Tracking moving assets: noted challenges

In an effort to connect everything, sensors/devices are being added to every kind of equipment. When that equipment is moving, like a moving truck, van or car, there is an additional dimension to its connectivity. As the assets moves away form its ‘home location’, the connectivity options move from BLE, WIFI, RFID to Cellular data within cellular coverage. The GPS is used to pin point the location of the ASSET.

Here are some of the challenges in tracking moving assets. This awareness can help make better decisions and strategies to overcome these challenges.

Information overload: Continuous data generation, with frequency of collecting data every few second is a challenge of scale and cost. It can quickly run up costs and overload the data systems. Staying in control and focusing on areas of ‘highest and best use’ is the crucial challenge.

A thorough understanding of the targeted business problem will be immensely helpful here to prioritize the resources.

Updating remote devices: While in the filed, the tracking devices can only be reached by Cellular data or SMS if available as the physical access is limited to the actual Business Users those in the field. Those Users seldom have the tools or wherewithal to configure the tracking devices. This OTA (Over The Air) updates become crucial.

With large number of devices in the field, maintaining the devices, keeping stock of their firmware versions, configuration versions and tracking change management becomes a technical as well as logistical challenge.

A clear strategy and advance planning of this is required at an early stage.

Integration with legacy systems: The newer technology platform is usually much different from the legacy systems in place for the business User. Some effort (read cost) is required to translate and integrate the new outputs with the legacy systems in place or the other way around.

Cross border (International) tracking: Tracking across the borders or oceans adds a cost dimension from availability of GPS satellites and cellular data pricing.

Scalability: Better operation management along with other factors can result in the growth of business. With the growth of business, the management of data, tracking and the response to alerts need more resources. The tracking system itself has to be scalable and should align with the organizational growth in each segment.

Mobile integration: With the increase in reliance on Mobile Phones and Tablets, Users are demanding more accessibility of the connected systems on to these devices. That does present a challenge to integrate the features of the tracking system to mobile devices while keeping the User experience at a suitable level. Whether the experience is through responsive or native apps, the mobile User needs to be accounted for.

Privacy issues: Humans are driving the moving assets, at least till now! While the assets are being tracked, the Drivers and Operators are also being tracked vicariously.

Although, this is supposed to be ‘Company Time’ or paid duty, there is an element of people looking at the tracking mechanism as ‘Big Brother’. In some Use Cases like ‘Buy it Use Here’ or ‘Sub Prime Vehicle Lease/Finance’, a potential adversarial relationship is set up with the installation of tracking devices.

This needs a strategy from start with proper disclosures and agreements between all parties. For Fleets, appropriate language needs to be instituted in employment contracts as well as independent contractor agreements.

These challenges can be mitigated with clear strategy of implementation that accounts for current and future needs.