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From fresh lettuce to bulldozers: How LPWA technology impacts asset tracking across industries

03 June 2019 Christian Kim

A low-power wide-area network (LPWA) is designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate to collect data from sensors attached to battery-powered devices. LPWA technologies offer advantages over traditional networks, including extended coverage area, power efficiency, low module price, and spectrum efficiency, enabling higher connection density and improved scalability.

So, what does LPWA have to do with vending machines, pharmaceuticals, shipping containers, construction equipment, and the produce aisle? LPWA can help solve or mitigate many of the asset management problems these and related industries face.

Because these industries suffer from low (or no) visibility into management of their assets, it is difficult to track location, condition, performance, and compliance. As a result, these industries are often plagued by asset loss, theft, and damage. That type of asset vulnerability is costing billions of dollars of loss to the world economy each year.

  • The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association estimates there are 1.8 billion shipping pallets in use in the US each day. Logistics businesses often face inventory shortage, lost/stolen shipment, and limited visibility of in-transit shipments. LPWA-based IoT solutions that can monitor the status of wooden pallets are in the early adoption phase.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates global losses in food industry total more than $750 billion annually. Out of the $750 billion, 13% is wasted during distribution, which is about $100 billion.
  • According to the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), 11,517 pieces of heavy equipment were reported stolen in the United States in 2016. More robust asset tracking solutions can enable proactive monitoring and remote anti-theft technology.

The leading LPWA technologies include standard features that can offer tangible benefits to many asset management use cases. Owing to these benefits, LPWA in asset tracking application is expected to be one of the fastest-growing IoT segments. The chart below illustrates the extent to which industries are expected to embrace LPWA in the coming years.

There are three leading LPWA technologies: LTE-M, NB-IoT, and LoRaWAN. These leading LPWA technologies include new capabilities offering tangible benefits such as operation efficiency, theft prevention, cost savings, and better visibility to enterprises. Not just for overcoming existing problems, LPWA technologies will also enable the path to 5G/massive IoT—a crucial step on the way to smart cities.

In a recent IHS Markit webinar, "LPWA technologies driving the next generation of asset tracking," a panel of experts, including representatives from IHS Markit, Ayla Networks, and AWS, discussed the asset tracking ecosystem. The backbone of the ecosystem is the IoT, powered by LPWA technologies that are gaining in sophistication and performance at a rapid pace.

Real-time location, proactive systems monitoring, minimal disruption, better compliance and risk management, increased asset performance, rapid response to change, and more are all possible. The applications, hardware, and networks required to achieve these outcomes are becoming more affordable, easier to use, and standardized. As the chart below shows, there is also a trend for consistently lower pricing for LPWA modules.

As the smart cities market begins to grow and our connected communities become even more interdependent, the need for coordinated asset tracking will also continue to gain in importance.

For a full exploration of the next generation of asset tracking, view this webinar on demand at

Christian Kim is senior analyst for IoT & Connectivity at IHS Markit
Posted 3 June 2019


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