What Is an Asset Tracking Device? Definition and Benefits, and How to Use It
Misplaced, lost, stolen, or poorly managed and maintained equipment can be very disruptive. A single hour of unplanned downtime for an automotive manufacturer cost over $2 million in 2022, according to a study by Siemens.
In construction, issues with heavy equipment can lead to delay penalties and put important customer relationships at risk. In government, missing equipment can be a national security risk.
The right asset tracking device can help you keep track of your equipment's location and ensure that it is properly maintained and stored over time. This is crucial to keep your processes running smoothly and projects finishing on time.
In this article, we’ll cover what asset trackers are, their core features, benefits, and how to get started with them.
What is an asset tracking device?
An asset tracking device is a specialized piece of hardware designed to monitor and manage the location and status of fixed physical assets. You can use an asset tracking device to record the location and condition of anything, from a piece of construction equipment to a government laptop.
Asset tracking devices work by leveraging one or more technologies, including a barcode scanner, RFID reader, GPS, or IoT sensors. In some cases, devices can even use a Bluetooth beacon to locate missing items.
An example of an asset tracking device is the Zebra TC52. This Android-based asset tracking device has the kind of touchscreen you would find on a smartphone and allows users to easily capture 1D and 2D barcodes using a 5 MP front-facing camera.
You can also use a mobile app as an asset tracking device. In this case, the mobile app will connect with an asset tracking software like RedBeam to circumvent the need for physical hardware. Once assets are scanned, asset tracking technologies like the Zebra TC52 enable users to capture real-time tracking data about the location, movement, and status of assets. Once an asset is scanned, operators can use the asset tracking device to record or update key information about an asset, including the:
- Last previous user
- Maintenance date
The information is stored in a centralized location – usually a SaaS-based asset tracking software – and provides valuable insights into processes and workflows, increasing productivity and efficiency.
What is an example of asset tracking?
Let's take the example of a school that wants to keep track of hundreds of laptops. Keeping track of these valuable assets can be daunting without an effective asset tracking system – especially when laptops are so easy to misplace or damage.
In this case, asset tracking devices can be used to record who uses the laptop and what condition it is in. When a laptop is issued to a student or faculty member, the tag is scanned using a handheld scanner or through a dedicated checkout station. The system then records who the laptop was issued to, the date and time, and any other pertinent details.
As the laptops are returned, they are scanned again, marking them as back in inventory and available for checkout. If a laptop isn't returned on time, the system can automatically send reminders to the person who checked it out.
Asset tracking device benefits
With the right asset tracking device, your company can boost efficiency, avoid unplanned downtime, reduce theft and loss, and more.
Boost efficiency with faster inventory checks
Few companies can afford to have employees waste time completing manual inventory checks and recording every asset into a spreadsheet or physical book. With an asset tracking device and a set of barcode tags, inventory checks can be completed in hours rather than days.
All employees need to do is scan each barcode, update the information shown on the scanner, and move on to the next asset. With the time saved, employees can focus on keeping assets in the best condition, planning for future purchases, or other tasks that drive real business value.
Utilize your equipment more efficiently
When combined with asset tracking platforms, asset tracking devices store all of your equipment data in a single place. Centralizing data in this way makes it easy to check the real-time visibility of your assets, locate equipment where necessary and plan for repairs and replacements going forward.
The upshot is that there’s no delay when employees need a piece of equipment. Instead of wasting hours trying to find an asset, finding the asset location in your tracking software takes seconds. Better still, employees can schedule asset allocation in advance and have everything ready for employees.
Reduce theft and equipment loss
In 2021, surveyed retailers experienced an average of 1.4% “inventory shrink” (lost, stolen, broken inventory), and as a percentage of total retail sales, shrink represented $94.5 billion in losses in 2021.
You may never eliminate instances of theft completely, but an asset tracking device makes it much easier to understand where assets are stored and who accessed an asset last. At the very least, you have a paper trail that holds one or more people accountable in the event of theft.
Make compliance easy and keep your equipment in top shape
An asset tracking device can also help you meet regulatory standards for equipment maintenance and, by doing so, enables you to keep your equipment functioning well. The status of assets can be updated every time they are scanned so that you always have the latest information. If repairs are required, these can be logged and addressed quickly so that the life of each asset is not diminished unnecessarily. Routine checkups can also be implemented so that assets remain in the best shape possible.
What to look for in an asset tracking device
There are several characteristics you should look out for when choosing an asset tracking device.
Ease of use
It shouldn’t be hard for employees to get to grips with your chosen asset tracking device. The device itself should make it easy to scan barcodes and QR codes using point-and-click laser functionality.
