IoT sensors and their application in technical maintenance of logistic objects
"Together with our technology partner Velis Real Estate Tech, we effectively implement the latest technologies, including IoT sensors, in our logistic parks. Quick absorption of new technologies is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage in the market and to meet the growing needs of tenants."
Bartosz Mierzwiak, Managing Director, Central & Eastern Europe, Logicor
What Is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is understood as an ecosystem that creates various types of installations and devices equipped with sensors. In this ecosystem, objects can communicate with each other. This communication is possible through a human being or without it. In order for the information to be exchanged between items, the device must be equipped with a sensor that can gather specific information from the environment and then forward it. These can be objects equipped with various types of sensors, e.g. temperature, motion, GPS, etc. The role of the transmitter can also be played by a smartphone from which commands are issued. You also need a device that will be able to receive the transmitted signal, process it and trigger a specific reaction, e.g. a smartphone or tablet, on which the information will be displayed. The last element creating this ecosystem is the means of communication, i.e. the method of data transfer. The transfer of information between two objects is possible, for example, thanks to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or NFC technology.
The main purpose of implementing the Internet of Things solutions is to enable property owners, facility and property managers as well as tenants to get acquainted with the data generated as a result of daily activities performed on the property. IoT technology can be used not only on logistic premises, but also in commercial real estates (e.g. office buildings, shopping malls).
The importance and benefits of IoT sensors
The Internet of Things technologies enable you to optimize revenues and reduce property maintenance costs. There are, however, many more benefits of implementation of IoT sensors for logistic real estate. IoT sensors increase the level of security in a logistics park, reducing the costs incurred for security and providing additional value for the entire logistics facility. IoT sensors include NFC tags whose range is the smallest and reaches up to 5 cm, RFID tags (with a range of up to 15 meters) and beacons (with an average range of up to 70 meters).
Beacons are small radio signal transmitters communicating with smartphones via Bluetooth connectors. Beacon starts when, for example, a technician passes it. Beacons automatically contact the application installed on your smartphone and display the information you need. Beacons can track in real time both resources and people – employees, contractors and visitors in a logistics park. Beacons – placed on the object at a suitable distance from each other allow, for instance, to record the time of the technician's passage, thus enabling the check whether he or she has correctly completed the building's rounds. It is then necessary for the technician to have the Bluetooth option enabled in his or her phone. What is more, thanks beacons and the CAFM (Computer-aided facility management) software, the best example of which is Singu FM created by Velis Real Estate Tech, it is also possible to visualize the paths along which, for example, security personnel moved on the map. This solution significantly improves the safety and productivity of service providers in the field of building maintenance. It is possible to determine the time interval of the round, to indicate the day on which it took place, as well as to select a particular technician by name, e.g. to prove whether he or she actually made the round. Another important functionality of beacons regarding employee tracking is the ability to show, for example, how long the technician stayed in one place. Thus, beacons are an addition to the camera monitoring system. Another application of beacons is tracking equipment and machines. Beacons allow you to register people, but also objects. Thanks to this technology, you can easily and quickly locate where, for example, a forklift is located in the park.
NFC tags (Near Field Communication) are another technology used in logistics facilities. This technology ensures convenient and secure transfer of digital data via high-frequency radio over a short distance. Currently, NFC technology has become common and is used in most high-end smartphones. There are many ways to use NFC tags, including the inventory of building devices (installations/systems) and fixed assets, confirmation of inspections, recording media consumption readings on meters, as well as managing resources (e.g. keys or conference rooms).
NFC tags are passive, which means they do not have any power source. Instead, they take power from the device that reads them on the principle of magnetic induction. When a device, e.g. a smartphone, is close enough to the tag, it powers it and sends data from that tag. These passive microchips communicate with mobile devices, automating maintenance and control processes, streamlining technical inspections, enabling inventory tracking, stocktaking and meter reading.
