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5 Ways to Enhance Asset Tracking Efficiency With LoRaWAN

Internet of Things (IoT) asset tracking has become a critical part of managing a supply chain. However, the IoT is a broad category covering multiple technologies, each with unique benefits and challenges. Applying it effectively means choosing the optimal communication standard for your specific situation.

There are dozens of IoT standards, but not every option is sufficient for large-scale asset tracking. It can be tempting to use multiple IoT technologies, but this can quickly create interoperability problems. It’s often better to prioritize one solution, and LoRaWAN is an ideal choice for many supply chain operations.

What Is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN stands for long-range wide area network and is an often underutilized but growing protocol. Like Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN operates over unlicensed radio frequencies, whereas cellular networks like 5G and 4G LTE use licensed bands. Unlike Wi-Fi, however, LoRaWAN typically uses sub-gigahertz frequencies.

Because LoRaWAN operates on lower frequencies, it carries farther. Depending on specific conditions, LoRaWAN’s range can exceed 10 kilometers in rural areas and reach up to three kilometers in urban areas. That range comes at the cost of lower bandwidth than other protocols, but LoRaWAN can still carry enough data for asset-tracking purposes.

Devices on LoRaWANs can communicate directly with each other through a single hop or transmit data to network or application servers. These systems also support three classes of devices with varying latency needs and two layers of encryption, providing flexibility.

How to Improve Asset Tracking With LoRaWAN

These characteristics make LoRaWAN an ideal IoT solution for supply chain tracking. Here are five ways to enhance your asset tracking with this technology.

1. Extend the IoT’s Reach

LoRaWAN’s range is one of its most advantageous factors for supply chain operations. Longer ranges let you deploy IoT tracking across more use cases. You can track shipments in transit, not just in the warehouse. Extending this reach addresses several common issues in IoT deployment.

Despite rising interest in IoT asset tracking, many supply chains struggle to achieve expected returns on these technologies. About 85% of executives say their supply chain investments haven’t fully delivered desired results.

LoRaWAN can meet your in-transit tracking needs with little to no additional tech infrastructure. Consequently, using it instead of other protocols lets you extend the benefits of real-time tracking to products throughout the supply chain. You can see issues in transit as they arise and respond accordingly to minimize losses.

2. Centralize Asset Management

LoRaWAN is also easily scalable, and its multiple device tiers support various endpoints. You can capitalize on this versatility by using a single LoRaWAN solution for all your asset-tracking needs instead of several protocols.

Your organization likely has several assets to track, so it can be tempting to use various IoT standards. However, that can quickly lead to an environment with five or more incompatible solutions, each with its own hardware. In addition to being expensive, that disconnect can create bottlenecks, as not every device can communicate with others and you must switch between gateways to view each one.

Centralizing asset management through a larger, more versatile network boosts efficiency. If you host everything on a single LoRaWAN, there’s no need to switch between asset-tracking platforms to see what you need, saving time. LoRaWAN’s device-to-device communication support will also enable higher levels of automation.

3. Cover More Assets With Fewer Gateways

Similarly, you can use LoRaWAN to decrease the infrastructure needed to track all your assets. A single LoRaWAN gateway can support thousands of devices, depending on their message frequency. That high capacity lets you cover more operations with less hardware, decreasing network complexity and costs.

That capacity is ideal for supply chain operations, where you may have many unique asset categories to track. In addition to tracking incoming and outgoing shipments, you may need to monitor inventory levels in storage. Powered industrial truck requirements are some of the most frequently violated OSHA standards, so you may also want to monitor vehicle usage and maintenance.

Tracking varied assets with multiple gateways can quickly become expensive and unnecessarily complex. Using LoRaWAN for minimal gateways makes this all-inclusive monitoring easier.

4. Reduce Asset Tracking Expenses

LoRaWAN gateways’ high capacity also lets you reduce the ongoing costs of real-time asset tracking. Less needed infrastructure translates into lower hardware expenses for the same coverage. You also won’t need additional devices like range extenders.

Using LoRaWAN instead of higher-frequency communication protocols can reduce expenses through their energy consumption. Despite its long range, LoRaWAN doesn’t require much power to transmit and receive signals. As a result, you can implement asset tracking with fewer battery changes or less AC power from the grid.

Because LoRaWAN uses unlicensed bands, compatibility is open to a wider range of devices from various manufacturers. Avoiding vendor lock-in can save money by giving you more choices and offering more opportunities to save based on your unique needs.

5. Optimize Update Schedules

Another way to enhance asset tracking with LoRaWAN is to consider how often each device sends updates. Synchronous, real-time tracking may be the most publicized approach to IoT visibility in supply chains, but not everything needs continuous monitoring. You can use your bandwidth more efficiently by implementing less frequent scheduling for some endpoints and more for others.

All LoRaWAN communication packets support variable data rates, letting you adjust their communication frequency, message size and range to your liking. That way, you can enable longer-range, smaller updates on product locations and quality in transit and larger, shorter-range data packets with less frequency for warehouse inventories.

Adjusting each asset class’s data rate lets you give each the attention it needs while balancing bandwidth restrictions. This variability and control translates into more savings opportunities and makes LoRaWAN solutions more viable for large-scale applications.

LoRaWAN Takes Asset Tracking to New Heights

The IoT opens many asset-tracking capabilities for supply chain organizations. Making the most of these opportunities means understanding what each IoT standard can offer you. In many cases, LoRaWAN is an ideal way forward.

These five steps enable you to make IoT tracking more cost-effective, versatile, efficient and reliable. You can then streamline your supply chain operations and maximize visibility.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine celebrating advances in science and technology.

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