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Track & Trace and Localisation

You own assets that you’d like to keep track of. Your products in your factory. Valuable stock. Tools in the vans of your technicians. Articles in your warehouse, distribution centers or stores.

Life-saving equipment in a fire engine. Or the right equipment and tools in the operation room in a hospital. Samples in a laboratory.

Or your people. Personnel on an offshore oil-rig. Passengers on a ship. Firefighters in a burning building. Soldiers on a mission.

Information about where your assets or people are is crucial. There are a number of ways in which technology can help you to localise or track these. Depending on your specific requirements we can help you realise the right solution which also provides you with a return on investment.

In this small set of blog posts we describe the ins and outs of the various technologies available, and we address the possibilities and the shortcomings.

GPS Location

Everyone is familiar with the use of GPS to determine your location. GPS used to require an expensive navigation device, now almost every smartphone incorporates a GPS receiver. As a result, GPS technology has become much cheaper, and can be widely deployed.

GPS technology has a number of disadvantages. GPS only works when the receiver has “line of sight” to multiple sattelites. It doen not work indoors. Additionally it is seldom useful for only the object to know where it is: it shall need to communicate this information to a central Track&Trace server. Often a 3G or 4G datanetwork is used for this, and subscription fees need to be paid for this. Each tracker needs its own data modem and subscription.

A number of alternative datacommunication networks are being rolled out currently, such as Low Power Wide Area Networks, LoRaWan or SigFox. These enable Internet-of-Things applications, but can also be used for Track&Trace. Datacommunication costs can be reduced considerably using these networks. In later blogposts we shall write more about these networks.

Another consideration is power usage. GPS units use quite a lot of energy, especially if the GPS tracker has lost its satellite fix. Datacommunication is also costly. A GPS unit always needs a battery, which must be monitored and charged or replaced. Using smart solutions, such as motion sensing the power usage can be reduced, by not sending a location if the object has not moved. However, here trade-offs need to be considered too.

Summary for GPS

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  • accurate determination of location
  • no need to install your own receiver network

  • only works outdoors
  • requires datacommunication
  • high battery usage
  • relatively high costs per device