With all of the new hype Apple has brought to the consumer asset tracking industry with the recent release of its AirTag tracking device, you may be wondering how this latest technology released from Apple impacts the 4th industrial revolution, alongside other industry 4.0 technologies, such as Link Labs’ AirFinder, which is aimed at asset tracking for the enterprise level.
The fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, uses IoT (Internet of Things) and IoS (Internet of Systems) to improve manufacturing using machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Although Apple AirTags may seem like an appealing product capable of scaling outside of consumer use, they are limited to being a consumer product geared towards expanding Apple customer engagement with their ecosystem. The tag design is attractive, but it is not suitable for an industrial environment. Here are four ways that the industrial environment will not be able to use Apple AirTags.
According to Apple, the CR2032 lithium battery can supposedly last a whole year before needing replacement. One of the first questions asset tracking users might ask is, With Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and Bluetooth, how do the batteries last so long? This is a fair question since most leading-edge UWB tags have batteries that only last a few days. Individual consumers will not be using these tags very often. The average consumer will only look for lost or misplaced items once every couple of weeks or months. However, consumer usages and industrial usages are not the same. Industrial tags are used anywhere from once a day to hundreds of times per day. Even though the CR2032 battery is available for purchase for as little as 99 cents, if you tried to use the AirTag for industrial purposes, the battery replacement and labor costs would make it costly to scale at an enterprise level.
Now let us compare the Apple AirTag to Link-Labs AirFinder. Link Labs’ tags use either the CR2032 (220mAh) or the CR2477 (1,000 mAh) battery. However, Link-Labs has patented a battery usage technology that reduces energy waste. So here is a hypothetical situation to illustrate the power of our technology. Let’s say your company chooses the CR2477, and you place it on the highest energy-consuming settings. If the AirFinder were used one hundred times per day, the minimum battery life would be five years vs. AirTag which would die within a week or less.
According to Apple, the number of AirTags that a consumer can pair with their cellphone is limitless. Although the Find My App can show the user a map with the approximate location of every tag simultaneously, the consumer is limited to only one cellphone or device. This limits tracking to one person as you are not able to track and share that information with other members of your family. In addition, the cellphone needs to be close to the AirTag to determine its exact location. Theoretically, some industries may be able to work around this limitation, but that would result in a much higher cost. Most industries, such as healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, etc., need the flexibility and scalability to locate several assets at a time across multiple devices.
Here is where AirFinder steps in. The user can determine the location of AirFinder tags on any web browser via mobile or desktop. Then managers in different buildings or sections of the same building can locate all their assets simultaneously. This means users have a map in their hands directing them toward the asset, along with other critical asset data such as temperature.
Another reason AirTags can last a whole year is the lack of sensors that monitor and analyze the asset's condition. The only thing Apple AirTags can do is locate the asset. This is by far the biggest reason that industrial environments will not benefit from AirTags.
With the Link Labs AirFinder, not only can you track your asset, you can use this information to analyze and make decisions. AirFinder also uses off-the-shelf tags that can have other sensors to monitor things like temperature, humidity, or carbon monoxide levels. AirFinder sensors will reduce labor costs and increase productivity across operational environments. With a BLE tag in your AirFinder network, you can easily aggregate data that will point to problems before they happen and give your managers the information they need to drive operational efficiencies with enterprise asset tracking.
The distance of Apple AirTags can be a misunderstood topic. As of right now, Apple has not come out with any real numbers. What we do know is that AirTags use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for communicating asset location. With BLE the maximum distance is 100 meters, and with UWB the maximum is 30 feet. That said, AirTags do not have to be within 100 meters to be located by your cellphone. If another Apple user is near the AirTag, the owner can see the location of their tag on the Find My App. The advantage for Apple is that they have over a billion iPhone users, which means this network increases the chances of finding your AirTag on the Find My App. Another factor to consider is indoor obstructions. For example, let us say that there is one wall in between your cellphone and the AirTag. BLE's distance reduces from 20 to 30 feet, and UWB reduces from 10 to 15 feet.
Although Link Lab tags predominantly use BLE, we offer SuperTags that can use GPS and WIFI to communicate over cellular. As long as there is a signal, users can track assets indoors and outdoors. That said, if you only want to track assets indoors, we offer access points as an alternative or expanded solution, which can give you up to sub-meter accuracy indoors.
Wrapping it Up
As stated earlier, the Apple AirTag was created for consumer use Technically, it would be possible to use them in an industrial setting, but managers would run into many limitations. Why not just go for a commercial tag designed for the 4.0 industry?
Learn more about the critical components of an asset tracking platform.
At Link Labs, we provide the best fit solution for your industry. If you would like to see for yourself how AirFinder works, request a demo today.