Real-time data tracking gains currency in transforming business operations

Futurists predict that we will soon live in a world where things will never get lost. Thanks to real-time information relying on GPS, Bluetooth, RFID, and the internet, it is becoming easier to keep track of things – or find them if they ever get lost – and this increased visibility has been a boon for organizations.

In our day-to-day life, we are already reaping the fruits of such real-time visibility. Take Uber for example: A pioneer that popularized the idea that a sharing economy is extremely efficient in producing and analyzing real-time traffic data, and based on which, is able to quickly adjust to booking demands by placing more or fewer cars in an area. Similarly, the Google-owned navigation service Waze relies heavily on real-time, user-generated traffic data, such as accidents or traffic jams on the road, so they can give users the fastest possible route to their destinations.

The concept of real-time processing is relatively new in the computer world; its predecessor was batch processing, by which businesses needed to wait until the end of each month to collect and count their receipts. Real-time processing has dramatically changed the way enterprises operate and significantly reduced the time it takes for decision-makers to get access to operational data, analyze them, and make more astute decisions in real-time. In other words, the processing and analysis can happen simultaneously, turning organizations into methodical machines that are agile to respond swiftly to market and operational needs. The real-time visibility allows enterprises to know where their inventory, people and equipment are at any time, allowing them to deliver faster to customers and ensure that the right amount of inventory is maintained where it is needed most.


Drivers for businesses to adopt real-time data collection
Just a few years ago, Big Data didn’t even exist. Most data generated in the past had been, by current standards, smattering. Today, data is measured in terabytes (trillions) and petabytes (quadrillions); several years down the road, even those numbers would seem small especially as more organizations look to adopt the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, in Zebra’s recently released Warehouse 2020 Vision Study, 72% of respondents polled said they plan to adopt IoT technologies by 2020 and 60% also said they will be investing more in analytics.
The staggering amount of data available will provide visibility to organizations, which can bring about more accurate analysis and predictions that were once impossible.

With this growth, it is fitting that a new industry category has emerged known as Enterprise Asset Intelligence. It harnesses the three megatrends that are currently driving the enterprise IT space: the Internet of Things (IoT), enterprise mobility, and cloud computing. Using a combination of connected mobile devices, scanners, sensors, and wireless connectivity, organizations are able to embrace real-time data in their operations.


The trends propelling Enterprise Asset Intelligence
Tags – barcodes or RFID – can be affixed to anything, from wine bottles to NFL players’ shoulder pads to the pockets of villains – as seen in the latest installment of the Jason Bourne movie. These tags give a digital voice to objects that are otherwise unable to connect in real time to the network.

Mobile devices, including smartphones and handheld computers used in an enterprise environment, can read information encoded on these tags, and send them wirelessly to a database or electronic management system over the network. This wireless web of devices is essentially IoT in one of its most basic forms.

The use of mobile scanners and devices reduces the reliance on the traditional pen-and-paper process which is prone to errors due to poor handwriting or inaccurate data entry. The data is also available instantaneously and can be analyzed in real time, increasing productivity and agility to respond to any operational changes quickly.

Cloud computing is another indispensable component for yielding massive amount of information and increasing operational visibility. It is not only about building data centers and computing resources on demand, but also about aggregating data captured by the sensors, managing real-time analytics, and converting them into immediately actionable business insights. At the same time, enterprises do not need to deploy costly and complicated servers and wireless controllers at all its locations, but can instead connect multiple remote locations to a single corporate network by connecting each location over a wireless cloud controller.

Here are some simple real-life examples how such immense visibility can be achieved by adopting Enterprise Asset Intelligence.

In a warehouse, staff use RFID and barcode tags to track a product’s exact location. Imagine a mammoth warehouse which thousands of products call home, knowing where exactly something is located becomes the very foundation of an efficient warehouse.

In the retail industry, more than 70% of shoppers are known to use their smartphones to do research inside a brick-and-mortar retail store before making a purchase. However, research also shows that at least 66% of them report not finding the information they need. This could directly impact sales in a negative way. Today, with in-store networks and data analytic systems, retailers are able to tap into a smartphone’s Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology, and engage in highly customized and personalized interactions with their customers, improving their shopping experience and forging loyal customers.

Enterprise Asset Intelligence is making transformations in the healthcare sector. With barcoded wristbands embedding patient and drug information, caregivers are enabled to identify the patients accurately and administer the drugs safely. In addition, locationing technology is able to inform medical teams immediately when a patient slips, falls or needs urgent care, find a clinician in the moment of need, and shorten the time needed to search for an essential piece of medical equipment.

Having optimal visibility into an organization’s operations is what business leaders have been yearning to have for years. With the increasing amount of data generated and collected, enterprises are now able to gain greater visibility that was unheard of before. By utilizing technologies that enable real-time data analytics and insights, organizations are able to achieve tangible increments in productivity and efficiency, subsequently making a real difference in their day-to-day operations and their bottom lines.

To find out more about how Enterprise Asset Intelligence can offer visibility that’s visionary, visit Zebra’s website.

(The article is authored by Ryan Goh, Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific, Zebra Technologies)