Although the design of handheld scanners has rapidly improved since those early days, its costs have remained fairly high, and upfront investment is probably the major factor that has held back some in the industrial gas industry from adopting automated tracking systems.

Luckily, because other products have rapidly evolved in the broader consumer market, these days we now have devices that can rapidly scan barcodes, have all the same capabilities as rugged handhelds and then some, and are inexpensive to purchase or already exist in many people’s pockets. Those devices you already know, and probably already own: smartphones like iPhone and Android.

“Software for managing gas cylinders has continued to get easier to use and more accessible,” Tim Fusco, CEO and co-founder of TrackAbout said. “The biggest change has been the spread of smartphones to all employees combined with technology that allows us to use the smartphone camera to scan barcodes very quickly. Now all employees have a very good barcode scanner in their pocket, all the time.”

“It used to be that rugged scanning hardware made up 80% of the direct costs of a cylinder tracking project. There is still a place for dedicated rugged scanners, but smartphones and tablets have taken on many of the scanning roles and dramatically reduced the hardware costs.”

TrackAbout, based in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, provides cloud-based asset management software. With more than 20 years’ experience in providing cylinder tracking solutions to the gas distribution industry, TrackAbout has created a system that works in the real-world whilst making the user experience as simple as possible.

Another Pennsylvania-based company that has created technology for tracking packaged gases is Wise Telemetry. Founded by Eric Wise, the company has products that allow gas distributors to determine exactly how much gas is at each of their customers’ sites, and it also assists in planning delivery routes and quantities based on this data.

“We have seen the cost of electronic hardware fall dramatically in recent years, which has made packaged gas monitoring economically viable,” said Eric Wise, CEO and founder of Wise Telemetry. “In addition, the newer hardware is far more power efficient than its predecessors which means more devices can be powered with just a battery.”

The main technologies for tracking cylinders remain barcodes or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, but for Fusco, each one has its own positives and drawbacks. “Barcodes are simple and low-cost but require line-of-sight to scan, which requires a person to scan one…

… Read the rest of this article in gasworld Global Edition’s April issue. Smart Series: Packaged gas tracking technologies will also be published online, available from 1st April to subscribers only. 

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