The Past & The Present
We all stand on the shoulders of giants, building on the accomplishments of those who came before us. So before we look at the future of equipment management we need to know where we come from and where we are now.
If you haven’t read them yet, you can discover more about the past and the present of equipment tracking in our previous blog posts:
- The History of Equipment Tracking – The Past: how tracking items went from scratching on clay tablets to rows and columns in Excel sheets
- the History of Equipment Tracking – The Present: an overview of current tracking methods and how they can be used
What could equipment tracking look like 5, 10 and 15 years from now?
2020: Leaving the past behind
While asset tracking is a rapidly evolving field, the next big step is likely to be a simple one: leaving the past behind. Too many people are still stuck in the past when it comes to tracking their assets and equipment.
- No tracking: a small construction company relies on word-of-mouth to track its equipment. Can’t find a drill? Ask around until you find the person who last had it.
- Paper based: a school with folders upon folders filled with documents. Just hope the right paper is always in the right folder…
- Spreadsheets: a bike rental company uses an Excel sheet to track their bikes until their computer breaks down one day.
Expensive & complicated enterprise asset tracking systems are not new – millions of containers are shipped & tracked around the world. An example of one container’s journey can be found in this BBC article.
The next major evolution in equipment tracking will be bringing everyone into the present.
2025: Learning to talk
Communication is one area in which equipment tracking systems are still limited, but progress is being made in two different ways.
Talking to people
Technology companies are racing to revolutionize how we communicate with technology:
- Information aggregators like Pulse
- New email systems like Google’s Inbox
- Notifications that can be seen on your computer, smartphone, tablet or smartwatch
Systems are learning how to give us the right information at the right time instead of simply dumping information on us.
Electronic personal assistants like Cortana, Siri and Google Now are getting better at listening. Instead of being forced to learn how to talk in ways that tracking systems can understand, they will learn to understand what we say.
Talking to each other
One way to make a process more efficient is to remove unnecessary steps. When systems cannot communicate with each other, humans have to act as translators – but what if we cut out the middleman? An example of what might be possible in the future:
A customer rents a piece of equipment but is unable to pick it up, so a courier service will deliver the item to them.
- The accounting system logs the revenue of the rental, tracking which items are most profitable
- When the equipment is delivered the courier’s tracking system alerts the rental company’s system that the item is now with the customer
- The CRM system knows that this is an active customer and which kind of equipment they are interested in, so they receive tailored promotional emails
With Machine to Machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things the systems handle these steps by talking to each other. This means that the humans involved can focus on what is really important: delivering a great service!
Information loses value when it is isolated. The better tracking systems get at sharing information, the more useful they become.
2030: A.I. – Asset Intelligence
No matter how good computers are at certain tasks, they have an important limitation: they only know what humans taught them. This applies to equipment tracking systems well.
One way to make our systems smarter is to teach them better: more efficient algorithms increase the tasks which they can handle.
Another way is for systems to use machine learning to learn from what humans do. This is how Google Translate works: instead of translating a sentence itself, it looks at how humans have translated this sentence in the past.
This system is more flexible because it does not require humans to write out a set of rules. Instead it can look at how we act and use this as the base for its own future behavior. Just as cars can learn how to drive themselves, tracking systems can learn how to manage equipment.
Humans will still be involved to determine the goals – but equipment management systems will help us to find the best way to accomplish them.
- A company working on a dozen building projects knows where to use each piece of equipment to achieve maximum efficiency
- A school administrator only needs to get involved when something goes wrong, reducing their workload
- A rental company knows in advance how much stock is needed at each location, maximizing customer satisfaction while minimalizing expenses
Smart systems will build on what they learn from us to manage equipment more efficiently than we ever could.
A bright future for equipment tracking
While too many organizations are still stuck in the dark ages of pen & paper and spreadsheets, a brighter future is ahead. Equipment management will become a boon instead of a burden.
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Are you interested in managing your equipment more efficiently today? Take the tour and discover what CHEQROOM can do for you!