Asset Tracking Self-Service, Part 1

Part 1 of the White Paper on safectory Asset Tracking Self-Service –  basic information, functioning and the advantages as compared to conventional asset tracking solutions.

Explanation of terms

Beacon Typically battery-operated, BLE-based radio transmitter. It is used as reference for positioning, e.g. in inner rooms
Asset Tag Battery-operated, BLE-based radio transmitter/receiver of different types, which is, for example, installed on movable stock
Controller Base station for receiving BLE signals from beacons or asset tags for forwarding data to a backend / BMS / bIS. Controllers require Wifi/LAN (optionally UMTS or LoRa) and are operated with electricity (5.1V or 240 V).
Smartphone app As an alternative or in combination with the controller for mobile reception of BLE signals from beacons or asset tags for forwarding data to the backend
Asset Tracking Asset tracking describes the function of locating movable objects within or outside a building
SaaS – Software as a service The software is provided through a central server system; local installation or updates are not necessary. Only an up-to-date web browser is required for executing the software

 

State of the art

Even previous solutions for indoor asset tracking typical monitor objects by equipping them with battery-operated radio transmitters. Such “asset tags” or beacons usually work on “Bluetooth Low-Energy” basis (BLE). Here, locations are now determined at least with the help of a multilateration – procedure. This determines the overlapping of transmitter signals through numerous signal receivers (controllers), which are installed immovably. A normal, alternative approach is the zone tracking. In this, a controller is installed in every zone (of the size of a few up to several hundred sqm.), which monitors the presence of asset tags in its respective zone. The planning of the installation, the mounting of the asset tags and controllers as well as their localisation must usually be prepared, executed and monitored by trained personnel. As well as the assignment of the asset tags to the asset using a web interface.

Our approach

Reduction of infrastructure
The reversal of the afore-described principle allows a strong reduction in the number of these immovably installed controllers. And thus, also in the installation work for such an asset tracking solution. Intelligent asset tags receive the signals from immovably installed beacons. The tags then forward this information to the controllers. The individual controllers cover a very large area (several thousand m²). Therefore, only very few controllers are required.

Easier set-up
Type and scope of the required hardware depends on the application scenario. The customer can order it comfortably as finished packages for easy self-installation. The system set-up, the assignment of the beacons to the position and the administration of the infrastructure as well as of the assets takes place using a simple and flexible web interface. This web interface is designed and provided as a Self – Service solution (SaaS). It can be executed at low cost by the customer itself. It is also possible to upload building plans and to easily set up zones or Geofences. One can also configure actions derived from them (e.g. GeoFences) and notifications. The installation of the infrastructure or the set-up of the software need not imperatively be done by qualified personnel. Additional costs are thus minimised. Optionally however, a full service handling of planning, installation and initial set-up is also possible.

Operating principle of safectory Asset Tracking Self-Service

An asset tracking tag installed on the asset locates itself cyclically in a network with passive beacons. The cycle can be selected freely. The asset tag sends its last position continuously, e.g. every second. A controller receives an asset tag signal with positioning in the beacon network. It assigns the position to 3-dimensional coordinates (lat/long/floor). It then sends the lat/long/floor information to the visualisation system (web interface). The clear web interface of the visualisation system provides detailed reports about position, well time, movement history, etc. These can be used for display or download in order to be used in external systems. Pre-defined actions can also be executed with this (e.g. notifications), which can be set using simple rules.

Components of safectory Asset Tracking Self-Service

  • Asset tag in a small design or beacon with a large battery. Or even power-beacon with AA batteries
  • Beacon network (passive beacons) with the desired mesh width. Even already existing networks can be integrated without any problems
  • Controller infrastructure with low mesh density. Serves for clean area coverage, conservatively with 50m distance, sometimes even more
  • Smartphone app as an alternative or supplement to the controller
  • Web browser for the display of the SaaS tracking solution

 

Potential extensions (optionally if required)

  • button of an asset tag (details can be found at www.safectory.com) serves for temporary or permanent deactivation of the localisation (privacy)
  • button of an asset tag serves for triggering an alarm including localisation
  • A MEMS motion sensor in the tag triggers the localisation only in case of a movement. This allows for a considerably longer battery life or more frequent localisation
  • The MEMS motion sensor in the tag supports free-fall detection (fall, crash)
  • Asset tag additionally delivers sensor values such as temperature
  • Moving zone tracking through controllers with GPS localisation facilitates flexible localisation in large areas
  • Connection to / implementation on (an existing) ERP system
  • Any other type of smart actuators for the execution of actions

 

Advantages as compared to conventional asset tracking solutions

  • Broad-meshed controller network ~50-80m e.g. indoor
  • Flexible position selection of the controllers (e.g. where wiring is available)
  • Flexible position accuracy by increasing or decreasing the beacon density (zones)
  • Closed housing, only 1 cable for power supply
  • UL 94, flame retardant
  • Firmly integrated GPS reception (optional)
  • Firmly integrated GSM modem (optional)
  • Smartphone app as a replacement for controller (e.g. temporary asset localisation without power supply)
  • Privacy button on the asset tag (e.g. pausing the localisation for 10 minutes)
  • Alarm using a button on the asset tag
  • Compatible with all BLE / beacon infrastructures that are available in the market
  • Flexible interface architecture for actuators and other services
  • Can be flexibly adjusted to all requirements by the customer itself
  • Easy and inexpensive self-installation without qualified personnel
  • Easy self-management, assets addition or deletion
  • Full service installation optionally possible

Exemplary battery lives of the asset tags:

  • ~ 200,000 localisations with a small CR2032 battery
  • ~ 1,000,000 localisations with a CR2477 battery

Software functions:

  • Fog computing-based beacon -> Location triggering even without live backend
  • Direct position reporting to existing systems
  • Can be combined with beacon health monitoring and Wifi device counting Monitoring und Wifi – Device Counting

 

Conclusion – safectory Asset Tracking Self-Service

Simplification of infrastructure

The flexible safectory Asset Tracking Self-Service (SaaS) solution requires only a fraction of the infrastructure that is necessary for conventional systems. So far, e.g. in case of multilateration procedures, an asset tag must be received by at least three, better even by more controllers, in order to determine the position. In case of the safectory asset tracking solution, even simple beacon infrastructure (as location reference) and one controller in the range, which receives the data of the asset tag for position determination, is sufficient. The initial hardware, planning and installation work is thus considerably lower (= cost saving). And this, particularly with flexible localisation accuracy that depends only on the density of the (cost-effective) beacon infrastructure.

Simplicity and flexibility

Installation and set-up by qualified personnel, which is very cost-intensive, is not absolutely necessary. Because, the system is offered in finished packages. It was developed for self-installation. The hardware infrastructure is managed and the software is administered using an intuitive web interface.

From the technological point of view, the free parameterisation of the components and the software facilitates a more precise localisation. Or a longer service life and also more flexibility and options to adapt to customers’ requirements. All hardware and software components used have been tested and used in the market with reference to the service life, costs and stability.