GSM LBS emerges as an asset-tracking alternative

GSM location-based services (LBS) are an attractive alternative or back-up option for GPS asset-tracking solutions in a range of corporate applications. They are cost-effective, easy to use, and simple to integrate with any business environment.

January 31, 2012

GSM location-based services (LBS) are an attractive alternative or back-up option for GPS asset-tracking solutions in a range of corporate applications. They are cost-effective, easy to use, and simple to integrate with any business environment.

That’s according to Jacques Swanepoel, managing director of Cellfind, a member of Blue Label Mobile and South Africa’s market leader in GSM location-based services (LBS). He says that accurate asset-tracking has become essential for companies that manage a lot of valuable, moveable corporate assets.

“In addition to helping companies safeguard themselves against the danger of theft of valuable assets, this solution can be used to drive more efficient usage of expensive assets, as well as to prevent the abuse of assets by staff,” says Swanepoel.

Asset tracking technology has a range of applications – from helping construction companies to ensure that expensive moveable equipment doesn’t disappear from the site, through to allowing companies to check that drivers are not taking their vehicles outside of designated boundaries.

The technology to track assets used to be expensive, however prices are decreasing dramatically and the business case for asset tracking has expanded into new industries. It is now easier than ever for companies to track assets across the enterprise from the cradle to the grave.

Swanepoel says that there are a wealth of asset-tracking technologies to choose from, such as RFID and GPS solutions, as well as GSM LBS services. Each have a set of benefits and drawbacks which are more suitable for some applications than others. RFID solutions, for example, require extensive investment in infrastructure (such as readers) and have a limited range, making it ideal for warehouses and retail stores.

GPS solutions offer pin-point accuracy and track assets nearly anywhere in the world, even in areas where there is no cellular coverage, but have a high initial investment.

GSM LBS solutions are simple and relatively affordable with a low initial investment. They require little investment in new infrastructure beyond a GSM modem. The solution can be used to trace any MTN or Vodacom SIM card, provided it is installed in a GSM modem which can be attached or installed in valuable items such as vehicles, shipping containers, courier packages, vending machines, moveable equipment, public payphones and telemetry devices.

The location information can be requested as either raw latitude and longitude data, or can be plotted on a map. The information provided includes the date, time and accuracy of the location data. The accuracy of the information depends upon the density of the cellular network in that area. A SIM in a built up area can be plotted to within 70m whilst a SIM in a rural area may be plotted to within 15km.

“GSM LBS is particularly well suited to applications that GPS is not suitable for, such as tracking valuable goods in shipping containers, as well as a back-up for GPS in fleet management, telemetry, and asset tracking applications,” says Swanepoel.