Your Next Business Move: Monitoring Your High-Value Moving Assets With IoT Connectivity

Learn why connecting your high-value, movable assets can create substantial business value and how you can get started quickly.

Teams who’ve already cracked the code and currently pair high-value products with powerful tracking capabilities can provide clear, critical data for their customers and themselves.

Within seconds, a customer learns the exact location, usage rate, battery level, and performance status of, say, every defibrillator in their hospital or every light electric vehicle in their fleet. We’re already seeing advanced monitoring in the following industries:

  • Medical: Hospitals use software to determine device availability and protect against theft. Most medical device distributors buy products outright and lease them in bulk, like a fleet of ventilators, then charge for monitoring each device.
  • Power: Businesses that sell remotely activated mobile generators—either for personal use or to other businesses—leverage Internet of Things connectivity to control and understand each generator’s status.
  • Water and construction: Some cities are eliminating the panic that accompanies burst pipes and leaks by installing detection sensors on water pumps that flag when an abnormally high amount of water is being “used.”

Offering customers simplified visibility into these complicated products saves boatloads of time by negating the need for them to manually track each asset’s performance, location, or status. Plus, the companies selling high-value assets can charge a lot for these solutions.

Here’s what we know: Tracking high-value assets is uniquely challenging but doable with the right tech in place—and now is the time to improve how these assets are monitored.

But First, Why Do Manufacturers and Distributors Want to Improve Their High-Value Moving Asset Monitoring?

Improving asset monitoring is top of mind for manufacturers and distributors who know that by tracking their high-value products—or at least offering monitoring capabilities to their customers—their businesses will grow. But what’s the real reason behind wanting trackability?

Here are the top four we’re hearing:

1. Theft Prevention

You might be asking yourself, “Would anyone actually steal an LEV rental or take a mobile generator from a construction site?” The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Theft of high-value assets—especially ones that can be refurbished and resold—is surprisingly common… and, with good tracking, easily preventable.

Simply put, investing in monitoring services saves a plethora of headaches. If each asset in a fleet costs $10,000, the cost of a monitoring service will likely translate into theft prevention on an annual basis, easily proving its worth and paying for itself.

2. Contract Enforcement and Compliance Monitoring

Contracts often contain terms and conditions that can be a pain to keep up with manually. With IoT connectivity, manufacturers and distributors are able to hold up their end of the bargain without the hassle of routine product servicing.

This is best illustrated by the ventilator example from earlier. Ventilators require regular air filter changes, and hospitals are required to prove that they’re staying on top of these in order to avoid damaging the equipment they’re leasing. Better monitoring leads to better contract enforcement—and, in this case, improved patient care and increased machine longevity.

Distributors without IoT connectivity can’t know for sure if filters are being changed, nor do they have insight into performance metrics that could inform future recommendations for use.

3. Usage-Based Fees

With unconnected machines, manufacturers and distributors have no tried-and-true way to determine usage unless a machine is right in front of them.

That’s why an IoT-enabled industrial equipment monitoring solution feels like a breath of fresh air to not only the customers who are accustomed to tracking billable usage, but the distributors who are skeptical about the accuracy of manually reported hours.

Moreover, connectivity enables hardware-as-a-service models that allow manufacturers and distributors/dealers to create recurring revenue by delivering continuous value via software.

4. Preventative Maintenance

High-value assets are typically scheduled for regular maintenance based on time or usage, with preventative maintenance set to a fixed schedule regardless of the asset’s condition or state.

As a result, scheduled maintenance is sometimes insufficient or unnecessary. In contrast, IoT technology allows for real-time, remote condition monitoring; rather than servicing a piece of equipment monthly or quarterly, businesses can rely on IoT condition monitoring to dictate maintenance.

What Does Monitoring High-Value Assets Look Like Right Now?

Just as they did 50 years ago, industries that sell high-value goods lean on manual logging activities and charge for time-based maintenance. In other words, customers fill out a form, submit it, then receive another form to fill out the next week... and you’re probably bored just reading that.

Although manual reporting is better than not tracking any asset usage or performance at all, relying on repetitive labor to pull report after report or come on-site just to say, “Yes, this machine is indeed still running!” is a waste of time and money.

Enter machine monitoring to combat this inefficiency. Two of the most common types of machine monitoring are onboard diagnostics and machine-to-machine.

  • OBD ports serve as makeshift control panels for certain fleets of high-value assets, like tractors and cars. However, machine malfunctions are often only flagged in specific vehicles—and since that status information isn’t easily or automatically shared, it’s hard for fleet managers to know where each vehicle stands without deploying truck rolls left and right.
  • M2M connectivity is about the most advanced offering out there right now—but when you compare M2M vs. IoT connectivity, there’s no question about what the future holds. IoT augments the local capabilities of M2M communication by facilitating the transfer of asset data from the edge to the cloud, as well as allowing for the remote control of said assets.

Why Is Remote Monitoring of High-Value Assets Relevant to Businesses Now?

You’ve probably heard business leaders say things like, “Now, more than ever, it’s time for {insert technology of choice}.” Often, that’s hyperbole, but for the IoT space, it’s actually true. That’s because:

  • All of the right technology for world-class tracking exists right now.
  • The price point for a robust IoT solution is lower than the cost of paying for repetitive labor.
  • Fuel and labor costs for truck rolls and maintenance are off the charts right now, especially if service takes multiple trips.

So, why doesn’t every company selling high-value moving assets hop on the bandwagon? Because compared to stationary assets, moving assets are especially challenging to wrangle, monitor, and simplify.

