How to Use QR Code Tracking for Fixed Assets

QR codes were invented by a Japanese automotive manufacturer in 1994 to label car components. The contact-free technology, however, became much more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, it’s not uncommon to encounter QR (quick response) codes in restaurants and stores, on business cards, and more.

Most of us know QR codes as a tool for accessing information, but they can do more than send you to a website. They’re an inexpensive and accessible tracking solution that helps businesses document the location, condition, and usage of valuable assets. 

In this post, we’ll explain what QR code tracking is, how it works, and how it can be used to manage your fixed assets. We’ll also cover the benefits of QR code tracking and some frequently asked questions.

What is QR code tracking? 

A QR code is a square-shaped pixelated visual pattern, which is usually black and white but can include other colors. QR codes serve as a unique visual identifier, like a fingerprint. One of the most common uses for QR codes is to enable consumers to access a web page or digital content on their smartphone. 

But along with sending the scanner to a digital destination, dynamic QR codes can track when and where the code is scanned. This is how QR codes can be used for tracking assets. Unlike dynamic QR codes, static QR codes are not capable of tracking.

(Image Source)

With dynamic QR code tracking, you can monitor all kinds of physical assets, from high-value machinery to retail inventory.

QR code tracking vs barcode tracking

QR codes and barcodes are both visual labels that create a unique identifier that can be read with a smartphone or other scanner. Barcodes are composed of black lines of different thicknesses and are read across only one dimension (horizontally). QR codes, on the other hand, are composed of pixelated square patterns and are read across two dimensions. The more complex nature of QR codes allows them to store more information than barcodes.

(Image Source)

QR codes and barcodes can both be read by smartphones or by specialized scanners. Barcodes are more common in retail and grocery stores, whereas QR codes are common in restaurants, marketing campaigns, and entertainment settings. Both types of codes, however, are used to track fixed assets.

QR code tracking for fixed assets 

If you’re not already familiar with fixed assets, they are essentially property that a business uses to create value. For example, a carpenter would use a table saw to complete jobs for customers. The table saw is one of the carpentry business’s assets.

The term “fixed” refers to the fact that the asset is not just a temporary investment. Generally, fixed assets are those that a business uses for more than one year. Returning to our example, table saws typically can be used for more than one year, making it a fixed asset.

(Image Source)

Asset tracking and asset management are how you keep track of these assets, documenting their location and condition, as well as whatever other information you want to track. An asset tracking system consists of three elements: the asset labels, the code scanner or label reader, and the asset management software.

Fixed asset labels require a unique identifier, such as a QR code, to tie the object to its asset record. One advantage of using QR codes for asset tags is that you can print them yourself. As mentioned above, the codes can be scanned with a handheld scanner or a smartphone.

Tracking and understanding the life of your assets is vital for effectively managing these business investments. QR codes both allow employees to access important information about assets, but also can create a chronological history of when and where assets are used.

What are the benefits of QR code tracking? 

Asset tracking has many benefits, the first of which is simply having an accurate and up-to-date record of your assets. When you track your fixed assets with QR codes (or other identifiers) it makes it easy for your team to find the equipment they need when they need it. A database with information about the age and condition of your assets can also help you schedule preventative maintenance and budget for replacements.

Tracking your assets also comes with several important financial benefits. When you have records of the tools and equipment you already have, you cut down on unnecessary purchases. You can look in your asset management software and see at a glance if you have an asset. Your asset records also prove ownership to your insurers, if you need to replace items damaged or destroyed. 

Finally, asset records allow you to track the value and depreciation of your property over time. The Internal Revenue Service allows businesses to write off asset depreciation on their taxes. 

(Image Source)

Many of QR code tracking’s specific benefits revolve around how easy it is to get started and use. You can generate and print QR codes yourself, which is a great solution for small businesses just beginning to track their assets.

QR codes are also very easy to use, with many people encountering them in their day-to-day lives. While some businesses will benefit from specialized asset tag scanners, others can take advantage of the fact that employees can read a QR code with any smartphone. This is especially useful for organizations that work in multiple locations or regularly send assets into the field.

How does QR code tracking work? 

