A Guide to Asset Tracking Devices

Technology is reshaping the entire supply chain industry as a whole faster than anyone could have anticipated. One of the fastest evolving segments is the asset management sector. These days, businesses seem to have a very limited understanding of asset tracking, limited to a GPS tracking device for their carriers.

Many businesses that could be and should be using asset tracking devices do not understand its varied use and how an investment in these devices can help their business grow. We have compiled an extensive guide on the most common asset tracking devices.

Types of Asset Tracking Devices

GPS: Active GPS Tracking Device

Active GPS tracking devices are devices that are attached physically to an asset that sends its location to a server periodically. There is no human intervention required as this is a continuous process.

This may seem like the most beneficial tracking device but due to its cost, it is best used only for tracking high value assets. Some other advantages and disadvantages include:

Active GPS Tracker: Advantages

Real time location data: With an active GPS tracking device, the location of the asset can be tracked in almost real time with very little latency. This is extremely useful when continuous location updates are necessary.

The process of manual scanning of a GPS tag is eliminated. Hence, without any human intervention, an active GPS tracker periodically transmits its location directly to you.

Most GPS tracking devices can be set to a motion alert setting wherein if the asset changes its location, an alert is immediately sent to you. Useful when a high value asset is being stored in a place for a long time.

Active GPS Tracker: Disadvantages

While an active GPS tracker sends live location, it does not give other relevant information like if the right personnel is next to it, next maintenance due date, etc. For this reason, an active GPS tracking device is best used to augment a full tracking system.

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Since the devices are actively sending their location, they have high battery usage and need to be replaced frequently. If a battery dies, tracking details may be lost.

Since a GPS tracking device needs to be placed on an outside surface for accurate location feedback, someone trying to steal your asset will more often than not also look to damage or remove the GPS tracking device.

GPS: Last Time Scanned

This is an alternative way to use GPS locations for tracking devices. This is done by capturing GPS coordinates from a mobile device that is used to scan an asset. The asset merely has a barcode or RFID tag on it, the GPS location comes from the mobile device that has been used to scan the tag on the asset.

Last Time Scanned – GPS: Advantages

There is no additional upgrade cost for this device. It is generally a pre-fitted device in most modern mobile devices.

There is no need for an additional resource like a server to store live data. Only when scanned, data is remotely sent.

If the asset needs to be picked up or any maintenance needs to be done by a specific party, GPS scans done by them will carry their scan id allowing you to see the location where it was delivered, serviced, etc

Last Time Scanned – GPS: Disadvantages

The location of the asset is only known to you when someone scans it. This may not necessarily be its true location later and therefore it is difficult to track when the asset is in transit.

The mobile devices are generally more accurate when outdoor compared to indoor.


Barcodes can be seen everywhere in the world. From small packets in supermarkets to large shipping containers, it is almost impossible to look around and not find a barcode. Their omnipresence is a testament to their versatility. A staple asset tracking device, over 90 percent of asset tracking projects use barcodes.

Barcode: Advantages

Due to their inexpensive nature, barcodes offer the most value in terms of capability vs cost. They are easy to deploy in bulk as single units can cost as little as a penny. This is especially useful when tracking a large number of low value products.

Unlike other tracking methods, barcodes can be scanned by almost all types of scanner types, like handheld scanners, smartphones, etc. Hence, it is the most ‘future proof’ of all tracking technology.

It can be easily installed by simply peeling the adhesive on the back, affix and done. They can ideally be stuck to any asset in any environment. Scanners today can read scanners very quickly allowing you to process multiple items swiftly.

Barcode: Disadvantage

Barcodes need to be directly scanned which can be difficult if your line of sight is disturbed by an object or the barcode is not easily accessible.

They have to be scanned manually and in case the barcode has been stuck upside down or sideways due to poor handling, even the scanner will have to be reoriented which is not always possible.

Some manufactured barcodes are of an inferior quality leading to a higher failure rate. They may sometimes fall off the asset or delay in relaying data.