Theft of moveable assets inside and outside South African homes is costing many millions of rands every month. The significance of this problem has driven the need to solve this through collaborative measures.

Tracking technologies have been around for years now. However, these have been expensive when considering the cost of the solution as a percentage of the value of the asset being protected. This has proven to be one of the challenges of deploying this technology on smaller or less valuable items. Traditionally, high device and connectivity costs have made monitoring and tracking feasible only for extremely high-value assets, such as vehicles.

“This is changing rapidly with IOT networks. They provide a purpose-built communication network to support cost-effective, cutting-edge solutions that can be used to protect a raft of smaller assets that would otherwise be exposed,” says Sean Laval, SqwidNet’s executive for Solutions and Innovations.

“Tracking can now be applied to any type of asset. IOT solutions make it easy to add a variety of different tracking features to anything from laptops and televisions, to retail stock, office equipment, agricultural implements, gate motors and livestock.

“Tracking solutions are versatile today because of the immense variety of options available based on factors such as the required interval between location updates, size constraints and budget. Most of us are familiar with GPS-based tracking systems such as those used in vehicles or cellphones, but there are other ways to locate devices based on the required accuracy.”

Laval says devices linked to an open network make use of several methods to establish the location of assets including satellites, WiFi location and network services such as Sigfox Atlas, which uses the location of nearby base stations, together with proprietary algorithms, to predict approximate geolocation coordinates. In addition to knowing where an asset is located, data about the environmental state of the asset, such as temperature, can be monitored simultaneously.

An IOT device will generally be attached to an asset or fitted to a container in which an asset is transported. The tracking device will decide when to send a location message, such as when movement is detected, and how often to send the message based on the specific use case. So, if movement is detected, a location message is sent to the cloud.

The cloud has software that can interpret the location data against predefined rules and determine if the asset is within authorised geolocation parameters. If it is unauthorised, an alert is generated and sent to a mobile phone or monitoring website that can be used to further investigate the asset and enable the asset’s owner to take appropriate action.

Laval says changing from traditional tracking to IOT-based tracking not only improves the security aspects of tracking goods in transit, but also introduces the ability to improve decision-making as these goods are being transported,

Take, for example, temperature-sensitive and perishable goods such as medicines and agri-food products, which must be transported with great care and under specific conditions to keep them viable. Tracking systems report data such as temperature, shock and tilt to provide better insights into quality control, traceability, and responsible transportation.

“IOT will be able to correlate real-time conditions to ensure sensitive materials are delivered safely, on time and in perfect condition.

Adding geofencing to the mix can help ensure an asset remains secure. Geofencing is a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area where the owner of the asset can specify a radius on a virtual map or trace out a custom geofence. An alert will be sent if the asset enters or exits the predefined area, depending on the rules set by the user.

“The value of geofencing appears to be endless,” continues Laval. “One application in the logistics sector is where the location of delivery trucks is monitored to determine when they enter or leave a distribution warehouse.

“This can help detect unforeseen problems as they occur, allowing for alternative arrangements to be made to ensure deliveries are executed timeously. Other applications we are seeing include monitoring of livestock and game to detect theft, as well as the monitoring and tracking of non-powered assets such as trailers and caravans.”

IOT tracking solutions are becoming a powerful crime fighting tool and are being used by a multitude of law enforcement and security agencies. Laval says there is already a synergy that has exists between stolen vehicle recovery specialists and the SAPS, partnering to trace and apprehend criminal elements accurately and timeously, and IOT is helping increase their success rate.

The benefits of IOT are endless and limited to our imagination. IOT also helps with greening of the environment and economy as tracking of assets through IOT both applies to the location of the asset and environmental factors surrounding the asset such as temperature, dropping and tilting.

“By having full visibility of the location and physical state of perishable or breakable assets, wastage can be minimised, and carbon emissions can be reduced. IOT devices can typically operate for several years on a single battery, using energy extremely efficiently,” concludes Laval.