Industry Insights

Preventing Loss & Theft With Indoor Positioning Systems

Business Explanation, Key Questions, and Example IoT Use Cases for Hospital and Industrial Equipment Management

Calum McClelland
July 7, 2020

In my article What is Indoor Positioning?, we looked at Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) from a business perspective and identified the following four fundamental applications of indoor positioning:

  1. Finding: The ability to know where a given thing/person is in real-time, so you can go find it/them
  2. Tracking: The ability to gain insight into how things/people move through a process, so you can identify bottlenecks and/or improve customer service.
  3. Preventing: The ability to trigger alerts when things enter/leave certain areas, so you can prevent loss and theft.
  4. Measuring: The ability to gain insight into how things/spaces are being used, so you can ensure compliance with laws and/or optimize how those things/spaces are use.

In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into tracking things and people, with a business explanation, key questions you should ask, and example IoT use cases that include finding medical equipment in hospitals and finding parts in factories.

This series is focused on the business perspective for indoor positioning systems. If you’re interested in the different technical approaches and how they work for indoor positioning, check out this excellent Indoor Positioning eBook.

Business Explanation: Preventing Loss & Theft With Indoor Positioning Systems

The loss and outright theft of assets represents a substantial cost to businesses, with theft in the U.S. estimated at $50 billion per year. The majority of that $50 billion can be attributed to non-physical theft, such as funds theft and check fraud, but the loss and theft of physical assets represents a significant challenge to businesses. How significant is hard to say, because lost assets have an unknown fate.

Lost and/or stolen assets have direct financial impact, leads to lost productivity spent searching for or replacing assets, and potential risks to business security and confidential data. But preventing loss and theft is difficult. Some businesses try to reduce loss and theft by manually logging/registering assets, conducting training, using labels on assets, installing fences and locks, installing security cameras, and more. Other businesses, particularly smaller businesses, don’t have any systems in place. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Indoor positioning systems can enable your business to automatically trigger alerts when assets enter or leave designated areas. You can get notified when assets are being stolen and when assets are simply being put in the wrong places. Even when you’re too late to prevent the loss/theft, knowing where the asset was last can give you crucial insights to enable you to prevent future loss/theft of a similar kind.

Key Questions: Preventing Loss & Theft With Indoor Positioning Systems

To help determine the right technological approach for your specific needs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you primarily concerned with loss or with theft? Preventing loss can be more difficult than preventing theft in some cases, because an asset might become lost within a building. It can therefore be less infrastructure to simply trigger alerts for when assets leave a building.
  • Does differentiating between particular areas within a building matter? For example, you might want to prevent equipment from leaving a particular floor within a building, so you can ensure that each floor has the equipment it needs. An IPS that enables this ability will need to be more accurate with its indoor positioning.
  • Do you need tracking beyond your facilities? If assets get lost/stolen, your insight into the location of your assets may end at your walls. If it’s important to know the location of assets beyond your facilities, you may need GPS tracking to supplement the IPS solution.
  • What is the cost of your assets being lost/stolen? Additionally, how likely are your things to be lost/stolen? Many indoor positioning systems will have a per-asset cost structure, so understanding how much money you can expect to save per asset will help evaluate the investment in an IPS.

Example IoT Use Cases: Preventing Loss & Theft With Indoor Positioning Systems

#1 Preventing Theft of Forklifts

Forklifts are crucial in construction, warehousing, logistics, materials handling, and in many more domains. Forklifts are also a high theft item with ~350 forklifts are reported stolen in the US per year. Forklifts are commonly stolen to be resold whole, to be resold for parts, or to be used in other criminal endeavors like ATM theft. To reduce theft, forklift owners install surveillance systems, keep forklifts in secure storage areas, and register their forklifts, but these methods only act as passive deterrence.

Forklifts are high value assets (up to $100K for some forklifts) and theft is a greater concern than loss. Differentiating between particular areas within a building doesn’t matter, the important thing is to know when the forklift leaves the building. Tracking beyond the facilities would be helpful for dispatching police and recovering the forklift. Therefore, an indoor positioning solution that triggers alerts when forklifts leave the building then provides outdoor positioning via GPS would be ideal.

#2 Preventing Loss of Medical Equipment in Hospitals

IV pumps, beds, EKG machines, and other medical equipment routinely get stolen or go missing and cost hospitals millions of dollars to replace. Because medical equipment can be difficult to find, nurses sometimes hide IV pumps or other medical equipment in closets to make sure they know where to find it, which makes the problem even worse. Inventory management solutions can be intensely manual and prone to human error.

Both theft and loss are concerns for medical equipment. Loss is the greater concern since hospitals can have multiple floors and even multiple buildings, so it’s therefore important to know where medical equipment is within a given building. It’s also important to differentiate between particular areas, for example medical equipment used in an infectious area shouldn’t be taken into other areas of the hospital. Though these capabilities are more costly, the high cost of lost medical equipment (to both the hospital's budget and to the care of patients), makes the investment worth it.

Check Out the Other Indoor Positioning Applications

We just covered one of the four applications for indoor positioning systems in this article, check out the others for business explanations, key questions you should ask, and example IoT use cases for each:

  1. Finding Things & People with Indoor Positioning Systems
  2. Tracking Things & People with Indoor Positioning Systems
  3. Preventing Loss & Theft with Indoor Positioning Systems
  4. Measuring Occupancy with Indoor Positioning Systems

Calum McClelland

Chief Operating Officer

Calum graduated from Brown University with a major in Philosophy. Striving to change himself and the world for the better, Calum values active living, life-long learning, and keeping an open mind.

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