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Tool Tracking: A Look at Beacon Solutions

You’ve likely already noticed that contractors in every corner of the country are tracking tools. On top of that, it seems like new tool tracking solutions hit the market every week. Everyone has figured out that they need to track tools, and everyone else seems to have an answer for how to do it. Big brands like Milwaukee™, DeWalt™, and Bosch™ have beacon-based tracking solutions that are getting a lot of attention – but are the beacons really that reliable? It’s a question worth asking.

Beacon Basics

Beacon-based tracking solutions are powered by either Bluetooth or GPS technology, and items are tracked by a beacon that is attached to the tool. The beacon can be attached internally or externally and allows the user to find its location on a map from his/her smartphone or tablet. You can purchase external beacons from the manufacturer or from big box retailers like Home Depot or Lowes. These require that you attach them by zip tie, screws, or adhesive to every tool you want to track. This, at the most basic level, may be the first problem.

Real-Talk About Reliability

If you can manage to attach a beacon to every tool you want to track, you may still be faced with some reliability issues. First of all, real talk: removing or destroying the beacon is generally easy, so if you’re using beacons to help cut down on the theft of your tools, you might be frustrated by the results.

Second, remember this kind of tool tracker is powered by Bluetooth or GPS. User reviews on popular tool websites show a level of real frustration around reliability and accuracy. According to users, location updates can be spotty, app refreshes can be delayed, and unless you or someone else in the app’s network has been near the missing tool, chances are slim it will be located at all.

Is There a Better Way?

Take some time to read those user-submitted reviews about the range and reliability of beacon-based apps, and you might wonder if these things work at all. Yes, they do work — but not without some very noticeable growing pains. A better solution for your business may be a tool tracking app that assigns accountability to a person who “signs out” a particular tool. This kind of app doesn’t rely on beacons to track tools, but rather shifts the responsibility to the person last assigned the tools. It’s about peer-to-peer sharing of data, managed in the Cloud, rather than satellite or Bluetooth tracking. (Read on here for more about the critical impact of building accountability in tool tracking.)

GPS and Bluetooth based beacons are continuing to evolve and will likely be an important part of your tool tracking strategy in the future. But, until range and reliability improve, utilizing an accountability-based app may be a stronger, more reliable option for tracking most of your tools.

Read our GPS Tool Tracking Guide for more information on various beacon technologies.

If you’d like to learn more about modern accountability based tool tracking solutions that work to improve operations and your bottom line, check out ShareMyToolbox at Tool Tracking, or call 866.768.8665.

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