But it’s also important to consider the device's display. The best asset tracking devices will incorporate smartphone-like touchscreens with graphical interfaces and applications that make it easy for employees to maximize their productivity. This kind of display will also reduce training time since the vast majority of employees will be familiar with such a display.
Not every asset tracking device has the same scanning capabilities. Where possible, always choose the best scanning technology your budget can afford. For instance, Zebra’s range of scanners come with a large sweet spot that is accurate up to 24 inches away. This makes it easy for employees to capture barcodes up close and far away — even in bright sunlight.
In some use cases, like construction sites, for example, equipment will need to withstand harsh environments and last for hours on end between charges. That’s why choosing a durable asset tracking device is essential.
The Zebra TC-52, for example, delivers up to 14 hours of battery life on a single charge, outlasting even the longest of shifts. You can even swap in a backup battery easily to extend battery life and allow multiple operators to use the device one after the other without having to wait for it to recharge.
Integrations and compatibility
Asset tracking devices should be compatible with a range of accessories that allow you to increase their usability when required. For instance, head-mounted displays are useful when operators need both hands available.
Asset tracking devices should also integrate with an asset management solution. RedBeam’s SaaS-based solution works on all Zebra devices when connected to the internet and will continue to work when Wi-Fi coverage is low or non-existent.
How to track your assets with RedBeam and Zebra Technologies
An excellent asset tracking device is only one-half of the solution. To accurately track your assets, improve efficiency and reduce theft, you need to combine an asset tracking device like the Zebra TC-52 with asset tracking software. Here’s how to do just that with RedBeam.
Tag your assets with barcodes and RFID
The first step is creating an asset tracking solution to affix barcode-based or RFID tags to your range of assets. The decision is up to you, as the vast majority of asset tracking devices will be able to scan assets labeled using either barcodes (2D or QR codes) or RFID tags.
Barcodes are the cheapest and most user-friendly option. They can be printed on-site using your own device and are easily applied. However, they are at greater risk of being damaged or vandalized. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags use wireless signals to communicate with scanners. They are more durable but also more expensive.
At this point, you can also create a baseline inventory for your assets. Doing so ensures every asset is accounted for and tagged appropriately.
RFID and barcode tracking with the Zebra TC-52
With tags applied to each asset, it’s time to use your asset tracking device – the Zebra TC-52 or an alternative – to scan each item. If you’ve chosen an asset tracking device using the advice above, this should be a straightforward process.
As a Zebra Technologies PartnerConnect Registered Independent Software Vendor (ISV), we have worked closely with Zebra engineering teams to ensure complete interoperability between their asset tracking device and our software.
When scanned, the tracking device will connect with your asset tracking software and bring up a dashboard you can use to enter key information.
Real-time tracking in the RedBeam dashboard
An asset tracking software solution like Redbeam serves as a centralized database for all of the information about your assets. This includes the name or type of asset, where it is, its age, condition, and owner.
You can manage asset information using a desktop or laptop computer or your asset tracking device. Scan the barcode, and you can update or record information on the device, which will be automatically reflected in the software, providing real-time alerts.
You can then use RedBeam’s dashboard to get an instant overview of the status of all your assets. This is the perfect replacement for messy spreadsheets, allowing IT staff to see at a glance how inventory is broken down by asset type, location, and a range of other characteristics.
Manage checked out assets
RedBeam also lets you manage which assets are checked out. This is the ideal solution in the example of a school tracking laptops.
Scanning an asset on checkout automatically records data, allowing you to further streamline inventory management. Automated alerts can be created that remind employees or students to return assets when they are overdue.
Use custom fields to track key data about crucial equipment
Asset tracking software should be as flexible as possible. To that end, RedBeam includes custom fields that let employees record virtually any kind of information relevant to their assets.
Take back control of your physical inventory with an asset tracking device
Asset tracking devices are an essential part of any asset tracking solution. They are just as important as the software you use – and not just any device will do. Choose one that is easy to use, allows for fast scanning, and is durable enough to get the job done.
RedBeam is proud of its collaboration with a top-tier asset tracking manufacturer like Zebra Technologies. Zebra not only creates some of the best and most durable asset tracking devices on the planet but every device is fully synchronized with RedBeam software. Together, both companies deliver an unrivaled asset tracking experience.
As a Zebra Technologies PartnerConnect Registered Independent Software Vendor, we provide customized hardware recommendations tailored to your business’ specific needs and budget.
Speak to our team today for information on how we can help you streamline your asset tracking solution or schedule a demo.