QR code tracking begins with generating the codes and printing or purchasing asset labels. Each piece of property is given an asset tag with its unique QR code. These labels should be placed somewhere easy for your team to find and reach. You should also take care in choosing your asset label materials. Simple stickers are fine for some uses but won’t hold up to heavy wear and tear. 

Either before or after the label is applied, each QR code is linked to an asset record. This holds all the relevant information about the asset, such as model, date of purchase, last use, etc. When you begin using QR code tracking, you’ll have to label and document many assets, but it’s also important to create a system or protocol for labeling and documenting property you acquire in the future.

With each asset labeled with a QR code that connects to its asset record, you’re ready for your team to start scanning and using the system. Your team can use smartphones or other scanners to read the code on the asset label. 

With mobile scanners and smartphones, the scanned code will send you to the asset record, either through an app or a mobile browser. Now the person encountering the asset has all the information they need. 

For example, let’s say a property management firm uses QR code tracking for their major appliances and other assets. If the maintenance team was dispatched to troubleshoot a broken water heater, they could scan the QR code to pull up the asset record and see what repairs or issues have come up in the past. This background information can help them diagnose and solve the problem.

If the user scanning a code has the appropriate permissions, they can also edit the associated asset record. For instance, after fixing the water heater, the maintenance crew could add a note to the asset record documenting what the problem was and how they solved it. You can add notes about the condition of the asset or request repairs or replacement.

With dynamic QR codes, your asset tracking system can log when the code is scanned, giving you a chronological history of when and where the device is used. Many hospitals, for example, have equipment that is used by different employees in different areas. If staff must scan the QR code of a portable ultrasound machine each time they use it, the asset tracking system would have a detailed record of who last used the device, making it easy to find misplaced equipment.

As these examples show, QR code tracking is useful both for identifying and maintaining assets as well as for tracking how and where an asset is used. How you use QR code tracking will depend on the specific needs of your business.

QR code tracking software

To use QR code tracking, you’ll need more than just the labels themselves. Along with the tags and scanners, you’ll need asset management software to hold your records. Asset tracking software allows you to create records for each asset and update the record each time you scan the label. With dynamic QR codes, your tracking software should be able to maintain detailed histories of where and when each asset is scanned.

When choosing asset tracking software, it’s important to confirm that a platform will allow you to track the data that matters to you. With RedBeam, for example, users can use custom fields to document whatever details they find helpful. RedBeam works with QR code asset tags, among other types.

(Image Source)

Even when working across multiple facilities or locations, asset tracking software gives you a single source of truth to look up any asset you need. You can also create reports and analyze the data to learn about the lifecycle of your assets and plan for maintenance and future purchases. 

Finally, modern asset tracking software needs to integrate with your other technologies. RedBeam users can use the REST API to connect the system to all kinds of tools and software.

Frequently asked questions

Now that you know the basics, let’s cover some of the most common questions about QR code tracking.

How do I make a QR code trackable?

In order for a QR code to be trackable, it must be a dynamic QR code, as opposed to a static one. Dynamic QR codes allow you to both edit the information affiliated with them (such as changing the destination URL) and to measure and monitor their use. When you create the QR code, whether through an online generator or through your asset tracking software, you should confirm that you have selected to create a dynamic QR code.

Can you track how many times a QR code has been scanned?

Yes, if the QR code is dynamic. Dynamic QR codes allow you to track the number of times they have been scanned, as well as other information, such as the location of the scanner.

Do QR codes collect my personal information and data?

When a consumer scans a dynamic QR code with their smartphone, the time and location of the scan is recorded, and sometimes the device’s operating system. The QR code itself does not collect personally identifiable information (like your name or phone number). If the QR code sends the user’s mobile device to a URL, however, the website could use cookies to track user information.

QR codes makes it easy to start asset tracking

QR codes aren’t just for pulling up restaurant menus. They are an affordable and easily accessible way to track fixed assets. When you label each of your assets with a dynamic QR code, you enable your team to document when and where the asset is used, as well as perform periodic asset audits.

With the right asset management software, QR codes can help you get more value out of the equipment and property in which your business invests.

To see how RedBeam makes it easy to track and manage your business assets with various options,  schedule a demo today.