August 31, 2021
What is the Internet of Things & Why Asset Tracking is Essential
If you spend any time in the technology space, you’ll hear plenty of buzz words and terms, including Internet of Things Asset Tracking.
One of the best practices any company or organization should consider implementing, asset tracking is the monitoring and management of the fixed assets on which you depend to conduct your business. Those items have a useful life of at least a year and aren’t sold for a profit. Instead, they enable you to remain operational and make a profit. We’re talking about everything from office space and company-issued vehicles to hardware and other information technology equipment, software assets, office furniture, vending machines, office supplies, tools, and even your employees. In order to curb waste, theft and loss and maintain efficiency and productivity, companies and their business units must keep track of all their fixed assets throughout each of their useful lives. That includes logging them into a formal system when they’re first acquired, then tracking their whereabouts and condition until the point at which they’re decommissioned from inventory. Each fixed asset will be associated with comprehensive details like warranties, insurance policies, lease or purchase information, maintenance histories, depreciation, and more. All of that information should be catalogued in an easy-to-access location, and it should be stored in real time so that it remains up to date and accurate.
Tracking the IoT
And where does the Internet of Things (IoT) fit into the picture? You’ve probably heard the term “Internet of Things” to describe a reality in which the objects we use in our everyday lives – or “things” – contain sensors that transmit to exchange information with other objects and systems over the Internet. Examples of “things” could include everything from your car to your city’s water supply system. The possibilities are endless. And what’s the point of making objects “talk,” so to speak? They can communicate critical information that ultimately may help us detect minor issues before they become major problems. A chemical plant outfitted with IoT asset tracking technology can signal that a malfunction is likely to occur. The walk-in at a restaurant can alert chefs that its temperature has gotten too high and could potentially place diners at risk for food poisoning.
The exchange of information through the IoT may also simplify our personal lives. Consider these examples: an alarm clock that rings earlier than usual because a traffic jam on the highway is likely to make you late for work. Running shoes that can tell you how fast and far you went today. A refrigerator that can tell you when it’s time to go to the grocery store for milk.
IoT on the Rise
IoT isn’t just a passing phase. In 2019, ResearchAndMarkets.com released a report entitled “Industrial IoT Asset Tracking,” which made the claim that “Asset tracking is the fastest growing industrial IoT market and most connected devices will be location aware within the next decade.” By 2027, the report predicted, there will be 267 million active RFID/asset trackers in use worldwide for industrial automation, logistics, supply chain, agriculture, construction, mining and related markets.
Asset tracking is one facet of this sort of communication via embedded sensors. With asset tracking, each fixed asset has attached to it an asset tag or barcode label that, when scanned, gives users access to the complete lifecycle of that fixed asset – for example, the date it was acquired, its preventive maintenance schedule and maintenance history, its warranty expiration date, exact and current location, check-in/check-out status, value and depreciation schedule, and much more. IoT asset tracking systems that sync with the cloud also ensure that data is updated in real-time 24 hours a day.
IoT asset tracking processes eliminate error-prone manual asset tracking procedures and may also deliver additional benefits like improved precision, better planning, time and cost savings, increased transparency and the promotion of accountability throughout organizations. One additional benefit is the ability to review and analyze fixed asset usage. That allows for more informed decision making around when it may be time to purchase additional assets, retire or replace the asset.
IoT and Security
But what about security? With all of these assets and other objects talking to each other, doesn’t that introduce vulnerabilities? The truth is that yes, it can – but it doesn’t have to. It really comes down to knowing what devices you have, what kind of condition those items are in, and knowing who has access to them. The late Robert Stroud, former International President of Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), shared this sage advice for companies back in 2015, and it still holds true six years later:
“Connected devices are everywhere – from obvious ones, like smart watches and Internet-enabled cars, to ones most people may not even be aware of, such as smoke detectors. Often, organizations can be using IoT without even realizing it – which means their risk management stakeholders are not involved and potential attack vectors are going unmonitored.”
The ISACA recommends that companies ask themselves the following nine questions as they consider how IoT will impact their businesses:
- How will the device be used from a business perspective, and what business value is expected?
- What threats are anticipated, and how will they be mitigated?
- Who will have access to the device or IT asset, and how will their identities be established and proven?
- What is the process for updating the device in the event of an attack or vulnerability?
- Who is responsible for monitoring new attacks or vulnerabilities pertaining to the device?
- Have risk scenarios been evaluated and compared to anticipated business value?
- What personal information is collected, stored and/or processed by the IoT device?
- Do the individuals whose information is being collected know that it is being collected and used, and have they given consent?
- With whom will the data be shared?
Making Use of IoT Data
Combining IoT data with aasset management platform like Asset Panda can help companies and organizations of all kinds – like educational institutions, for example - detect and address security risks and vulnerabilities, and that’s just the beginning. These systems may also enable IT managers to conduct routine fixed asset audits, which can identify the presence of ghost assets, shadow IT, and noncompliance with software licenses. Audits can shed light on how physical assets are being used, where additional assets may be needed and where they may be sitting idle. Companies can also conduct vendor audits regularly as part of a set of business practices.
Clearly, this is a large volume of data to track and manage and, incredibly, users can do just that using the mobile devices they already carry. Asset Panda’s mobile iOS and Android applications include built-in barcode technology, so rather than locating a separate handheld barcode scanner, users need only the app to scan any fixed asset or device and obtain its complete lifecycle. The app syncs with the cloud and serves up real-time data 24 hours a day. Users may also set up custom access based on such criteria as location or function, so stakeholders see the data most relevant to their respective roles.
Beyond barcode scanning, Asset Panda has an API that can be used to connect with existing IoT systems. Instead of being tied to an off-the-shelf solution, your data can be used in a flexible, intuitive tool that allows organizations to incorporate new technologies as they become available. Users can then eliminate the mistakes and confusion associated with manual tracking, maximize the overall life cycle of these assets, curb waste, and save money. To learn more about our capabilities, get a demo today!