Wireless Protocols for IoT Based Asset Tracking Solutions

Wireless Protocols for IoT Based Asset Tracking Solutions

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How to Select the Right Wireless Protocol for Asset Tracking System?

Wireless protocol selection plays a major role in the entire asset tracking system designing. The selection of the protocol will entirely depend on the type of industrial applications to be designed. Depending upon the protocol selection, the type of tag, router, hub and other infrastructure related to cloud and app are required accordingly. Here are some of the Personal Area Network protocols (PAN) utilizing for short effective range applications up to 100mtr: BLE, Zigbee®, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi. Some of the Wide Area Network (WAN) protocols are Wi-Fi, LTE Cellular, LPWA (LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, Sigfox, and more.) which can provide effective application range up to few Kilometers. Following are the critical parameters for the selection of the wireless protocol requirement to make it affordable, scalable and efficient according to industry needs.

  • Open Source/Proprietary Protocol
  • Effective Radio Distance/Data Rate
  • Network Deployment Models
  • Security Features Supported
  • Silicon Vendor Availability
  • Operating Frequency Band

Comparison of Widely Accepted Personal Area Network (PAN) Protocol

Parameter NFC RFID Wi-Fi BLE 5.0 ZigBee® Z-Wave Thread
open-source/ proprietary /License Certification Certification Certification Certification Certification Certification Certification
Feasible Distance 4 centimeter 600 meters (As per the Wiki) 50 meters up to 100 m 100 meters 100 meters 100 meters
Network Deployment Models Point-to-point Point-to-point Broadcast, Point to Point, Mesh Broadcast, Point to Point, Mesh Star, Mesh and Cluster tree topologies Mesh Mesh
Data Transfer Rate(Max) 424 kbit/s 640 kbps 1 Mbps to about 500 Mbps 2 Mbps 250 kbit/s 100 kbps 250 kbit/s
Frequency range 13.56 MHz LF – 125 – 134 kHz
HF – 13.56 MHz
UHF – 433, and 860-960 MHz
2.4 GHz UHF and 5 GHz radio waves 2.4–2.5 GHz 2.4 GHz ISM 800-900 MHz 2.4 GHz ISM
Key Applications and Use cases Use-cases that need short-range communication like Smart Ticketing, E-wallet (payment using a smartphone), Keyless Access Use-cases that requires immediate information like inventory monitoring, cold storage, etc.. Generally, use for Internet connectivity sharing Use-cases that need continuous streaming of data, such as headphones Use-cases that requiring low power consumption and tolerating low data rates like Home Automation Generally, use for Home Automation Use-cases that requiring low power consumption and tolerating low data rates like Home Automation

Comparison of Widely Accepted Wide Area Network (WAN) Protocol

Parameter Cellular (4G/LTE) Dash7 LoRaWAN SigFox DigiMesh EnOcean
Open-source/ proprietary /License Certification Open source Certification Certification Certification Certification
Feasible Distance 31 km 5 km 15k 1000 km 300 meters
Network Deployment Models Cellular Node-to-node, Star, Tree Star Star peer-to-peer peer-to-peer
Data Transfer Rate(Max) 300 Mbps – Download
150 Mbps – Upload
167 kbit/s EU: 300 bit/s to 50 kbit/s/300 bit/s to 50 kbit/s,
US:900 bit/s-100kbit/s/900 bit/s-100 kbit/s
100 bit/s 125 kbit/s
Frequency range 600/700/850/ 1700-2100/ 1900/2300/ 3500/5200 MHz 433/868/915 MHz ISM/SRD 433/868/780 /915 MHz ISM 868/902 MHz ISM 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz 902 MHz, 928.35 MHz, 868.3 MHz, and 315 MHz
Key Applications and Use cases Generally, used for high-speed data transfer without wire. Use-cases that requires long-range communication. Ideal for bi-directional command-and-control in smart buildings or campuses assets tracking Use-cases that requires long-range communication. DigiMesh is a proprietary protocol by Digi international Use-cases that require low power and battery operated devices.

