How IoT is Transforming the Logistics Industry

May 15, 2015

According to a report published by DHL and Cisco, the Internet of Things will help to generate $1.9 trillion in economic value for the supply chain and logistics industry over the next 10 years. One element that makes up the Internet of Things is incorporating sensors into physical objects or spaces to deliver intelligence, remote control and other benefits.

One example of this in action comes from Saia, a freight firm based in the US with over 3,000 trucks. Saia worked with Intel to deploy Internet-enabled technology with sensors into its fleet.

In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Saia’s VP of Transportation unveiled that, with the increase in process intelligence in real-time, the initiative has led to a 6% increase in fuel efficiency, which translated to $15 million in savings for Saia. In addition to the cost savings, Saia has been able to track maintenance needs, driver safety, fuel usage as well as other metrics in real-time.

As covered in our recent white paper about mobility in logistics, the use of sensors is not new to the logistics industry. From the introduction of handheld scanners to digitalise the delivery process, to multiple sensors to monitor truck delivery performance; innovative technology has been used in logistics to make processes easier. With continuous development, smart sensors have the ability to collect data including moisture, gas and temperature, so the technology can be applied to the entire logistics and transportations process. This includes warehouse operations, freight transportation and last-mile delivery.

DHL and Cisco’s trend report describes IoT as fundamentally about “Sensing and Sense-making”. Sensing is the monitoring of different assets within the supply chain; and sense making is analysing the data collected and understanding the information to drive intelligent solutions.

For us, beacon technology has great potential in this space. Beacons could be used in the entire logistics cycle, from picking and packing in the warehouse through to loading the vehicle and the delivery process. Beacons can be used to detect how long an employee has been in an area and employee activity on-site and out in-the-field. With this information, senior management can analyse how time is being spent during the day and have a better understanding of how to make operations more efficient.

Beyond location awareness, we are starting to see beacons becoming even smarter. Integrated with other sensors, beacons can start to detect environmental metrics such as gas, temperature and moisture. For example, by introducing temperature sensors into freight containers or delivery trucks, employees can use their mobile devices to track and monitor environmental conditions. Stock can then be monitored to ensure it arrives in the right condition, or appropriate live action can be taken if necessary.

However when thinking about leveraging IoT into their process, companies need to think beyond its use in silos. To take full advantage of the Internet of Things, companies should think about how these use cases can be integrated across multiple stages of the supply chain.

In order to do this an intelligent network will need to be in place to monitor how these sensors work and how they interact with each other to provide a seamless experience.

To find out more on how mobile and smart sensors can transform your logistics company click here to read our ‘Mobile and Logistics, the strive for competitive advantage’ white paper.

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