Logistics at a new level: How Internet of things will help make transportation smart?

Many problems in logistics are related to the human factor and the operation of vehicles. Inappropriate use and standstill of equipment, spoilage and loss of goods ultimately affect the price, which means — on customer satisfaction, because no one needs low-quality and expensive goods. How will new technologies help solve this problem?

The Internet of Things (IoT) can reduce logistics costs and cargo delays along the way, increasing the transparency of operations and minimizing human involvement in the processes. By itself, the technology of tracking the movement of goods is not new. Logistics and shipping companies have long used barcode scanners for this. But with the advent of IoT, technology quickly became obsolete, because scanners made it possible to collect data only on the type of cargo transported, but did not track its location and current status.


Where is it used?

In addition, earlier machines were controlled by humans and could not interact with each other. For example, the truck transported goods without receiving or transmitting information. Thanks to IoT technology, it can warn a manager or warehouse worker about problems and help save space in the warehouse. The point is the data that is accumulated and analyzed on each device. On their basis, the machine «gives advice.» This increases the effectiveness of management decisions in the organization.

All this explains the business interest in IoT. According to a global survey by GT Nexus and Capgemini, more than 70% of retailers and manufacturing companies have already begun implementing IoT technology in their supply chain and logistics operations.

American IT giant Cisco, together with DHL, estimated in 2015 that IoT in logistics at the global level has a potential of $1.9 trillion.

The data was obtained from an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of technology and the opportunities that arise when connecting new devices (joint report of DHL and Cisco, 2015).

Variety of solutions

Now on the market there are several new technologies that have already significantly affected the work of logistics companies:

  1. Active and passive RFID tags that provide data scanning from any objects. Passive tags have an antenna and a built-in microchip for storing information. The power source for them is a reader. They are cheaper, but their range is small — about 3 m. The active RFID tags have a built-in battery and additional sensors. Accordingly, they do not need an additional power source, and the radius of action can reach 500 m. They are easier to read, but they also cost more. Labels of both types are quite common. At the warehouse, they allow for the traceability of goods and the transparency (and, therefore, improvement) of processes. In addition, by providing real-time information, the principles of FIFO and JIT are implemented.
  2. Bluetooth tags and beacons are used in retail stores to track customer traffic. The range of this technology is higher than that of RFID. Bluetooth Low Energy beacons have also been developed, featuring lower power consumption than traditional Bluetooth.
  3. NFC technology based on the RFID standard. In everyday life, NFC is used, for example, to make payments using a smartphone. And in the warehouse, workers can use their mobile devices as scanners for NFC tags. This is the advantage of this communication standard over RFID tags, which require a special reader. Of all these solutions, NFC has the smallest radius of action — about 10 cm. However, due to this, data security is better ensured compared to, for example, Bluetooth, since it is easier to steal information from a distance. Nevertheless, so far this technology is mainly spoken about in the context of contactless payments, locks, electronic tickets and business cards that independently transmit information. Examples for logistics include humidity and temperature sensors in the warehouse.
  4. LPWAN — Long Range Energy Efficient Wireless Networks. Already from the name you can understand the main advantages: low energy consumption and long range (up to 40-50 km). This technology allows you to track loads, transmitting information from multiple sensors.
  5. Satellite communication, which collects data on the location of an object almost anywhere in the world. It especially helps when tracking goods in dangerous areas, as well as in places where there is no cellular communication.

The same technology related to Internet of things can be applied in completely different fields: from agriculture to medicine. IoT systems consist of several components, which at the lower level are represented by the simplest sensors for data collection, and at the top — software (platform), which collects and processes the received information, allowing the user to control the entire system.

Fleet under control

The ability to control the movement of any vehicles with an accuracy of a meter significantly changed the work of logisticians. IoT made it possible to automate the process of flight planning, ticket management and performance control.

The software platform collects and analyzes data from GPS trackers in real time. The information obtained gives an idea of ​​the cost structure and allows you to identify “bottlenecks” for further cost optimization. The manager controls not only the cars, but also the actions of the drivers. They can no longer change the established route and go about their business.

According to BI Intelligence analysts, by 2020, there will be 180 million units of commercial vehicles connected to Internet of things platforms in North America. This includes three methods of operating cars: long-distance cargo delivery, transportation of people from one point to another, and corporate transport for transporting company employees.

The future is near

The versatility of technology has allowed developers to create platform cloud solutions that can be customized for any task.

Now there are many examples of the application of smart technologies in the field of logistics. One of the most obvious is AliExpress. She introduced robots in her warehouse that transport the packages themselves and deliver them where necessary.

At the same time, Cisco has developed a system for tracking objects in warehouses using RFID tags. They are placed on all goods, and a reader is installed on the loader. The loader operator sees on the tablet the path of the warehouse and the exact location of the necessary cargo. Such technologies can significantly save time searching for goods in the warehouse and create new business models based on the prompt delivery of goods.

In Taiwan, Tibbo, together with Axis, is implementing a management project for warehouse robots that move along dedicated tracks and deliver goods from the unloading location to the storage location. “The platform routes all commands and events between stations and robots. About the same technology was introduced by Amazon in its warehouses, but on a larger scale. «

Another promising area related to logistics is the delivery of goods and goods in compliance with specified storage and transportation modes.

Here, Internet of things technology and the industrial Internet platform help build the entire chain in such a way as to reduce losses to a minimum.