Technology

From fresh lettuce to bulldozers: How LPWA technology impacts asset tracking across industries

A low-power wide-area network (LPWA) is designed to allow
long-range communications at a low bit rate to collect data from
sensors attached to battery-powered devices. LPWA technologies
offer advantages over traditional networks, including extended
coverage area, power efficiency, low module price, and spectrum
efficiency, enabling higher connection density and improved
scalability.

So, what does LPWA have to do with vending machines,
pharmaceuticals, shipping containers, construction equipment, and
the produce aisle? LPWA can help solve or mitigate many of the
asset management problems these and related industries face.

Because these industries suffer from low (or no) visibility into
management of their assets, it is difficult to track location,
condition, performance, and compliance. As a result, these
industries are often plagued by asset loss, theft, and damage. That
type of asset vulnerability is costing billions of dollars of loss
to the world economy each year.

  • The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association estimates
    there are 1.8 billion shipping pallets in use in the US each day.
    Logistics businesses often face inventory shortage, lost/stolen
    shipment, and limited visibility of in-transit shipments.
    LPWA-based IoT solutions that can monitor the status of wooden
    pallets are in the early adoption phase.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
    estimates global losses in food industry total more than $750
    billion annually. Out of the $750 billion, 13% is wasted during
    distribution, which is about $100 billion.
  • According to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT),
    11,517 pieces of heavy equipment were reported
    stolen
    in the United States in 2016. More robust asset
    tracking solutions can enable proactive monitoring and remote
    anti-theft technology.

The leading LPWA technologies include standard features that can
offer tangible benefits to many asset management use cases. Owing
to these benefits, LPWA in asset tracking application is expected
to be one of the fastest-growing IoT segments. The chart below
illustrates the extent to which industries are expected to embrace
LPWA in the coming years.

There are three leading LPWA technologies: LTE-M, NB-IoT, and
LoRaWAN. These leading LPWA technologies include new capabilities
offering tangible benefits such as operation efficiency, theft
prevention, cost savings, and better visibility to enterprises. Not
just for overcoming existing problems, LPWA technologies will also
enable the path to 5G/massive IoT—a crucial step on the way to
smart cities.

In a recent IHS Markit webinar, “LPWA technologies driving the next
generation of asset tracking
,” a panel of experts, including
representatives from IHS Markit, Ayla Networks, and AWS, discussed
the asset tracking ecosystem. The backbone of the ecosystem is the
IoT, powered by LPWA technologies that are gaining in
sophistication and performance at a rapid pace.

Real-time location, proactive systems monitoring, minimal
disruption, better compliance and risk management, increased asset
performance, rapid response to change, and more are all possible.
The applications, hardware, and networks required to achieve these
outcomes are becoming more affordable, easier to use, and
standardized. As the chart below shows, there is also a trend for
consistently lower pricing for LPWA modules.

As the smart cities market begins to grow and our connected
communities become even more interdependent, the need for
coordinated asset tracking will also continue to gain in
importance.

For a full exploration of the next generation of asset tracking,
view this webinar on demand at http://bit.ly/2LlrQYr.

Christian Kim is senior analyst for IoT &
Connectivity at IHS Markit
Posted 3 June 2019

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