The Future of Asset Tracking

By TMCnet Special Guest
Chris Kuntz, Director Marketing, ThingWorx
  |  September 06, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

Asset tracking solutions have been around for many years in the machine-to-machine space. These solutions, which incorporate wireless RFID, GPS, and other auto-ID sensors, location-based services, and real-time reporting, have allowed companies to remotely monitor and manage distributed assets and improve customer service levels. While these solutions have a deep history in the M2M space and have promised to revolutionize enterprise asset tracking, the true business benefits they have provided have been somewhat difficult to quantify, and actual business value has been a challenge to realize.

If we take a closer look at today’s asset tracking solutions – the reason behind the unrealized business value is clear. The big problem with today’s asset tracking solutions is that they focus on the asset, not the asset as it relates to your business and business processes.

However, recent technology advancements have created an opportunity for companies to fully capture the true business value of asset tracking. Modern advancements in the M2M technology space such as social collaboration, new intelligence tools, and seamless, bi-directional enterprise integration are creating opportunities for companies to take full advantage of this increasingly connected world to deliver truly innovative asset tracking solutions.

Historically, the key dimensions for business processes have been people and business resources. However, in today’s connected world, businesses that operate with any level of intelligence and connectedness in their remote assets are facing increased pressure to provide innovative and differentiated solutions that center on those connected assets. 

Naturally, it makes sense for a company to integrate connected assets into its business processes. For businesses to compete in this connected world, business processes must include three critical dimensions: people, systems, and the physical assets. RFID and other ID technologies are making tracking of equipment easier to manage, but real business value comes from context and correlations between the data and interactions of the three crucial dimensions of today’s connected world – people, connected assets, and business systems.

Extending your business processes to include data and information from physical assets provides a core foundation for business innovation today. However, for data not immediately available, tools such as search can be used to simultaneously find information across those three critical dimensions for asset tracking: unstructured data from human interactions, time-series data from connected assets, and structured data from business systems. By applying search to the world of connected assets, business users are empowered to find what they need and respond to real-time conditions in a Google (News - Alert)-like manner. This is particularly important in business processes that deal with exception handling, such as a product recall in the food manufacturing space.

Integrating asset-tracking applications into business systems such as ERP, supply chain management, and distribution systems provides critical context into real-world conditions and complete enterprise visibility. Modern M2M platforms provide not only basic enterprise integration, but integration in a bi-directional fashion, allowing businesses to fully optimize their business processes with data and information from connected assets at the edge.

A simple example would be the case of a company that makes and distributes a food product that needs to be maintained within a narrow band of temperatures to meet its cold chain requirements. If a trailer load of product arrived spoiled, how would you go about finding the root cause?

In ThingWorx you can store, tag (News - Alert) and relate unstructured collaboration data, structured data from business systems, and time series environmental data from the truck and associated trailer into an environment that allows you to ask (and answer) the following questions:--

-Who was the driver of this truck?  
- Has he/she ever had similar problems? 
-Did the truck deviate from the normal route?   
-What were the temperature conditions from the moment it was loaded until it arrived at the store and was found to be spoiled? 
-What were the manufacturing conditions for this batch?

In this example, the business processes involved in cold chain asset tracking include people, systems, and the physical assets. This creates an opportunity to capture unrealized business value by fully integrating the physical assets into the business process. For companies in asset intensive industries, this provides the competitive advantage and business model innovation to succeed as a connected business.

Chris Kuntz is director of marketing for ThingWorx (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi