There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right asset tracking device. Paul Rodwell, International Business Development Lead for OnAsset Intelligence, joins Ryan Chacon on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss how to select the right asset tracking device for end-to-end supply chain visibility. They cover the importance of a device for asset tracking applications, custom versus off the shelf hardware, sustainability, ESG, and device reuse, integrating with customer systems, and scaling asset tracking devices.
Paul Rodwell is the International Business Development Lead for OnAsset Intelligence. He has been at OnAsset for 10 years delivering global IoT tracking solutions and has over 30 years of wide ranging experience in logistics including airlines, shipping, and other industries.
Interested in connecting with Paul? Reach out on LinkedIn!
About OnAsset Intelligence
OnAsset Intelligence is the global leader in supply chain asset management. While most asset tracking technologies focus on tracking a vehicle, trailer, or container, OnAsset’s family of technologies work together to monitor individual items within a shipment. Their sustainable monitoring technologies are built to withstand the rigors of shipping, with the power to deliver insights on shipments across the globe, through all modes of transportation, on the dock, and in the warehouse.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(16:28) Scaling asset tracking devices
(18:51) Learn more and follow up
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m Ryan Chacon, and on today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the importance of a device for an asset tracking application. What you need to consider and how to select the right device with Paul Rodwell, the International Business Development Lead for OnAsset Intelligence. They are a global leader in supply chain asset management. Really good conversation. This company does some very exciting stuff in the supply chain asset tracking space, so definitely worth checking them out. But before we get into this episode, I would truly appreciate it if you would give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to our channel if not done so already, and hit that bell icon, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. Other than that, let’s get on to the episode.
Welcome Paul to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Paul] Thank you Ryan. Welcome.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. Let’s kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself and the company to our audience if you wouldn’t mind.
– [Paul] So, I’m Paul Rodwell. I’m looking after international business development with OnAsset. Been with the company 10 years now and still enjoying every day of it. I come from a background of shipping and airlines over a 30 year career in senior levels and came across OnAsset at a trade show over a decade ago when I was working with an airline and thought, wow, that’s something special.
And the rest is history. I’m based in the UK. OnAsset’s a Texas-based company. So, I’m pretty much the lone ranger outside of the organization. But we’ve developed significantly over the last 10 years and looking forward to the next 10 years.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Tell us a little bit more about what OnAsset does and what makes them unique. What role you all play in the space.
– [Paul] So, we deliver IoT solutions primarily for transport across all modes. International transportation. We’ve developed a strong niche in the air cargo sector with fully compliant devices. And also at the high end of the global distribution with pharmaceutical focus, but adoption of the technology across, as I mentioned, all modes of transport. Air, sea, land, rail.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So, I wanted to, I think we have a really interesting conversation here that we haven’t talked too much about lately, and it’s focusing around the device when it comes to asset tracking applications, the importance of them, how to select the right ones, things to think about, et cetera.
But I wanted to see if you would mind kicking off the conversation, talking about at a high level, two different points. One is just what is the importance of a device when it comes to an asset tracking application and what is important to consider when selecting one?
– [Paul] One of the best examples is in pharmaceutical monitoring where primarily compliance and validation is a requirement to all the pharmaceutical sector. They need to assure themselves that it’s compliant with international standards for transportation, but also in terms of quality assurance. So sensor values are verified and checked and assured.
And accuracy and security of the software deployed in monitoring those devices. Another aspect is the ability of that organization to deliver a ongoing service level. A lot of that is hinged on delivering those quality assurances when they’re vetting the company. That’s one of the biggest challenges.
– [Ryan] And when it comes to a company out there looking to launch a asset tracking solution or have one built, how do you advise companies or what should companies be thinking about when it comes to selecting the right device? So how to select the right device, that’s a question we get asked a lot is just how do I make sure I choose the right one?
So what are the key considerations? What should and just general tips you have for making sure that you’re selecting the right device for your chosen application.
– [Paul] Sure. We have a way of looking at it. We can all call it real time all the time. So that’s where the cellular devices are ubiquitous. They deliver that level of visibility like a paratrooper. Wherever they land, they wake up and they tell the cloud where they are, and they also relay their sensor values.
So we call that real time all the time. And we call it the mother. Then we have Bluetooth devices that we call the children, and they relay their data sensor data through the parent cellular device. We have hybridizations of that, those two primary components in the solution. A shipper can choose to use a tracking device that’s real time, all the time, put in their shipment, end-to-end visibility, apart from when it’s in the air, and then it’s recording and uploading that data when it arrives.
With the Bluetooth devices, we, they can leverage the ability for those Bluetooth devices to record in transit and to, so at the beginning and at the end of the supply chain, they have readers. The same gateways that you use in transit, but fixed readers at each, and they can upload that data on arrival autonomously and give them the quality assurance for the entire journey from beginning to end, and it fulfills their requirements and they can release that product.
We could also augment that increasingly now with a readership, a reader network, across over 200 airports around the world. When those Bluetooth devices are passing through those airports and the gateways are installed in a large proportion of the cargo handling facilities in those airports, we augment that visibility through those airports.
– [Ryan] Okay, and sounds like from, if I’m listening to this as an audience member and looking to figure out which device to choose, even outside of kind of the devices you all offer. It sounds like there’s a lot of different considerations that go into that decision making process. So the form factor, the connectivity type.
How often do you need it to be, like what, what the features and functionality of it are, what it’s sensing. Things like that seem to be pretty important to consider and make sure you have really well thought out prior to bringing in a device to kinda the software side of the solution.
– [Paul] Of course. Location is one of the key requirements for realtime visibility, but it is that sensor array as well. Temperature, like humidity shock, tilt, and the ability for that device to be managed over the air in terms of report periods. But like everything, battery life is critical, field life, and we can manage that battery report period over the air.
Or autonomously as it passes through various geopoints around the world.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Let me ask you about a question that we get often as well. We’ve seen a lot of people talking about this, is when it comes to the decision between custom versus off the shelf hardware, how often have you encountered that question with a lot of the customers you work with, and what, how do you think about that?
Or how should people be thinking about when to go with a custom route versus trying to go off the shelf route when there’s something available to them?
– [Paul] I think with most things, off the shelf is the expedient. Any bespoke development is challenging. It takes time, and particularly with international transportation, qualification, and certification is a component that takes time. So any variation on a device can lead process for qualifying it or certificating it.
So that’s where off the shelf device is probably the straight opportunity, the straight sale.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that makes sense. I think in our discussions, it’s just been dependent upon the use case obviously, is a pretty big piece to this whole discussion. But at the same time, cost, time to market, what devices are actually available to them. Some use cases are pretty unique in the sense that they need something quite specific and they just don’t have devices out there that work for them. So yeah, it’s definitely an interesting kind of trade off at times. But off the shelf I think is an option that a lot of companies are trying to go as more devices get out into the field. And then discovered by companies looking to adopt these solutions.
– [Paul] It’s about scale. You know, if, we’ve done some bespoke delivery of solutions, but it is global deployment across a large scale. That’s where it becomes viable. But on a smaller scale, off the shelf is the straightforward decision.
– [Ryan] Fair enough. Fair enough. What are some other considerations and things that people maybe aren’t thinking as much about when it comes to either choosing a device, building a device, et cetera? I know I actually had a conversation with a guest recently about ESG initiatives. We’ve also, I’ve heard things and from prior discussions around the ability to reuse devices, and why that’s important from a sustainability standpoint.
So in the world you all kind of work in, what are some other considerations, or I guess even, how are those kind of considerations being thought about and why are they so important?
– [Paul] It’s a good point. Sustainability is key in a lot of increasing number of companies in their statements to the market, to their shareholders. One of the recent experiences in this field was a large pharmaceutical company that made ESG statements about sustainability, both for their pitching and of course, when we’re looking at packaging, tracking devices fall very much into that category because it’s a component of monitoring that packaging in transit. They want to ensure that the devices that are being used not only qualified but also are reusable. So our suite of devices met that criteria.
And they build a program around the ability to dispatch them, recover them at destination, and return them to a point where they’re redistributed to the origins and reused. And there can be multiple uses. So when they weigh that up against what wait differences, the cost is not that different.
But they fulfill an important ESG requirement for sustainability. We see increasing volumes of landfill or devices ending up in landfill. And that’s challenging for a manufacturer to quantify. We looked at the challenges that we had in the supply of semiconductors in particular during COVID period, and it just, it amplifies this message that we should be trying to reuse these devices rather than just have a one-way solution, a low cost one-way solution that inevitably ends up in the landfill recycling process.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that’s been an interesting kind of thing to talk about because I don’t think many people consider what happens to devices or that devices even in some situations can be reused. I know there’s some probably situations where they can’t be, but that’s definitely an interesting thing that’s come up more recently about what happens to the devices when they’re not being used.
Can you get them back to reuse them? Because then obviously when it comes to shipping and supply chain, they’re used to get to the destination, to monitor and track and give visibility, but what happens afterwards? And if you can get them back to reuse them, saves money potentially. And then like you’re saying, really contributes to a lot of these sustainability initiatives that companies are focused on right now.
– [Paul] It’s one of those things, we work in the field of logistics, domestic logistics, international logistics. So our customer base are well versed with logistics, and all we’re looking at in terms of a device being reused is another element of that logistic. It’s that roundtrip or that redistribution through service centers.
It’s not that complex. It’s an added layer. But then we all have to face the challenges of sustainability with the materials and components. And particularly things like batteries that we use.
– [Ryan] When it comes to supply chain visibility and so forth, when it come, when with tracking of assets, there are a lot of different environments in which the assets have to travel through at times, changing networks, different environments that they’re in. What is it that, or how do you all think about that and how do you approach or how should people be approaching how to increase visibility across the entire supply chain when it comes to asset tracking solutions. And I know what you all do is quite unique in that sense. And just love to talk a little bit more about how companies can really enhance that asset visibility across the entire supply chain.
– [Paul] Sure. So we take the view that we can deliver that visibility down to piece level with the introduction of this mother child relationship between our cellular devices and our Bluetooth devices. The Bluetooth device has the ability of being placed in a piece, and then we can have multiple pieces in a consignment.
And they’re all talking. They’re beaconing their data, and they’re picked up by a gateway. The gateway can be shipped in transit with those devices, or they can be, have gateways at various lengths in that supply chain to monitor those goods as they pass through those facilities. That’s how we extend that visibility to consignments in transit, and it gives that layer of additional security, but it’s also the automation about those, the messaging that each of those pieces is delivering.
We have a number of customers who are taking that data through our APIs and they’re looking at proxies through gateways to generate events in their systems and follow rather than having a manual process where people are checking goods in with barcodes, this is all done autonomously as the, each piece passes through those various gateways in the supply chain.
– [Ryan] Perfect. One of the last questions I wanted to ask you before we wrap up here is just around challenges that you all see in the space and how you approach them, how people should be thinking about approaching them, advice for them, that kind of thing. And one of the areas that I know comes up quite often is the ability to integrate a solution with a customer’s current system, current technologies, et cetera.
And ensuring that an IoT system is integrated with those other systems is critical to the success. How do you all approach that? Or what kind of challenges have you seen when it comes to that area of deployments that people need to be thinking about or tackling?
– [Paul] What we deliver is visibility. The customers want to know where they put that? Are they in the right place at the right time? If they’re not, what are the contingencies? Increasingly, that’s all done through integration. So a large proportion of our customers are taking data through our API or data forwarding, and that’s integrated with their systems, and it becomes a key component of that visibility to augment their existing transport management systems and other methods of monitoring their supply chain.
So what we’re delivering is that autonomous element. They’re not relying any longer on feed from their shipping providers, their transport providers, but they’re having that whole layer of visibility that they control and increasingly integrate into their global distribution network.
– [Ryan] So one of the last questions I want to bring up and talk about is scale. The challenges that are associated with scaling and advice you have for how companies can increase the likelihood of success once they get to scale. How do you all kind of approach that? What advice do you have for companies trying to tackle that or prepare themselves to scale?
– [Paul] Scale is about identifying the key aspects of what the company is looking to deliver and enhance in this global supply chain or domestic supply chain. So it’s taking devices, am I going to monitor every consignment in real time or am I going to put monitors inside of that, those shipments and capture that data at various points throughout that supply chain?
Scale can be huge once you start introducing piece level, the volume of data is huge. That’s a consideration that needs to go into the overall planning. And also the volume of devices in circulation. And if we’re looking at that ESG component, how quickly can we turn those around and get those sent back to base charged and reused?
Those are the really important points that need to be considered.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah. Scale’s interesting. I mean, the more prep you have and the more correct decisions you can make earlier on in your development of your solution, your devices, et cetera, the better you’re gonna be when you get to scale. And I think that’s something that a lot of companies are really trying to think thoroughly through so that once they get through the pilot phase, they’re not stuck either redesigning or having to build additional things that are gonna increase costs and potentially decrease the likelihood that they’ll succeed once they start scaling this to hundreds of thousands plus devices.
– [Paul] The most important aspect really is the operating, we increasingly see the single point of failure being the human element and not the machine or device element. It’s when processes break down and the humans forget to switch it on, forget to charge it, forget to put it inside.
Those are the key considerations really in the volume operations.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well Paul, I really appreciate you taking the time to jump on here and talk about a lot of this stuff with our audience. For our audience who is interested in learning more about what you all do at OnAsset, just follow up with questions from this conversation, what’s the best way that they can do that or reach out?
– [Paul] Come through our website. All of our contacts are there. Or email me directly if you are going to put that email contact into the program.
– [Ryan] Perfect. Well Paul, thank you so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it and excited to get this episode out to our audience.
– [Paul] Thank you, Ryan.