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Asset tracking growth at 50% per year as IoT devices get cheaper, smaller, smarter

Shipments of asset trackers will increase by more than 50 percent annually through 2024, driven by growth in low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks and smaller, cheaper and smarter IoT devices. 

Asset tracking is one of the highest-growth segments in the IoT market, concludes a new study by analyst firm ABI Research, with 51 percent expected per year to 2024. Growth will come in the next few years as the discipline moves from tracking of high value goods into low-value high-volume markets, which will quickly account for most shipment numbers.

The analyst firm said the addressable market for asset tracking in fleet, container, and logistics industries to provide data about the location and condition of assets in transit remains “extensive”. Solutions will “trickle down” as they become cheaper, smaller, and smarter from large to small- and medium-sized enterprises, it said.

Meanwhile, LPWA networks running variously on cellular IoT (NB-IoT and LTE-M) and non-cellular IoT (LoRaWAN, Sigfox etc) are gaining coverage internationally.

“This will enable granular tracking at the pallet, package, or item level, and open new markets and device categories, such as disposable trackers,” it said.

Tancred Taylor, research analyst at ABI Research, said: “Hardware devices for the asset tracking market are primarily dominated by the need to balance power consumption, form factor, and device cost. Balance and compromise between these three must be achieved based on the use-case and are dictated by the business case and possible return on investment for the customer.

“As these constraints are marginalised by greater volumes of adoption, by emerging technologies like eSIM or System-on-Chip, and by increasingly low-power components and connectivity, so too will the limitations on the business case.”

A new report from ABI Research highlights the work of US trio Emerson Electric, Sensitech, and CoreKinect in the space, along with German pharmaceuticals firm Bayer. It notes the modular approach of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) Particle, Mobilogix, and Starcom Systems, and the off-the-shelf ‘vertically-focused’ approach by the likes of BeWhere, Roambee, Sony, and FFLY4U.

Different business models are in play, too, including by mobile operators running with cellular IoT systems, frequently marrying with short-range wireless BLE and Zigbee based mesh networking. The industrial pedigree and know-how of Verizon, AT&T, and Orange is referenced; this triop, among others, are pursuing subscription-based solutions that bundle together devices, connectivity, software, and managed service offerings.

“This model is additionally gaining traction among OEMs, with Roambee an early adopter for a subscription-only model, and others such as Mobilogix following suit. This service-based model will gain additional traction as OEMs move down the value-chain by developing in-house capabilities or partner networks to simplify the ecosystem and consumer’s solution.”

Taylor commented: “While there is extensive work to be done on the hardware side to make low-cost trackers that can be simply attached to any ‘thing’, many OEMs are shifting from a hardware-only model to more of a consultative approach to a customer’s requirements and deliver personalised end-to-end solutions. Flexibility, simplicity, and cost are crucial to gain enterprise traction.”

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