RFID And The Missing Link In The ‘Internet Of Assets’

With so much noise about the coming ‘Internet of Things’ [IoT] these days, it’s a challenge to get a clear signal about what it means for enterprise asset management and how organisations can prepare to take advantage.

As new products like wearables enter the consumer market, we get a better sense of the potential of the IoT and how it will enhance our ability act with greater intelligence, faster than ever before. However, with all the hype that has arisen, so too have the misconceptions.

RFID technology is often presented as a ready-made solution to help businesses take advantage of the ‘Internet of Assets’ [IoA] or the ‘Industrial Internet of things’ [IIoT] as some others are referring to it. We see this reflected in our own business with many organisations making the tags the centrepiece of their discussions. While they are a key piece of the puzzle, they are just one component of a much greater system. More often than not, the important piece that is missing from these conversations is about the software, and ultimately the data that will be produced.

All the tags, signals and sensors in the world are rendered useless without an asset intelligence software system to capture the right data and transform it into insight and action. Imagine computer hardware without software programs or a smartphone or tablet without apps. It’s exactly the same in the world of RFID enterprise applications.

Next-generation enterprise asset intelligence software uses RFID technology as an enabler – a carrier of a unique code which digitally represents the item to which it is attached or embedded. Quite often this is referred to as Auto-ID technology. It then uses this unique identifier to link data in existing information systems – enterprise asset management [EAM] or computerised maintenance management system [CMMS] and more – with these items in field. Using newer tag technologies it can also enable new operational insights such as movement, condition, temperature, humidity, and vibration to be captured, shared and acted upon to improve asset performance.

Real business value will come from the IoT when we focus on the actionable data and enterprise-wide insights it delivers – not just by putting tags on assets or replacing barcodes with RFID – and that’s why we need to put the discussion about asset intelligence software back on the table.