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Narrowband IoT Broadens the Adoption of Asset Tracking Services — Here's How

Narrowband IoT Broadens the Adoption of Asset Tracking Services — Here's How

August 8, 2019 - Sanjay Sharma

Read Time 4 Mins.

T-Mobile for Business and Roambee have teamed up to provide a comprehensive, proven asset tracking solution that pairs perfectly with America’s first NB-IoT network. Many other telecom companies in other parts of the world are also racing to launch asset tracking solutions on their own NB-IoT networks, with the hope of making asset tracking adoptable at scale.

Have you ever wondered why enterprise-wide asset tracking still isn’t the norm among organizations that use returnable supply chain or field assets?

While the technologies that enable it — GPS, barcodes, RFID stickers, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags — have existed for some time now, so have the barriers to adopting them on a large scale.

Despite considerable improvements to these technologies, and better economies of scale when mass-producing enterprise asset tracking tags, there are still roadblocks to mass-market adoption, perhaps the biggest of which include:

  1. Cost — which includes the cost of infrastructure and other components of the project, besides the cost of the tags themselves of course, all of which add up to some serious capital expenditure (CapEx).

  2. Setup — especially when you consider the time and effort it takes to set up the systems needed to reliably tag and track thousands of enterprise assets across hundreds of remote locations.

  3. Maintenance — especially when you factor in the time, effort, and cost of keeping all your asset tracking tags, readers, and information exchange systems up and running simultaneously across all your facilities.

  4. Data Security — especially when you consider the sensitive nature of the information that an asset tracking system will inevitably handle, and the ramifications of its misuse.

Given these hindrances, not all enterprises can stomach the time and effort it’d take to roll out an asset tracking system, even though they understand the long-term gains and sincerely want to see things through.

Inevitably, the adoption of enterprise-wide asset tracking was an indulgence that all but a few large organizations could even consider, much less begin to implement.

Even large retail giants like Walmart had a hard time with this; they couldn’t always get buy-ins from their suppliers to install RFID systems, let alone train and maintain personnel to keep things up and running across their supplier network.

Fortunately, those barriers won’t be a deterrent for much longer, especially now that T-Mobile has officially rolled out America's first NB-IoT network with a solution for enterprise asset tracking in partnership with Roambee.

The partnership between T-Mobile‘s NB-IoT data network that’s optimized for low-cost, long-term asset tracking using IoT, and Roambee’s a low-cost, low-maintenance, & long-lasting BeeAware tracker that leverages T-Mobile’s NB-IoT network, creates an asset tracking platform that will enable mass market adoption of enterprise asset tracking.

Here’s how.

1

NB IoT is optimized for cost because, unlike conventional GSM tracking solutions, it eliminates the need for constant uptime and high data rates.

The devices themselves are getting cheaper, while network access is improving as Telecom companies enable access to their NB spectrum with negligible additional infrastructure — most cellular base stations just need a firmware upgrade to support NB-IoT.

Asset tracking with Narrowband-IoT ensures that costs are kept in check, differentiating it from traditional approaches to asset tracking by:

  1. Using low-cost sensors with a high-performance battery, leveraging both the low power capability of the NB-IoT network and automatic battery life optimization.

  2. Eliminating capital expenditure in this system, which makes it less expensive, easier to justify to the finance department, and quicker to deploy.

  3. Eliminating constant maintenance, as NB-IoT tracking devices won’t need a battery change for years. There's little need for preventive maintenance too; the devices themselves tell you when anything is awry, you just need to deploy a field team (of one) when something goes wrong.

  4. Using the same sensor to monitor asset location both within facilities and in between them. Moreover, it doesn’t just track asset location, it can also track asset condition. 

NB-IoT devices are roughly 1/3 the cost, battery, and size of conventional GSM/cellular tracking options available right now.

 

2

The fact that NB-IoT asset tracking is completely free from any infrastructure makes it the best choice for uses like returnable asset tracking.

This holds true even for very large enterprises, with hundreds or thousands of vendor and supplier facilities, which would have otherwise needed several site visits for equipment installation and testing.

 

3

It needs no infrastructure, which ultimately means that the constant maintenance that such a setup demands is eliminated altogether:

  1. The absence of infrastructure setup makes it a very low-maintenance solution.

  2. The tracking tag has a rechargeable battery that lasts far longer than that of a cellular-based tracking device, so a single charge can last for months.

  3. An added advantage of Roambee’s asset tracking solution is that even after the sensors spend years tracking assets, Roambee handles device returns as part of a unique OpEx model.

 

4

Data security for their asset tracking solution is critical to any enterprise; better visibility could just as easily be misappropriated to identify high-value inventory for theft.

  1. NB-IoT networks typically operate on a licensed bandwidth, making security and auditability significantly higher than any unlicensed providers currently operating in the LPWAN-enabled asset monitoring space.

  2. Roambee’s platform follows the good practices prescribed by Part 11, Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It also incorporates technologies like blockchain where needed, to bring more transparency and auditability.

 

There’s really no limit to what you can track with the right NB-IoT asset tracking solution.

  • Vehicle Tracking — passenger cars, cargo fleets, or even bicycles.

  • Supply Chain Asset Tracking —  pallets, reusable packaging, field equipment, or even fixed assets.

  • Heavy Equipment Tracking high-value field assets like construction equipment, excavators, industrial vehicles, even tools.

  • Healthcare Equipment Tracking medical devices, hospital equipment, controlled pharmaceutical products, medical samples, and even patients. 

  • Agricultural Equipment Tracking tractors, trailers, tools, packaged produce straight from the farm, even livestock.

If you’re not sold on the advantages yet, consider this — an NB-IoT asset tracking solution is pretty easy to manage as well.

T-Mobile for Business will sell their first asset tracking solution on a Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network in the United States — the Roambee BeeAware — through a simple monthly ‘SaaS’ service plan that’s simple to get up and running, which makes it easy for enterprises of any size to adopt enterprise-wide asset tracking. This pay-as-you-go model puts first-time asset tracking adopters on a level playing field with the seasoned giants of their space.

Things like business intelligence, analytics-driven reforms, and measurable improvements in performance brought about by day-to-day optimization in enterprise operations — it’ll all be available to one and all, big or small. 

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