The Internet of Things (IoT) has rapidly embedded itself in our world for the last decade plus and will only increase its penetration in both the consumer and enterprise spaces. The proliferation of IoT has been driven by several factors, says Ed Chao, CEO of Polte, including growing internet reach, cloud & edge computing, lower sensor costs, increased compute power on ever smaller devices, and expanding Mobile IoT connectivity.
As IoT devices come online, they’re increasingly turning to existing cellular networks for connectivity as these assets are often widely distributed and or located in remote areas. According to the ITU, 97% of the world’s population lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal. Mobile networks are ideal for providing connectivity for IoT devices as these networks provide both indoor and outdoor coverage, as well as a low price point, especially for low bandwidth data used for asset tracking.
Shift in asset tracking
The way the world thought about asset tracking made a shift recently as enterprises realised they can leverage mobile networks for their millions of connected IoT devices. The sensor data from these IoT devices can include temperature, humidity, velocity, light, CO2, glass break or other noises, and many other capabilities; however, the backbone of sensor data is location. Having real-time location data provides contextual intelligence that enables immediate action to rectify a situation before it results in loss of product or productivity, as well as more control to make informed decisions based on exactly where products are in the distribution cycle.
With new mobile IoT technologies driving the cost of asset tracking down, companies realise they can now track much lower-value assets and gain actionable insights that have a real impact on their bottom line. While every company has unique use cases for asset tracking, be it end-to-end supply chain visibility or loss prevention, one thing they all have in common is the need for simple, low-cost location intelligence that delivers strong ROI.
Two real world implementations of mobile IoT location
A Fortune 500 manufacturer of spirits needs to track individual cases of beer, wine and liquor as they move through the entire supply chain from the manufacturing floor to the store shelf. The product journey often involves multiple modes of delivery traveling both inside buildings or outside on the open road or on rail.
For example, a typical product lot is first loaded onto a series of trucks outside of a production facility, then travels to a distribution centre where the product goes inside a warehouse to be broken down into several shipments. The products could be loaded onto a train or a truck bound for other distribution centres across a variety of geographic locations. By the time an individual case of product arrives on a store shelf, it may have travelled on as many as half a dozen or more modes of transport.
This scenario makes using older location technologies impossible in tracking individual cases of product. Mobile IoT location solves this problem. An inexpensive mobile IoT asset tracker can be placed onto a pallet or even on each case of product and allow for seamless tracking all along its journey indoors and outdoors from production to store shelf. This enables end-to-end supply chain visibility for the manufacturer providing superior quality control of product and continuous supply of stock for retailers.
Also, an important consideration for the manufacturer is tracking specific lots in the event of a product recall. The ability to track product lots down to individual cases means avoiding costly government fines and possible loss of brand reputation.
Another example of leveraging mobile IoT is automobile manufacturers who need to track not only completed autos, but also individual parts and ‘work in progress’ units. When the assembly line is interrupted due to unavailable parts, these ‘work in progress’ units are moved to remote lots, which are often outdoors, while they wait for the needed part. Once the part is available, the ‘work in progress’ units need to be placed back on the assembly line at exactly the point where they were removed. In the past, finding these units on the remote lot was a time-consuming manual process, wasting many man hours and manufacturing downtime.
As autos travel both inside and outside manufacturing facilities, other location technologies are not feasible in this real-world implementation. Two or more technologies would need to be deployed, as well as the networks required for them to operate and the software layer that provides location visualisation. Mobile IoT allows the auto manufacturers an inexpensive way to track parts, ‘work in progress’ units, and completed autos as they move through production and out to distribution.
Further to this example, the same mobile IoT devices can seamlessly track the autos from distribution to the dealership showroom floor and to the end consumer. This allows the dealership to offer additional services to the consumer and provides valuable insights to the dealership about auto use and trends in their market.
With the advent of 5G massive IoT, Mobile IoT location will grow exponentially as increasingly more valuable use cases are deployed. Enterprises will see a direct result with improved processes and efficiencies, and in turn, significantly better ROI.
Abouth the author
The author is Ed Chao, CEO of Polte. Chao brings 26 years of leadership experience, serving as an executive for companies such as MetroPCS, T-Mobile, Lucent Technologies and with the U.S. Digital Service at the White House. Chao holds a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Rutgers University.