud.

The convergence of cellular IoT with the cloud is also encouraging new ideas. For example, access to plentiful cloud storage overcomes the limited storage available on the IoT device itself. This opens the door to collecting historical information, such as where an asset has traveled and how it has been handled.

This information could enable new use cases in insurance, investigations and even support entirely new business models such as equipment leasing arrangements based on accurate usage data.

Cloud location services will spur more innovative applications by relieving corporations of the burden of managing and integrating their devices. This will allow them to focus their time and effort on developing new ideas and innovative solutions.


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