Four Best Practices for Adding Connectivity to Workplace Tools

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3Q 2022 | IN-6600

Many things are being dubbed as smart products, purely based on the fact that an element of connectivity has been added. Though for some specific use cases, such as asset tracking—especially for objects that may not necessarily require any additional layers other than the ability to track its location—does adding the ability to track its location make it a smart object?

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If Connectivity Is an Add-on, How Smart Is the Device?


Most “things”—if not every type of “thing”—can have a connectivity element added to them, such as a sensor with an embedded module or a Short-Range Wireless (SRW) device, to make them be connected; however, it does not mean that this will make the “thing” actively smart. As the Internet of Things (IoT) has seen ginormous growth with more and more devices being connected, there’s the assumption that this connectivity element makes the item smart. Another element of this discussion includes this question: if the connectivity enables tracking the asset, does this make the item a smart item or merely a connected item? An example of this is power tools. There are solutions available that have tags added to power tools that house a connectivity device inside to enable tracking the location of the power tool. To some, this may make the power tool “smart,” but realistically, this is just an asset tracking solution for the power tool.

Why Make Working Tools Smart?


There are four key factors to consider as to why a business would want to incorporate IoT connectivity in their working tools and to consider prior to doing so.

  1. Quality Control Capabilities: Incorporating IoT connectivity and making a working tool smart enables more efficient quality controls to take place, which is a critical function in the manufacturing business. IoT connectivity enables users to ensure their tools are set specifically for the task at hand and can receive and send data, ensuring that tasks were completed according to the given requirements and ensuring quality assurance.
  2. Location for Security Capabilities: Integrating IoT connectivity can also be useful for ensuring the security of the tools, regardless of that being on a construction site or in an industrial setting. Though integrating the IoT connectivity can deliver these capabilities, there are other options, such as adding a tag onto the tools, such as the Milwaukee ONE-KEY Bluetooth tracking tag. In this instance, it is well suited for shorter-range business requirements, but there are gaps in this tool security model, as the user or manager can only monitor the tool’s location where the wireless range reaches within the given parameters.
  3. Connectivity Choice: Determining what level and parameter of connection the user requires will make the decision regarding which technology to look for in the solution that they are applying to their business. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a more expensive option, but it is best suited for those tools with higher value, especially for the location capabilities, with the global infrastructure in place enabling complete visibility of their location in the event of theft.
  4. Platform: A platform needs to be available so that the data that are pulled from the tool can be in one place. An example is Stanley Black and Decker’s Seebo platform, including tool durability, worker safety, and worker productivity.

In some instances, the data received from an asset tracking solution are sufficient for the market in which they are being applied; for example, asset tracking is very important for larger and more expensive assets. Although different technologies are available, a Global Positioning System (GPS) is one option for achieving more efficient tracking, especially for more expensive assets. While these solutions may not enable the item they are tracking to be considered smart, they do address certain business concerns.

Connected or Smart, the Benefits Still Reside


It is important that solution providers and manufacturers market their offerings correctly. There is nothing wrong with offering a connected device; however, some businesses will be looking for devices that are more than just connected, such as those with location tracking capabilities, which can be achieved by adding a sensor or placing a device on the actual asset that an individual is trying to locate.

If adding connectivity to any device or thing makes that thing automatically smart, then the IoT will not be as miraculous for businesses as it currently is touted as being. The main objective of companies wishing to make a specific product smart is to be able to offer solutions to address the vast amount of difficulties that businesses face in a wide range of different market verticals. Though in some specific markets, adding a sensor to an item, in a plug-and-play manner, does make the item smart due to that sensor’s ability to send and receive data, this is not always the case. An example, in this instance, is the use of sensors that are added to streetlight systems. These sensors enable the controllers to manage the lights for maintenance purposes and to achieve the most efficient running cycles, ensuring that cities or private sectors can run the streetlights in the most efficient manner.

Regardless of how the item is made smart, be that with the use of an additional connectivity tag or by integrating it, there are still benefits to simply having a connected device, rather than a smart one. They are both options that offer solutions to problems that businesses may face, although it is important to establish that even though they come as a pair, connected doesn’t necessarily means smart.