What could go wrong with IoT? Most common asset tracking, positioning and connectivity mistakes

Asset tracking, positioning systems and connectivity technologies when used right are great IoT tools. But as these systems evolve and the business grows, things can get increasingly difficult and before long, issues can occur. This requires research, expert support and a sound plan to get out of the maze.

 

In this piece, we’ll put a spotlight on some of the most common asset tracking, positioning and connectivity IoT mishaps the business comes across that need to be addressed. Device issues, network or service issues, business issues, user issues, real world issues - there’s plenty of things that can go wrong with IoT. Read on!

 

The most common IoT technology-specific errors

 

Every technology used for the sake of asset tracking, positioning or connectivity has its own, specific set of most common errors to avoid. Here’s a short breakdown of the most popular issues:

A common mistake with RFID (radio-frequency identification) is not choosing the correct RFID frequency, meaning the size of radio waves transmitted between components. Also, forgetting replacing and improper maintenance of tags and transponders is often an issue. Even more common, a wrong reader or antena is being chosen that is not aligned with a desired range. But what’s the most important when it comes to doing RFID right, is to avoid overusing the technology. It just won’t work well at scale. When a reader has to cope with hundreds of tags at the same time, it’s highly possible that some of the items will be lost in the crowd. Being aware of this fact can save a lot of headache, especially if you’re unrealistically building some sort of tech/business logic on top of these assumptions. All in all, these mistakes translate into inefficiencies and extra costs.

The most common error that you can come across when using Bluetooth technology is that the devices are not pairing. Usually the reason is that they are either not in pairing mode, or out of range. Often Bluetooth needs restarting and suffers loss of quality, which can cause frustration and inconvenience, especially when it comes to wearables. But from the business perspective it’s important to bear in mind that Bluetooth devices struggle when something interferes with the singal. The connection is easily lost and there’s a lot of disruption in the service. Also, often RSSI checks give incorrect results. This check of the power of the signal is crucial mostly when Bluetooth is used to estimate distance.

When it comes to frustration, dropped WiFi connection is often the cause of the nerves of its users. Usually the signal is not strong enough, the router is located in the wrong place, there’s interference caused by other equipment, furniture or walls or the distance is too far. But there’s also a list of not that obvious reasons for failure. For example, sometimes your device doesn’t support the frequency of the network, or there are some service issues causing interference. Often, different WiFi routers and devices cut into each other’s reach. Thus, they lose capacity, the signal weakens and you have to search for different channels. In this case, turning the router off and back on won’t do the job.

GPS is a system that’s vulnerable to both human error and the atmospherics. When installed wrong, it leads to data inaccuracy. Moreover, in some locations GPS is not available and when chosen as a technology used for positioning at a business-level, it just won’t deliver. Also, GPS can deliberately be jammed or hacked to undermine its functioning. But most importantly, GPS can be a very inaccurate technology. Even aspects such as cloud coverage or local storms significantly affect its performance. Eliminating - or rather being aware of - these issues are crucial to ensure correct operation of the positioning technology.



General mistakes of implementing IoT solutions

 

Other than technology-specific mishaps to avoid, there’s a list of other, more general aspects to take into consideration. These usually are too a source of a headache:

Every technology is heavily dependent on humans, and is not foolproof. Its parts can be hard in physical maintenance, stolen or used in a wrong way, especially when for example there’s a lot of assets being tracked. As a consequence of the fact that these solutions are prone to human error, companies suffer production loss, material wastage or over time of labor due to downtime. Not to mention there’s a high risk of rescheduling large projects.

Cyber security plays a crucial role in a successful IoT implementation. With an ever-growing number of interconnected devices, highly sensitive data and apps that require access restrictions are increasingly vulnerable. Often business neglects the importance of security and does not overcome issues as soon as they arise. Insecure web interface, bad authorization, privacy issues, lack of physical security, lack of software updates on time, issues with configurations - there’s plenty of things that can go wrong when it comes to IoT safety!

Costs savings are the most popular driver for implementation of IoT technologies in business worldwide. But looking only at money is a common mistake, as there are plenty of more important aspects to take into consideration, such as number of devices to connect, type of technology to implement, features of the software to be loaded, a relevant architecture of hardware infrastructure. It is crucial not to forget what’s the right order - it’s the technology that must adapt to pain points, not the other way around. Unfortunately, often organisations are choosing a cheaper technology to achieve a business goal, whereas it’s important to start with the need and choose the adequate solutions.

Determining the right amount of assets to be tracked or devices to be located or interconnected can be a tricky task. Especially in some industries, it’s really hard to deal with overstock predictions. When the proper scale grasp is missing, often networks get overloaded and fail. As a consequence, business incurs unnecessary costs or can’t use the technology according to its specification.

When the spectrum of technical options available on the market is so broad, it’s easy to choose a solution that’s just not the best fit. Going for a technology that is wrong can be limiting and costly. Especially, since there’s plenty of good options available. Thoroughly think about what you want to achieve and what pain points exactly you’re trying to address. Based on that, it’s easier to avoid going too little or too much.

Plenty of issues mentioned above could be avoided if you don’t go too far, too fast. Take it easy, implement new tech step by step and start with a proof of concept - especially if you’re an early adopter. A phased approach is always beneficial when it comes to technology. Don’t forget to test at every stage of the project. Be flexible and implement changes incrementally in order to avoid overall failure of the connectivity solution. It’s reasonable to learn how to walk before aiming for a marathon!

Especially among new adopters, often there’s confusion about the capabilities of chosen positioning, asset tracking or connectivity IoT technology. Some just think that simply putting a label on an item or turning the bluetooth connection on will magically take their business to the next level and create a competitive advantage, but that’s not exactly true. In order to be successful, every technology - both software and hardware - must be matched, integrated and set up accordingly.

 

How to overcome the most common issues of IoT technologies?

 

As you can see, there’s plenty of reasons that could potentially disrupt the daily operations of the business. All electrical devices can lose power, regardless if connected or not. Electronic fails, interference occurs, software can be buggy and can crash. And it’s just a tip of an iceberg! But when used correctly, connectivity, positioning and asset tracking IoT technologies such as RFID, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi and others can be a significant boost in productivity and can take the business to the next level. Just like any other tech solutions, it’s easy to fall into common traps and before you learn a lesson, consequences have to be borne.