Widely Accepted IoT based Asset Tracking Industry Applications:

Any industry application that requires improvement in workflow, loss prevention of assets, service quality and productivity would prefer to implement these kinds of tracking solutions. Depending on budget and ROI of the solution, the customer would choose between traditional RFID solution and latest IoT based asset tracking solution. Here we will be focusing on some of the critical IoT based asset tracking solutions successfully implemented in various industries and helping those industries to improve tremendously.

Based on the application requirement indoor or outdoor, there will be many structural changes at the solution designing level. For example, for outdoor applications GPS can give location with acceptable accuracy but when we need to identify the accurate location in the building where the GPS signal is not good or there is a limitation of GPS in detecting minimum distance between two points, we must use special BLE functions like Angle of Arrival (AOA) and Angle of Departure (AOD) to identify the location of the device. AoA and AoD are different techniques. In AoD, the receiving device can calculate its own position in space using angles from multiple beacons and their positions (by triangulation). In AoA, the receiving device tracks arrival angles for individual objects. Using these technologies, we can get 0.5 m location accuracy even for indoor application. This kind of improvisation can be useful in many such following industry applications.

Manufacturing Industry: (Smart Manufacturing Management, Smart Inventory Management)

Manufacturing automation is one of the key aspects of today’s manufacturing processes optimization. Starting from raw material to final products, the asset is tracked at each stage to build more efficient and productive system. Apart from the traditional asset tracking solutions using Barcode and RFID, solutions based on BLE beacons and Zigbee® tags are getting more and more popular. These systems for moving assets can be better utilized for asset flow and material management. Integrating the asset tracking and inventory management system, companies are updating their inventory in real time to avoid any unwanted situation

Transportation and Logistics:

Since the inception of the asset tracking solution, logistics and transportation segments are the most benefited and has become the prevalent user of such solutions. Vehicle tracking, courier/bag tracking, pallet tracking, smart parking, supply chain facilities are the key areas, where the benefit is well received. Using Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE, and LPWAN, many successful solutions have been deployed in different applications. Most of the applications are built around the remote asset tracking solution, proactive maintenance system, real-time fleet maintenance system, warehouse capacity optimization solution and route optimization solution.

Healthcare Industry:

Healthcare industry is utilizing the IoT asset tracking solutions for their high-value equipment tracking to optimize the usage, prevention of theft, and improve timely availability. Also, solutions are built to track human asset inside the premise to improve patient care and prevent any unwanted situations. Mostly these solutions are built using short-range protocol BLE, Zigbee®, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi based solutions. Integration of wearables, smart tags, and mobile phone applications are a key component of these solutions.

Retail Industry:

Typically, the asset tracking solution in the retail industry is implemented to prevent loss of assets and to prevent unauthorized access in a certain critical area. But it can also be used to improve the customer experience with some level of automation on the billing process. The store inventory management is the most effective application of IoT based asset tracking solutions to utilize floor space most effectively, keep live inventory track, and improve productivity.

Furthermore, for building the IoT based asset tracking solution as per different industry needs, the customer must approach companies having IoT solution expertise in product engineering as well as cloud and app development to get the optimum solution while meeting the requirement. VOLANSYS Technologies is one of the leading one-stop solution providers in complex IoT solution area – offering Concept Design to Electronics Manufacturing Services for such innovative solutions. Overall, VOLANSYS offers a great strategic advantage as they have served many of the leading solution providers in the same segment at a various region in the United States. Customers can take advantage of VOLANSYS’ ready to use OEM platforms to achieve faster time to market and reduce upfront investment cost on development. VOLANSYS’ long term partnership with the industry’s leading cloud partners, silicon partners and manufacturing partners will make your solution most competitive and affordable for your customers.

Know more about VOLANSYS HomeBridge Solution for indoor Asset Tracking Solution and VOLANSYS Modular IoT Gateway Platform for outdoor Asset Tracking Solution

Important Note: All information provided in the above article is based on individual knowledge with his experience with the technology or research work is done based on the information available on different reference websites of group alliance or third-party evaluation partners of such protocols or equipment. 


About the Author: Ankur Gohel

Ankur has a very rich experience of around 8+ years in the IoT domain. He has been a key contributor in designing solutions. His area of expertise is selecting the best suitable RF-based connectivity and selecting the appropriate cloud according to the different industrial applications.