The importance of geolocation for IoT devices
Over the next decade, 500 billion devices are expected to connect to the internet, according to Cisco. As organizations continue to shift towards a more IoT-focused business strategy, the majority of IoT devices will require some form of localization capability either at point of install or through the assets life.
Geolocation for IoT devices has quickly become one of the biggest market opportunities and it’s not hard to see why. Many companies are replacing proprietary legacy systems with geolocation asset management solutions to locate, track and monitor physical assets such as equipment, product, vehicles and people. We’re seeing this across a variety of different vertical markets, including:
- Healthcare: More hospitals are incorporating location technology to better monitor beds, pumps and other hospital equipment. One of the biggest benefits is identifying what equipment might be underutilized so the hospital can right size effectively.
- Industrial: Contractors and construction workers often have very expensive equipment at job sites and geolocation technology can help ensure nothing is stolen or misplaced.
- Agriculture: For cattle ranchers, location technology can be used to monitor a cow’s vitals and location and notify ranchers immediately in the event of an abnormality.
- Transportation and logistics: The National Cargo Security Council estimates that the global financial impact of cargo loss exceeds $50 billion annually. Geolocation ensures that the whereabouts of cargo can be accessed at any time, helping to mitigate loss or theft.
By incorporating IoT-enabled asset management solutions, inefficient and burdensome manual processes can be replaced. This in turn helps companies save time and money as they can more efficiently monitor and mitigate against loss of goods and damages. Geolocation in every device can significantly lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for any business deploying sensors and trackers.
Considerations for geolocation technology
In 2018, Bressler Group outlined some key considerations to evaluate when looking at adopting geolocation technology that still rings true today:
- Will the device be used indoors, outdoors or both?
- How accurate does the location technology need to be?
- How often do you need to know about the location?
Though answers to the above questions will vary based on each business’ needs, it almost always makes sense to be able to track any IoT device. Unfortunately, geolocation technology hasn’t always been seamless and accessible like it is today. Traditional GPS technologies enabling geolocation are expensive, have technical boundaries that prevent successful deployment and require extensive power to operate.
Factors preventing geolocation adoption
Though a number of IoT industries would benefit from geolocation technology, a few barriers have prevented widespread adoption, including:
- Battery Life: Conventional GPS trackers require a lot of power, which means batteries need to be replaced several times per year. Though some locations might make this more feasible, asset trackers are generally located in hard-to-reach areas, such as oil and gas rigs or mounted on fleets of vehicles. These deployments make it very costly to change batteries, especially if there are thousands deployed in the field.
- Maintenance: As with any piece of equipment, in five or more years, a technician will be sent to service the device. Asset trackers are often lost due to batteries dying without notification or changes in business ownership.
- Costs: How frequently does a solution actually need to check a device’s location? In many cases, traditional GPS technology is overkill as the frequency of check-in relates directly to expense and battery usage.
LoRa-based solutions for the IoT market are helping to alleviate these barriers. Essentially, businesses must deliver a solution to customers that provide geolocation as a native service on any type of connected device with battery life well beyond existing cellular solutions.
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