Smart Tools for industrial processes are becoming excessively popular in today’s world. Businesses are leveraging IoT-enabled smart tools to automate business processes, repetitive tasks, assembly lines and everything else. Experts predict that enterprise spending on smart tools management projects is going to ramp up by 30% this year.
Smart tools and IoT technology present businesses with unlimited possibilities. This is due to the growing need for automating management so that employees can spend more time doing work and less time trying to locate tools that enable them to work. There are many instances where tools get misplaced or left behind during offsite jobs and that costs the company a lot of money to replace – the money that would have been otherwise used for growing the business.
IoT smart tools and systems can prove to be great for helping employees streamline their processes and better organize and plan their tasks. But, to reap the most benefits of the smart tools management system, it is essential that decision-makers choose the most suitable technology that will cater to their requirements in the most efficient way.
When it comes to setting up a smart tooling system, it is not the case of one-size-fits-all. There are certain factors that you need to take into consideration when choosing the right technology. Before you start looking at suitable technologies, consider all the functionalities you would want in your smart tools management system.
Features of a Smart tools management System
Smart tools management has a lot of applications across all industries. So, when you look at smart tools management, you need to be clear about what you need it to do for you. Based on that, you can determine how accurate you need your system to be. Tracking technology today is capable of being accurate down to centimeters. But you may just need a system that can track your assets at the zonal level, and you may require it to be accurate only up to a few meters.
How frequently do you want to track your assets? Some companies need real-time tracking of their assets as they are constantly mobile. But, if your assets need to be tracked only when they are needed, you might be okay with a system that does not provide real-time updates. For example, you might want to track your assets in real-time when they are on the move or are being taken to another location for use. But you might not want to track them when they are in your warehouse. Figuring out whether real-time tracking is really required or not based on your applications of the smart tools management system can save you a lot of money and also ensure that you have an efficient system in place.
Mobility of your assets
How mobile your assets are going to be will play a huge role in determining the right technology for your system. You may need to track your assets within your company premises, or you may need to track them when your employees are taking them out to worksites. You may also need your system to ensure that your teams are not accidentally leaving any tools behind at the worksites they visit. Based on your usage, you can determine the range your tracking sensors need to have and that will help determine which technology is best suited for you.
As mentioned above, the range of your sensors will depend on how mobile your assets are. Also, in the case of outdoor asset tracking, do you need to track your assets from the company warehouse, or do you need to track them from the service vehicle housing the assets or both? Figuring out the answers to these questions will help you determine the range required for your asset tracking sensors.
While it makes sense to get the sensors that have the highest accuracy and the longest, keep in mind that the bigger the range and higher the accuracy, the higher the cost. So, it is essential that while you keep quality in mind, also make sure that you are determining whether you actually need that level of accuracy and quality. For example, it would be pointless to get a highly accurate real-time asset tracking system to track your warehouse stock, where a simple RIFID sticker and a scanner can get the job done. Obviously, for complex applications, you need a higher level of tracking efficiency. So, while you choose the technology for5 your smart tools management system, keep in mind whether the functionalities that you would get through the technology are really required or not.
While many companies are embarking on their digital transformation journey to keep up with the rapidly changing business needs, smart tools management is one aspect, though very crucial, that is often overlooked. Most smart tools management systems are set in place either at the end or after the conclusion of all the digital transformation initiatives. Despite the importance of smart tools management, it makes no sense to set up a tracking system that is not coordinated with your existing infrastructure. It will not only add to your expenses but also complicate your business processes instead of simplifying them. So, before you decide to implement a solution, ensure that it can blend in with your existing infrastructure. Any system you choose should have a level of interoperability that makes it easy for you to migrate to a different infrastructure as well. This way your smart tools management system is future-proofed.
Once you have taken into consideration all these factors, you are good to choose the right technology and move ahead with the implementation. You can also choose to find technology experts who can build an smart tools management system that is best suited for your needs.
