Take 10 minutes out with Ian Athersmith, Technical Director at Assettrac. Athersmith introduces Assetrac to readers, and gives his take on the hot topics cylinder tracking industry at the moment.
He also explains his vision of the future in tracking-based applications, as well as why the Maldives was the last stamp in his passport.
Thanks for taking 10 minutes out with gasworld. What have we interrupted in your schedule today?
I’m actually aboard a narrow boat in Warwickshire, enjoying a few days off!
For our readers that may be unfamiliar with Assettrac, perhaps you could tell us a little about the company?
The company was formed in 1999 with a view to providing a one-stop shop for physical asset tracking. We wanted to provide all four parts of an asset tracking system: scanners, tags, software, as well as an on-site asset discovery service where we have an on-site team to tag and log all types of equipment for the client to manage thereafter.
We have since expanded our offerings though and we also now get involved with consultancy and project management, meaning our asset management software can be tailored to specific requirements depending on circumstance and environment.
What’s hot in the cylinder tracking industry right now?
We have a lot of high-profile customers who use our software for tracking portable gas cylinders, including Air Liquide (Medical) and National Refrigerants of America.
At the moment, lost cylinders and third party returns are the most common problems that keep cropping up in the industry. We have developed our software so that it now allows for wholesalers and distributors to share the same tracking data, meaning when the wholesaler delivers or collects cylinders from a distributor or customer, both the main database and the customer’s database are updated with the location information. This sharing of tracking data almost completely eliminates lost cylinders and records third party returns, with the effect being big cost savings all round.
The data also allows for accurate invoicing and can be ‘mined’ for a whole host of useful information in the future.
What do you think the future of tracking-based applications is?
I believe the next logical progression in physical asset tracking is the application of IoT (The Internet of Things). All gas cylinder tracking today is achieved via either radio frequency identification (RFID) or barcodes and quick response (QR) codes. However, these technologies are passive and physical scanning of the tags is required each time the cylinders are moved. IoT promises active tracking where cylinders can ‘report in’ on a regular basis.
The technology is not quite there yet though – IoT requires power, unlike a passive RFID chip or a barcode, and better battery technology is needed to make this feasible, as well as reductions in cost of the hardware. In reality, I believe it will be another three to five years before we will see affordable active tracking for gas cylinders.
What was the last book you read?
I’m a big fan of near-future science fiction and I’m currently reading a trilogy by Linda Nagata called ‘The Red Trilogy.’ I’m now on the final book in the series – ‘Going Dark.’
What’s the last stamp in your passport?
The last stamp in my passport is for the Maldives. I went in November last year for an enjoyable, relaxing holiday.
What’s next for Assettrac?
In a word – growth. We have a well-tested and reliable tracking system which we will continue to develop with the help of our loyal customer base.