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Serial Number

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Serial Numbers Aren't Unique

Serial numbers across an asset fleet cannot be guaranteed to be unique. Fleets contain assets from different manufacturers, and there's no guarantee there won't be overlap. This makes serial numbers a terrible choice on which to build an asset tracking system. TrackAbout has seen accounts where up to 5% of the asset fleet had duplicate serial numbers. For this reason, TrackAbout relies on guaranteed-unique tag numbers and not serial numbers.

Serial numbers in TrackAbout have always been considered a cross reference number. They can be useful to identify an asset if the asset tag is lost or damaged. But they shouldn't be relied upon heavily.

TrackAbout has always assumed serial numbers would NOT be accurately recorded by humans adding assets to the system. Ask two people to Add New the same asset, and they'll type in different serial numbers because of this. Is it a letter O or number 0? A dash or an underline? Depending on the serial number's font, size and condition, the characters can be ambiguous and lead to bad data.

Scrubbing on the way in

We made a design decision long, long ago to "scrub" serial numbers as they enter TrackAbout, to eliminate ambiguities. The rules are fairly simple:

  • All letter "O"s are converted to zeroes.
  • We strip out all special characters, like dollar signs and underscores. Anything that's not a number or letter gets stripped out. That's how the data gets stored in the database.
    • Please note that dashes are currently excluded from scrubbing - they will remain in the serial number.

When done reliably at every point where a serial number can enter the system, this practice solves some of the problems with human serial number data collection.

Validation Patterns

Patterns can be configured in TrackAbout to prevent entering invalid serial numbers. Sometimes there are many numbers on an asset, and the user types in the wrong one. For example, a rule can be configured to reject serial numbers that start with "DOT", as this will be an asset's DOT classification and not the serial number.

Only Collect Serial Numbers Based on Asset Type

Serial number collection rules can be configured so users are prompted to enter the S/N only for specific asset types or product codes.

For most assets, the serial number should be collected if available. It's a valuable cross reference number if the tag is damaged. But for some classes of inexpensive assets, it may not be worth the time to collect a serial number, or one might not exist.