Choosing the Right Tracking Device for your Returnable Assets

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Navigating the maze of technology to track your returnable assets can be daunting. With a plethora of options varying in performance, cost, and automation levels, it's crucial to cut through the technical jargon to find the best fit for your needs. We've distilled the essentials into plain English to help you and your team make an informed decision.

Barcode & QR Code Systems

At their core, barcodes and QR codes are straightforward: they involve attaching a scannable sticker to an asset. Scanning these codes with a mobile phone or designated scanner updates the asset's location in your software system. While cost-effective and simple to implement, these systems require manual scanning, which can introduce human error and delay processes, potentially increasing costs and complicating user adoption.


RFID technology, familiar to anyone who's triggered an alarm walking out of a store, offers a more automated tracking solution. These systems use electromagnetic waves to communicate between a reader and a tag. With RFID, especially the ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags, you can achieve a read range of 1-10 meters. However, the cost of RFID infrastructure and its effectiveness across various locations can be limiting factors, though RFID's ability to scan in batches and its lower per-unit cost make it an appealing option for many.


NFC stands out for its short-range communication capabilities, allowing assets to be tracked with a simple tap from a smartphone. This technology, underpinning services like Apple Pay and Google Pay, offers a more durable alternative to QR and barcode systems. NFC tags can withstand harsh conditions without losing functionality, making them suitable for assets that face wear and tear.

GPS and Communication Technologies

GPS technology provides precise location tracking through satellite communication. When paired with communication technologies like Sigfox, LoRa, NB-IoT, or cellular networks, GPS can offer detailed location data. However, the higher cost and maintenance requirements of GPS devices, including their battery life, can make them less viable for tracking lower-value assets like kegs, pallets, and crates.

Bluetooth, WiFi & UWB

Bluetooth and WiFi tracking systems promise high accuracy, sometimes even below 5 meters, by using "access points" akin to satellites. UWB (Ultra-Wideband) technology can offer even more precise tracking, up to less than a foot in accuracy. Despite their effectiveness, these technologies come with high upfront costs and ongoing charges, making them less suitable for everyday asset tracking.


No single tracking technology offers a perfect solution; each comes with its own set of trade-offs between cost, automation, and accuracy. At Tracworx, we strive to balance these factors, reducing the need for compromises. We invite you to explore our approach further on our blog and website, where we're happy to demonstrate our system in action and help you find the best tracking solution for your returnable assets.

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