How IoT is Moving Logistics Forward
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been receiving a lot of airtime in almost every industry. It is a fundamental component of the digital revolution and is inextricably linked to a number of other technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning. However for now we are going to take a look at IoT – what is it, and what are the use cases within logistics, with a specific focus on how it is set to transform the industry.
What is it?
Let’s start at the beginning with a definition. Very simply, it is a network of physical devices. Take your fridge at home for example, that may have electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity embedded which allows it to connect to the internet and exchange data. Let us continue with the fridge example – why would you want your fridge connected to the internet? There are a few possibilities, but the obvious one is that the fridge is monitoring levels of food and drink it contains and when it gets below set parameters it either adds the item to your shopping list, or fires off an order straight to your retailer of choice.
One of the biggest issues within logistics is being unsure where shipments are. A lot of time is wasted calling around to find out where freight is at a particular point in time. This is a huge nuisance for freight forwarders in particular. However asset tracking has made this issue a thing of the past as rather than barcode technology which relied on the freight reaching a destination and being scanned, these tags can offer real time updates on the position of the cargo at all times. In the event there is a natural disaster such as a storm, there is no period of waiting to see if the freight makes it to port – it can be monitored on an ongoing basis so that the customer can be kept up to date. Tagging technologies include Bluetooth, GPS, and RFID. Paired with track and trace software it is incredibly powerful wherever the freight is on its journey.
Logistics businesses have a huge amount of vehicles on the road, at sea, and in the air at any one time. Keeping track of all of them can be difficult. This process can be made far more efficient with connected fleet management solutions. Utilising GPS and other tracking technologies they are able to pull real time data of the locations of each of the vehicles into a central place. Rather than having to check in manually with a driver/pilot/captain, the software can track the vehicle to the pre-agreed route and then raise alerts if there is a deviation. This can then either automatically notify the end customer of a delay or notify the client if they would prefer to try and intervene somehow. The intervention might be by redirecting another vehicle – again the software can be used for route planning.
IoT is already positively transforming the logistics industry and this widespread implementation is set to continue into 2018 and beyond. Paired with robust and intelligent software platforms, the opportunities for logistics businesses are huge.