NFC tags are effectively used during rounds that are carried out on the site cyclically. They are required by law, enforced by the owner and controlled by the manager. The contractor of this form of inspection is always a technical company that delegates the selected person or several people who perform the rounds. Properly carried out, it allows you to ensure the safety of people staying on the site, quickly locate current defects and maintain the standard and value of the property at the highest level. The real problem with property owners and managers is the lack of information on whether the round was actually carried out. The solution to the above problem are NFC tags, which enable unambiguous verification of whether the delegated person has been in a specific place or places on the site, and thus whether he or she correctly performed the rounds. Let us assume that rounds are to be carried out every day and are always to take place in specific areas. When creating a round schedule and specifying how and who should carry it out, it is possible to assign an NFC tag to the round definition, thus forcing the tag to be read every time by a telephone of a technician who performs the round. The required tag reading identifies both the place and the person who performs the round. Thus, both owner, manager and a supervisor of a technician have a preview whether he actually visited the indicated places after he has carried out the round.
Registration of devices and meters
NFC tags are also used to register devices and meters. They are usually placed on larger devices in the park. Then, after reading the NFC tag, for example using a smartphone with a built-in NFC function and an installed application, information about a given device appears, e.g. files with operating instructions, device history and other data, e.g. inventory number. Carrying out technical inspections using NFC tags becomes even faster, more accurate and free from the risk that the technician will make a mistake.
Recording media usage on meters
NFC tags are also helpful for monthly current meter readings entry. The technician, instead of writing down the counters on the sheets, can easily and quickly do it by directly entering the state of the meters after reading the NFC tag. From the level of the application on the smartphone, a window will appear where you should enter the value of the meter's status.
NFC tags can also be used to manage resources. The most "movable" resource are keys, handed and returned many times a day. The keys remain in the possession of at least two people each day, namely the person handing, receiving and collecting this resource. Entering information in paper documentation is associated with the risk of mistakes, oversight and even laziness. A single unsigned key release can result in an unauthorized use, since it is not possible to accurately verify who moved around the site. Easy-to-use NFC tags minimize the risk of mistakes and make it possible to check who, when and to whom a particular resource was released. The tag is assigned to the handing person (each person has an individual tag assigned), key or other resource as well as the receiving person (the person handing and receiving can be the same). Additionally, the generated report (e.g. once a day) indicates which keys were not returned, when they were collected and who handed them.
RFID tags are microchips that store and send data. Based on the principle of their operation, we can distinguish three types of the RFID tags: active, passive and battery-assisted passive. What distinguishes active RFID tags is their own power source, which supplies energy to the microprocessor system and the relay with the antenna. Passive RFID tags do not have their own power source, which implies weaker signal emitted by the antenna. Thus, the reading range is reduced (within half a meter). Passive RFID tags, however, are much cheaper and smaller in size than active RFID tags. The third type of RFID tags are semi-passive (battery-assisted passive) tags. The internal battery supplies only the microprocessor system, while the antenna is powered by the energy of the field emitted by the reader, as in the case of passive tags.
RFID tags have been used primarily to register entries and exits to the logistics park area. The combination of RFID technology and installed LPR cameras in the logistics park facilitates entry and exit to the site, preventing traffic jams at entering barriers. What is more, thanks to the integrated CAFM system it is possible to record all vehicles arriving in the park. The property manager has access to the report of all vehicles currently on the site, as well as those that were in the past. It is possible to obtain a full history of entries and exits from the beginning of the implementation of such software. In conclusion, thanks to this technology, car traffic becomes automated and streamlined, at the same time increasing safety and reducing the costs of physical protection in a logistics park.
The warehouse real estate market is one of the sectors in which IoT solutions can be successfully applied, providing thus additional value for the entire logistics park. An example of Logicor company and implemented technologies in logistic parks show that IoT sensors are not only the subject of subsequent articles, but also proof of real and effectively implemented technologies guaranteeing competitive advantage. The Polish company Velis Real Estate Tech is one of the leading companies providing such IoT solutions, automating and streamlining the management of logistics, commercial and industrial properties. Find out more about the products offered by Velis Real Estate Tech. Discover Singu FM – a mobile system using IoT sensors for commercial and industrial property management
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