Industrial IT, Smart Manufacturing

5 Location Tracking Technologies That Are Disrupting Manufacturing

This post was guest-authored by Kayla Matthews, technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes.

If you’ve ever seen a GPS in action, then you have a good idea of what location tracking is already. To put it plainly, though, location tracking is a technology that remotely keeps a record of a physical object’s movements, like packages through the postal service. This technology has already started being used all sorts of things, notably in GPS’ to know where vehicles and the devices are, but the tech has also broken out into larger roles.

Location Tracking Helps Manufacturing

What people really want to keep track of are things that are expensive, and few physical objects are more expensive than equipment used during manufacturing. If things become lost or stolen, having the extra precaution of location tracking helps significantly with time and costs. From parts to tools to even people, location tracking can keep everything together.

A location tracker doesn’t need to be any larger than a microchip or thin tag to be used. This is thanks in part to Bluetooth or Bluetooth Low-Energy devices, BLE for short. While the tech has tradeoffs with cost, battery life and improved functionality, they’re also convenient for any task without taking up any space. They’re designed to be small specifically for the purpose of staying out of the way.

IIoT Is Disrupting Manufacturing for the Better

The Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT takes all of the information these devices are collecting and stores it all to be used more easily. The data goes to the manufacturing floor, propelling artificial intelligence to take over from there. Then the machines work to solve the problem without any human input. This process saves time, money, labor and stress regarding projects.

With a shortage of talented professionals that the industry sector desperately needs, AI and IIoT have stepped up to fill in the gap. The IIoT has been able to transform the manufacturing floor from a linear operation to one that is more dynamic and interconnected, growing rapidly as the demand for products and work fluctuates. With location tracking, the IIoT knows where everything is even when they’re misplaced, leading to a much more efficient facility.

Location Tracking Technologies

There are plenty of technologies out there that allow users to track objects, big and small. Depending on what you’re tracking and how far away the item is, you may need something slightly different than your average GPS. Here are five very different location trackers that can be used for many different things.

  1. BLE Tags, like the kind mentioned before, are small devices that can be tracked anywhere. You can see similar hardware all over clothing stores to prevent theft, but these work differently. BLE Tags are created for the digital, mobile age, interacting with mobile devices to reduce equipment use and cost.
  2. An Asset Tracker utilizes GPS technology to track objects in real time using a 3G or 2G network for communication, making it useful just about anywhere. The device is bigger than your average tag but is built for the environment and placed in a weather-proof container. An asset tracker is usually using cellular technology, making it trackable anywhere there’s a cellphone tower or mobile hotspot, though dead areas could be a potential problem.
  3. QR Codes or Quick Response Codes are mainly used for networking but works as a tracker. The code itself, similar to a barcode, is printed on to a package or label. Scanning the code is what actually keeps track of the item. When someone else scans the QR Code in a different location, you can know exactly where it is. Unfortunately, the code has to be scanned so this method doesn’t work on demand.
  4. An AIRcable Gateway is a small device that combines BLE technology with WiFi, creating a smart beacon that interacts with a cloud. Though small, these beacons give a powerful, long-range signal to send location information to a server. What’s better is that these beacons are secure, creating encryption from and to the cloud.
  5. IoT Shipping Container and Trailer Monitoring Devices are small, lightweight and rugged devices that are fully sealed to handle the tough environments that a shipping container may see. The device can even self-charge or have external power support. These are location tracking technologies that can be viewed in real time but may be expensive and for corporate use only.

Working Smarter and More Efficiently

Location tracking helps the IIoT run smoother by knowing where everything is at any given moment. In return, the IIoT helps make everything else run more efficiently, pushing through our old barriers and making way for a new technologically advanced industry. Manufacturing can see amazing results from simply doing their same job but in a more efficient manner, and location tracking can be the first step to that higher level. Otherwise, without knowing where items and products are, the whole foundation may slip. Thankfully, we’re already heading to a brighter future where location tracking is used nearly constantly, just so long as we can be responsible with the advancements we’ve made.