4 Key Challenges of Monitoring Moving Assets

1. Lack of Consistent Access to Power

Although stationary assets almost always have access to a direct power source that eliminates the complications associated with drained batteries, folks in the moving-assets space will tell you that monitoring could be much more energy-efficient—not to mention the fact that routinely replacing batteries (even if they aren’t out of juice) is not only a hassle but a waste.

As such, building low-power IoT solutions is critical to maximize performance and optimize battery life.

2. Questionable Connectivity

Because data collection often requires a stable connection to the cloud, monitoring mobile assets becomes a major challenge when certain units lose connectivity.

Good news for frustrated users, though: Reliable connectivity is possible if you choose the right connectivity technology for your use case, which means you’ll have to understand the ins and outs of cellular IoT in order to ensure your specific needs are met.

3. Turnover Slowdowns

If a moving asset is broken or simply not being used, it’s important to know when the asset has been repaired or is otherwise operational again—after all, the more assets sitting around, the more money the owners of those assets leave on the table. Connectivity gives technicians and engineers the insights they need to get assets back in the field quickly.

4. Lost, Misplaced, and Stolen Equipment

An unfortunate reality of high-value moving assets is that they’re occasionally lost, misplaced, or stolen. Although having powerful monitoring technology can’t fully eliminate these issues, it can reduce their frequency.

How Can IoT Enable Equipment Monitoring for Moving Assets?

IoT tracking does wonders for high-value moving assets, and here’s why.

  • Reliable connectivity simplifies power management. Cellular IoT platforms like Particle’s EtherSIM allow you to switch to the best network in any given area. Edge computing (such as geofencing) works even in unreliable connectivity sites.
  • Manufacturers and distributors can optimize their business models. With better visibility, companies are able to reduce downtime—and bill more per hour because of it.
  • Location tracking alone isn’t enough anymore. As solutions architect Manuel Orduño says, “Location tracking is table stakes.” In fact, in today’s world, we need location data plus information on equipment condition and usage. With integrated sensors and components to track usage, teams are able to use IoT to run diagnostics remotely (and, spoiler alert: Particle Monitor One does this very thing).

What Makes Particle a Strong Choice for Monitoring High-Value Moving Assets?

If you’re looking to go beyond tracking your high-value moving assets’ location or are even considering implementing an IoT-connected solution for the first time, companies that use Particle get solutions into the field faster.

We have extensive experience across an array of verticals—including the LEV, industrial, HVAC, and smart energy sectors—and are adept at helping industry leaders and startups deploy solutions that help reduce operational costs and drive new revenue streams.

So, what is it about Particle that makes such a broad cross-section of companies use us to monitor their high-value moving assets?

Faster Time to Deployment

Because Particle is a fully integrated IoT Platform-as-a-Service, you don’t have to worry about evaluating dozens of point solutions to create your own connectivity stack. Particle provides everything you need to build connectivity into your equipment, machines, vehicles, etc., including:

  • All the IoT hardware you need to get started, such as modules, gateways, and development kits; what's more, Particle devices are standardized enough that you can start using them as soon as you turn them on and customizable enough to build according to your specifications
  • A battle-tested embedded IoT operating system—Particle Device OS—that makes it easier to develop customized IoT applications by abstracting away the undifferentiated, complex work of firmware development
  • A connectivity management solution—Particle Connectivity—that offers cellular, Wi-Fi, and other connectivity technologies that work right out of the box
  • An IoT device cloud—Particle Cloud—that gives you a secure and scalable data pipeline and device management interface

Out-of-the-Box Cellular Connectivity Management

Cellular connectivity is essential for reliable monitoring and tracking of high-value mobile equipment, yet between navigating sometimes unreliable connectivity and dealing with mobile virtual network operators (cellular carriers), managing a cellular-connected fleet can be incredibly difficult—especially if you have a relatively small fleet.

Particle is a complete connectivity management solution that offers:

  • A range of connectivity options, such as LTE CAT M1 and LTE CAT1
  • A managed SIM service—EtherSIM—that handles carrier negotiations, SIM provisioning and management, and connectivity diagnostics
  • Pre-certified devices with FCC, IC, PTCRB, and other key certifications

Poor connectivity can jeopardize your entire fleet, wrecking the business case for connected solutions. With a managed connectivity solution, you can reduce that risk and focus on building a product rather than fighting with carriers or struggling to address coverage limitations.

Reliable Over-the-Air Updates

Maintenance and software updates are challenging for moving assets. Because these assets are often difficult to reach, truck rolls to perform maintenance are expensive and time-consuming—and manually updating your product’s functionality is similarly difficult.

Particle is the only full-stack IoT PaaS with a complete, end-to-end OTA software update service that eliminates the common pitfalls associated with updating assets in the field, including bricked devices and unstable firmware. Learn more about our OTA solutions.

Crucial Tracking and Monitoring Features

Particle offers critical tracking and monitoring capabilities via Edge Geofencing and Location Fusion.

  • Particle Edge Geofencing is a feature built into our asset tracking solutions—like Tracker M and Tracker One—that enables customers to create virtual geographic boundaries and evaluate entries and exits from a defined zone. Learn more about our edge geofencing capabilities.
  • Location Fusion is a feature available in Particle’s tracking solutions that chooses the best available source of location data (cellular, Wi-Fi, or GPS signal) for your assets.

If your business rents, sells, or uses high-value moving assets and equipment, you're almost certainly leaving money on the table if you aren't figuring out how to create value from the data they produce. That's why now, not a few years from now, is the time to make connectivity part of your DNA.

It's 11pm - Do You Know Where Your High-Value Assets Are?

Manual reporting on the condition and location of your high-value assets leaves too much to chance and money on the table. Schedule time with an expert to learn how Particle can help you build connectivity into your most valuable equipment and products.