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Improving Supply Chain Reliability with IoT Tracking

Written by Karthik Ranjan

  • How can IoT be used in asset tracking?
  • How can you improve supply chain reliability?
  • How can you automate the supply chain?

  • LoRaWAN
  • LPWANs

Given current supply chain shortages and delays, asset tracking is one of the most promising applications for the Internet of Things (IoT). By investing in smarter, more capable technologies, companies across many industries can automate the tracking process and improve supply chain reliability. 

Boosting asset tracking capabilities is especially critical to industries that require full end-to-end visibility to operate efficiently, such as transportation, logistics, healthcare/pharmaceuticals, and cold chain monitoring (food services). 

According to Juniper Research, there will be a 27% increase in asset tracking usage over the next five years, growing from 90 million asset tracking solutions in 2020 to 114 million by 2025 [1]. With this increase, IoT solutions must enable efficient and reliable asset monitoring as goods move through the production cycle and are shipped worldwide. Global connectivity is key to ensuring a solid, predictable, and reliable supply chain. 

Asset Tracking for Remote Areas

Asset tracking is critical across dozens of industries. Whether organizing wheelchairs in a hospital, shopping carts in a retail location, pallets during supply shipping, cattle in agriculture, or even following pets around a home, access to reliable location data greatly reduces the potential for asset loss. To comprise a feasible solution, the ideal asset tracking technology must lower costs and improve system efficiency via lower power usage. 

The majority of IoT deployments track land-based activities. But in more remote locations, connectivity has historically been limited due to the restricted range of traditional networking options. In fact, it is estimated that only 10% of the world’s surface has terrestrial connectivity [2]. 

To address this issue, companies like InfiSense are implementing long-range, low-power IoT-based asset tracking systems. The capabilities of these systems make them flexible, scalable and easy to install. Its long-range and low-power characteristics enable the technology to collect data from the most remote areas.

Ubiquitous Coverage with Satellite Connectivity 

More importantly, these solutions fill the gaps in current cellular technologies to make ubiquitous IoT connectivity a reality for hard-to-reach areas like farms or tanker ships in the middle of the ocean. Rather than leveraging one connectivity option, long-range, low-power networks complement existing networks and work together to ensure best-in-class coverage.

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To further expand the capabilities of in-depth asset tracking, low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) can be paired with satellite connectivity to unlock a multitude of use cases typically impossible due to lack of connectivity options. 

Satellite companies like EchoStar incorporate long-range, low-power sensors into their satellites to create highly integrated, ultra low-power tracking solutions for a variety of use cases including smart agriculture, logistics and supply chain, hospitals and more. By leveraging LPWAN networks and the S-band spectrum, which is the licensed portion of the ISM from 1.9 GHz to 2.2 GHz, EchoStar is able to deliver greater reliability, range and flexibility, higher performance and lower power consumption.

Efficient, Highly Connected Asset Management 

With long-range, low-power sensors and location data such as GNSS and network geolocation, trackers can be used in track and trace applications for data transmission frequency that ranges from every hour to less than every few minutes. Device-to-Cloud geolocation services further reduce device hardware costs and optimize battery consumption, as they do not require an additional power source. 

With these capabilities, long-range, ultra low-power sensors are transforming the way industries handle asset tracking. By enabling the following, these tools are adding unparalleled value:

Increased efficiency: Traditional asset tracking technology can be challenging and time-intensive, as it requires workers to physically monitor each asset onsite with little support. Implementing IoT solutions to monitor assets enables users to quickly locate and deploy assets, saving time, fuel, equipment and resources.

Continuous location tracking:Implementing sensors using LoRaWAN connectivity into the supply chain allows assets to be tracked throughout all points of the journey regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors.

Streamlined operations: With geolocation and GPS technologies, logistics managers can notably improve the asset tracking process for workers. By eliminating random “fire drill” tasks, workers can work more productively and efficiently.

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Hyperscale Cloud platforms provide companies that are building asset tracking solutions with a wide variety of essential services such as network servers for LoRaWAN, digital twins, mapping solutions, and databases that are essential to building asset tracking and supply chain management. Connecting trackers to the applications used by tracking platforms provides essential location data. A wide variety of applications can directly benefit from precision geolocation and ultra low-power capabilities using these solutions. 

By utilizing Cloud platforms, companies like InfiSense are benefiting from high-resolution tracking and longer battery life that enhance a variety of key use cases such as cold chain monitoring. 

Looking Forward

The future of the supply chain is evolving. Continuous indoor and outdoor tracking updates ensure that assets are delivered to the correct location at the optimal time and can provide essential tracing information in the event of any problems. Connected trackers enhance the system by automating processes and thereby reducing the potential for human error. 

For asset tracking applications, smart sensors with tracking capability offer the global coverage needed to enable efficient and reliable monitoring. With advancements in asset management and geolocation technology, companies are now in a better position to harness smart solutions to improve their logistics management.  

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RESOURCES
EchoStar | www.echostarmobile.com
InfiSense | www.infisense.com

REFERENCES
[1] https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/asset-tracking-to-be-used-by-90-million-globally
[2] https://www.semtech.com/company/press/semtech-and-echostar-mobile-to-test-satellite-iot-connectivity-service-integrated-with-lorawan

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2022 #388 – Get a PDF of the issue

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Karthik Ranjan is responsible for driving LoRa Cloud™ Solutions and Partnerships at Semtech. He is currently N. America Regional Vice-Chair in LoRa Alliance. Prior to this, Karthik spent 2.5 years at AWS where he led LoRaWAN ecosystem development for AWS IoT and was instrumental in the launch of AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN. He previously was on the LoRa Alliance Board representing AWS. Before that he spent 8 years at Arm where he lead the healthcare segment team focused on creation of health IoT gateways and drove industry standardization around onboarding data from health IoT endpoints. Karthik has more than 25 years’ experience working in the industry with companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Amino and brings a breadth of experience in driving standardization efforts around emerging broadband technologies including DLNA, g.lite & DOCSIS, and major IPTV deployments.

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Improving Supply Chain Reliability with IoT Tracking

by Karthik Ranjan time to read: 4 min