No business will likely be able to predict what its equipment storage needs will be even three to five years down the road exactly. For example, will new mobile software require you to provide each worker with a tablet? Will expansion into a new market require production staff to carry completely new tool kits?
A smart asset tracking system is built around a stack of modular and expandable storage cabinets. These cabinets come in a variety of sizes for different use cases. They are stackable so that they can fit in a small footprint. Advanced systems include charging ports and ventilation for electronic devices and even possibly refrigerated compartments for sensitive assets.
Sensors are one of the technologies that make a smart asset tracking system smart. One of the most popular sensing technologies for asset tracking is radio frequency identification (RFID). RFID is a short-range wireless standard that uses powered or unpowered asset tags. Unpowered tags can send a signal when a holder brings a tagged item close to a scanner.
Powered tags can work at range. They are bulkier and more expensive but offer valuable real-time insights on the valuable assets you’ve tagged anywhere in your facility. They offer capability somewhat like an indoor GPS asset tracker system.
Both types of RFID tags are robust and will not conflict with other common wireless standards in use in a work environment, such as WiFi internet or two-way radios. An added benefit of passive RFID tags is that they can be manufactured small enough that you can easily embed them in formerly offline equipment to make it "location-aware." That means you can turn pretty much any equipment into a piece of intelligence-gathering smart technology when it connects to your tracking system.
Advanced asset tracking devices can even monitor assets as they are taken or returned from the storage cabinets. This type of monitoring is called content surveillance. The most common application is to verify that a user returns the correct asset when they log it returned at the access terminal. Also, since RFID signals can pass through rigid plastic equipment cases, you can tag individual items in a kit and scan them simultaneously at signout or return. The system will be able to identify if any component is missing instantly.
In addition to charging cords, as discussed above, some cabinets can also come with wired USB connections. These can provide added insights on supported mobile devices like laptops, smartphones, or tablets.
The smart access terminal connects your staff to the asset tracking system. The terminal is where they authenticate themselves using the method of your company's choice, including RFID tokens, PIN codes for lower-security environments, smartphone apps, or biometrics, such as fingerprint, iris eye scan, or facial recognition.
Companies can also use the access terminal to present customized checklists when users sign out or return an item. You can use these checklists to gather valuable usage information or improve accountability. For example, you can require users returning a kit with consumable materials to log any low or empty items so a manager can refill them. If the next user signing it out reports consumables are unexpectedly low, the system can alert a supervisor to follow up with the previous employee.
Data from the sensors, cabinets, and access terminal all flow back to a central management software portal that administrators of the system use to get real-time insights on their assets. A portal is typically accessible through securely authorized computers or mobile devices. In addition to real-time alerts, supervisors can also receive detailed reports showing transaction patterns for individual assets, types of assets, or users. These reports can make it easier to demonstrate standards compliance and can help reveal patterns in equipment use you might not otherwise notice.