From The Editor | July 23, 2010

Locate, Identify, And Track

By Ed Hess, Executive Editor, Integrated Solutions magazine

We still hear about (and write about) companies that are just now implementing bar-coding technology within their enterprises. Well after the technology was considered mature, these companies are just now soldiering forward. Every time this happens, the same thought always runs through our editors’ minds: "What in the world took you so long?"

That thought can be couched more diplomatically while we’re talking to these enterprises. (For instance, “What were the factors that led you to finally deploy bar-coding technology?”) But, it’s hard to ignore that these companies missed out on years of productivity increases for a reason that usually doesn’t measure up in hindsight.

Taking Technologies Outside
Like bar-coding technologies, field technologies accomplish many of the same objectives. Chiefly, applying these technologies allow you to locate, identify, and track your assets in the field. What technologies do you apply to accomplish these objectives?

Location, for instance, is one of the hotter consumer mobility plays. The benefits to the enterprise are real, too. GPS-enabled vehicles allow you to effectively schedule and route field employees and track their whereabouts. GPS-enabled sensors and tags also allow you to track your assets as they are transported from one location to the next. When it comes to identification of assets, bar coding is still an inexpensive and effective option. But, RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are a stable technology that offer so much more in many applications. Data on these tags are readable and writable, allowing you to record transactions and asset conditions. Additionally, RFID tags are perfect for serialization where each asset is identified as truly unique.

The mobile hardware and software components really tie all of the field technologies together. Mobile hardware exists in every form factor and configuration that an enterprise could require. Wireless network connectivity has never been more ubiquitous or reliable. And, software vendors have developed solutions for vertical markets and applications.

Field-related technologies have not reached the maturity level of bar-coding technologies. But, we’re closing in on that point where there are few good excuses for not deploying these technologies to boost productivity and cut costs. We’re not quite yet asking, “What in the world took you so long?” But, it’s starting to occupy a spot in our collective minds.