Here is a list of the top 6 most popular asset tracking technologies used today
Wireless Technologies used in Smart tools management
Asset Tracking is the process of monitoring all types of physical assets in an enterprise and tracking its location. Manual tracking of indoor or campus wide assets is a tedious task and may lead to errors. In the modern world, various technologies offer different solutions to industries. Smart asset tracking helps industries automate their tracking process and provides real-time visibility of location of various devices with its status of operation. With high-speed network connectivity, following wireless technologies can solve different purposes in industrial smart tools management.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
The Radio Frequency Identification technique uses radio waves to transmit data from the RFID tags to the readers. RFID works by attaching a tag to the relevant equipment that needs to be monitored. These tags are read when it becomes close to the readers and the information about the equipment to which it is attached is stored. This technique is superior to barcodes because every tag in the monitoring is read with nothing left.
Tracking of assets using RFID found its traces from the time of the Second World War. They used this technique to track and locate the aircraft of enemies. Small scale industries such as retail and logistics can use this technology where the range is short.
It provides increased visibility to assets and maximum efficiency in the workplace. RFID requires its own network to be deployed in the area being monitored. So, the cost of implementation is high when it comes to large-scale industries.
Bluetooth uses radio waves to transfer data between devices. It provides compatibility with other Bluetooth enabled devices such as smart phones, tablets, etc. Any industrial asset tracked using Bluetooth technology can send information about the asset to another paired device. Beacon is a technology in Bluetooth as tags in RFID which provides effective and exact location tracking. These beacons receive the data and send it to the software application where it is processed to a human readable form.
Bluetooth enables two-way communications between the devices and assets. This allows several assets to be tracked at the same time when there is a network of tags. It consumes less power and covers a large area to transmit relevant data and it is highly efficient.
When it comes to cost, the beacons are expensive, and it is limited to a short distance. Compared to RFID, the life of battery in a device is less as it is connected to a software solution which may drain the battery.
LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks)
LPWANs use assisted GPS technology to track the location of devices. It is used when long-range tracking is required. LPWANs are able to send small data packets of data. It operates in varying frequencies such as NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRa and Sigfox providing different degrees of performance. While adopting LoRa or SigFox, the Quality of Service and scalability are high.
It is good to deploy in corporate offices and small manufacturing plants to monitor the performance of assets.Compared to all other technologies, LPWANs consume less battery power, but it cannot transmit data at high speeds like other technologies do. Due to high latency, it is efficient to use only in tracking of devices with less mobility. In positioning, it may also be inaccurate at times.
The use of barcodes for storing information started in the early 1970s. In asset tracking processes, barcodes help in improving data accuracy. Barcodes are the simplest and most cost-effective way to manage an organization’s assets. In an inventory or an enterprise, each item or asset is affixed with a unique barcode. It requires two main components such as a barcode label; and a scanner or reader.
There are two different varieties of barcodes available; 1-dimensional barcodes are linear with black and white spaces which can store data up to 200 characters, and another is two-dimensional in the form of QR (Quick Response) codes that stores about 2000 characters.
Once the barcode is scanned using the scanner or any mobile application, the data stored is sent to the device in binary form which is then decoded to get the original information. This data is stored in the database for future purposes.
It is used in various areas of asset tracking like travel, IT sectors, inventory management, advertisements, etc.
Wi-Fi has grown to its peak in recent years. It is useful in asset tracking within an enterprise or a small environment. Wi-Fi provides high throughput in data transfer with accuracy. It is a great solution for location tracking even when indoors.
Wi-Fi signals do not travel over large distances as compared to other wireless technologies.
Today, companies are providing numerous technological and network related solutions for all industrial needs.
N-Smarts is a single solution that offers real-time, centralized visibility and insights to monitor and manage all aspects of your asset lifecycle remotely. N-Smart is a sensor to cloud versatile IoT-enabled solution that acts as the intelligent foundation to create versatile applications customized to your unique asset management needs encompassing.