Tool Tracking: Top 3 Challenges of Beacon-Based Technology (and a practical Workaround)
The newest tool tracking gadgets in the construction industry sound like game-changers. The ability to track every single tool in your inventory via tracking beacons? The Bluetooth and GPS technology seems like a foolproof solution. What more could you need? Unfortunately, you know what Grandad always said: If it seems too good to be true…
So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What are the legitimate challenges faced by the early adopters of this new beacon-based tool tracking technology? Here are the top 3 challenges we found in the comments and reviews of real users.
While Bluetooth and GPS technologies are distinct (and have their own sets of pros and cons), signal range and reliability are a consistent challenge raised in user reviews regarding both types of tool trackers. Both Bluetooth- and GPS-powered tool tracking beacons are designed to relay a signal that can be used to track or locate a piece of equipment. According to one user review, “Some items show as being at locations on routes that I drive, but not at places I’ve stopped. Sometimes a location is given with surprising accuracy, but sometimes way off.” Location updates can be delayed, missing, or altogether inaccurate.
Beacon Application & Security
Did you know that if the tool tracking beacons aren’t installed internally during the tool’s production, you have to manually attach the tracking beacon? That means you’re taking the time to attach a beacon to nearly every single tool in your tool inventory, using adhesives, screws, or even zip ties. In addition to the amount of effort required to accomplish such a task, the resulting security of those tools is questionable at best. External beacons can still be removed, severely compromising their theft deterrence.
This challenge may seem basic, but it’s huge: battery drain. Bluetooth tracking technology requires a smartphone app to run all day, which quickly drains the phone battery. Particularly when using a GPS tool tracking solution, a massive amount of battery power is required. Regarding the efficiency of one GPS tracking solution, a user shared, “The problem is, GPS is power hungry and relatively expensive. My Garmin Vivocative HR+ goes from a 5-day battery life down to 10 hours with GPS enabled.” In addition to smartphone and tablet battery drain, the battery life of the beacons themselves is a challenge. When a tracking beacon battery dies, the beacon stops transmitting. This can result in the appearance of theft or loss, when in reality, the beacon batteries simply need changed.
What Now? A Practical Alternative
Clearly, although GPS and Bluetooth tracking technology sound exciting at first, when you dig a little deeper, the real growing pains emerge. So, what to do now?
While the beacon technology continues to evolve and improve, a strong tool tracking solution demands a strategy that doesn’t solely rely on a system weighed down by such challenges. A practical alternative that you can implement right now — something that works — is an accountability-based tool tracking solution. This kind of solution, rather than affixing beacons to every single tool, assigns responsibility. Your employees can use their smartphones and tablets to easily accept responsibility for each tool and transfer that responsibility in the field when necessary. When your employees know there’s a visible, accessible record of what they’re responsible for, they’re accountable for how they handle those tools. Meanwhile, you can overlay your foundation of accountability-based tool tracking with the selective use of beacon-based tool trackers for your larger, high-end equipment.
Used strategically, both types of technology can work together to provide the strong, effective tool tracking solution our industry has been looking for
Learn more and get started with simple tool tracking solutions.
The Top 3 Challenges with Tool Tracking Beacons are:
- Signal Reliability
- Beacon Application
- Energy Drain
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