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How to track inventory indoors and receive shipments automatically

November 19, 2021 Jon Reedy

So, someone has decided that there is a new "corporate initiative" to automate as many of the logistics functions as possible. They came to you, a logistics or IT professional, and asked you to spearhead this initiative. This led to A LOT of googling and research to learn an entirely new technology in a short period of time. Luckily, the magic of email marketing or SEO has brought us together! Here is the high level of what we can do together to get this up and running. Full details are below. First, we need to build an architecture diagram that you can include in your slide deck (they always want slides). See below. Check. Next, we will need to breakdown the technologies and architecture in a way that convinces management that this is a solution that uses industry standard tech, in a secure and scalable environment. See below. Lastly, we will need to propose a low-cost proof of concept (POC) with a trial period that allows us to evaluate this technology without jeopardizing management bonuses. If this sounds like a plan, keep reading.

 

Indoor Location Tracking Architecture

 Alrighty, let's get to it. The way I see the deck being broken down is we need a solution overview that leverages our newly created (or right click, save image as...) diagram and breaks down the components and technology that we will propose for our POC. Beginning at the item, skid, load carrier, or pallet level, we will leverage a small relatively inexpensive Bluetooth beacon. When I say inexpensive, I don't mean "paper RFID tag, cheap." Around $20 USD each, so we need to carefully select assets with higher dollar values, frequent moves, or containers of lower value assets to justify the business case. The beacon we are suggesting is the Lansitec i3.Lansitect i3 BLEThe beacon continuously broadcasts iBeacon information according to our settings. It broadcasts built-in gyroscope sensor parameters when it's moved. The i3 is only around 1.5" X 1" so finding a safe and secure installation point should be easy. In our deck we will emphasize that we can better manage the location, status and usage rate of the selected assets. To receive the data that the beacons are broadcasting, we will need to select a BLE gateway. We are going to go with the Lansitec Macro Bluetooth Gateway.Lansitec Macro Bluetooth Gateway It's designed based on LoRa and Bluetooth 5.0 technology. It receives nearby beacon information and forwards it to the LoRa gateway. It is powered with 38,000mAh industrial battery with standby time as long as 7 years. These gateways will be dispersed throughout our facility to ensure that we have covered all areas that we want to manage. Depending on the size and scope of our proof of concept, we may want a couple to start, since they have a range of around 60 meters each. These generally run around $115 each. The BLE gateways will communicate with our LoRaWan Gateway for the facility. We will go with the Multitech Cellular Gateway Multitech Gateway for this layer. It supports backhaul via 3G/4G & Ethernet and conveniently provides deep in-building connectivity and improved performance for network operators and enterprises connecting thousands of IoT assets by harnessing the power of the LoRaWAN® protocol. The Multitech gateway will cost around $400, but we will need only one for the PoC and a few for the full solution. That's our hardware stack. We should point out in our slides that we have chosen an extensible and scalable architecture that allows us to expand this from PoC to full solution by building out the layers as necessary. 
OK, we have made the hardware recommendations. Now what do we use to read, aggregate and display all this data? Well, we could contract a team of developers to spend a couple of months coding an MVP that will give us barebones functionality to display the location data of each beacon tag. We all know that will be rejected. We could work with an internal development team to do this - also a no go. OR... We could use an off the shelf solution like the Stargent IoT Platform that allows us to scan a QR code on all our hardware to quickly add it to the network, provision it and begin monitoring ASAP. This platform will also give us the ability to set multiple alerts, add users, and create groups with varying permission levels. It will offer end-to-end AES encryption, which will get Sara from IT off of our back. Now we're onto something! Let's add into the slide deck that we get not only a browser-based console, but also a full featured mobile app.

Stargent IoT App

 

 

 

Next, we need to layout the use cases for our PoC. An analysis of our objectives has determined that we want to prove out 2 use cases during our PoC. First is the ability to locate a certain set of inventory or assets within our test facility. We will select assets (or groups of assets) that have a higher dollar value and demonstrate that locating these at any time and alerting the team to their movement reduces cost by eliminating the time spent searching for them. Our second use case will prove that we can receive a notification when a container or asset enters or exits our facility. We will want to determine if we can add the expense of coding the integration with our ERP in this phase, or just track items as the arrive. Probably best to just roll with the alerts for phase 1, but we can dream!
Almost there. Lastly, we want to build the business case for this PoC. This means putting all the numbers together. So, let's see. We will arbitrarily start with 10 Lansitec i3 beacons. Those will be around $200. We can get by with a single Lansitec Macro Bluetooth Gateway. That will be about $115. One Multitech Gateway is about $400. That brings us to around $715 in hardware That's less than half of the biz dev guy's dinner tab, but we probably shouldn't include that. Next the question is: how much will we pay for the full featured, robust Stargent IoT platform that will save us (tens of) thousands in development costs? Free for 3 months. Then just $40 per month with a six-month commitment. Software total comes to $120. We are going to be able to run this entire PoC for only $835! Definitely getting promoted. We are going to tell management that we struck this deal after painful negotiations. This is awesome. As we finalize our business case slides, we remember that managers LOVE options. We will throw in an "all opex option." This means that we won't pay anything up front and we will commit to a year of the Stargent IoT platform. Again, after painstaking negotiations, we came to an agreement that the entire year of the PoC and initial rollout will cost only $120 per month. Either way, this is going to happen. You have that vision of the managers carrying you out of the conference room on their shoulders chanting your name again.

All that remains is sending an email to Sales@StargentIoT.com to request the Indoor Asset Tracking Starter Kit. Oh, and want a free copy of those slides we discussed? Just email us.