Source: James Song
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a system of internet-connected objects that collect and transfer data over a wireless network without human intervention. Whilst its application spans multiple industries, in this blog I unpack highlight the importance of IoT to the supply chain and logistics.
What is it?
Simply put, IoT is taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet. It promises to completely change the way that we communicate and interact with the world around us, allowing devices to become smart i.e to send or receive information, or both.
There are 3 types of IoT:
1) Things that collect information and then send it.
Sensors that allow us to gather data (e.g temperature, movement) and make intelligent decisions
2) Things that receive information and then act on it.
As consumers we are so used to this form that we often take it for granted. e.g machines such as printers
3) Things that do both.
The most sophisticated IoT applications allow objects to send and receive information, autonomously making intelligent decisions based on the data. A good example can be seen in modern farming. Sensors can collect information about the soil moisture indicating to the farmer whether crops need to be watered. However, instead of a farmer, the interconnected irrigation system can automatically turn on.
Trends in IoT/History
The variety of IoT’s applications stretches from smart homes and cities to connected cars and drones. The drop in sensor costs has driven adoption of the technology not only across different industries but also democratised its application across different geographies. The average price of an IoT sensor has declined from $1.30 in 2004 to $0.44 in 2018. This is great news for developing economies which have benefited from the increased accessibility and affordability. For me, the technology’s most exciting impact is in addressing clean water distribution. Simple sensors have allowed millions to access clean water from a network of water quality sensors in Bangladesh to pump and water flow performance sensors in Kenya.
IoT in the Supply Chain and Logistics
We no longer live in a time world where moving goods from A to B is enough. Due to increased competition and multiple challenges, in recent times the Amazon effect and COVID pandemic, companies that involve logistics from food retailers to ecommerce must offer speed, visibility and quality.
Whether you’re a company operating in the first mile or the last, planning and managing the flow of raw materials and finished goods can often present complex challenges. It’s common for materials to be improperly shipped and stored which can damage goods. On top of that, the sheer size of large operations can lead to inefficiencies in a manufacturing warehouse or distribution centre.
For logistics companies themselves, success lies in efficient inventory management and warehousing, automation of internal business processes, fast delivery and taking care of safe storage and quality of goods.
The top use cases of IoT for Logistics:
Location Tracking and Management
IoT can create a smart location management system that will enable companies to easily track driver activities, vehicle location, and delivery status. All changes are instantly detected and reflected in real time. An exciting emerging startup is Sensolus which tracks non-powered assets such as pallets and manufacturing parts. Their IoT solution adds end to end visibility improving processes and reducing costs.
Inventory Tracking and Warehousing
Small inexpensive sensors in warehouses creates an interconnected system which allows companies to easily track inventory, monitor their status and position. IoT here also minimises human error improving overall efficiency.Monolets is creating a high density, real time network of disposable labels which can be applied in the warehouse. Their latest innovation allows sensors to be connected in the 1000s rather than the 10s. In a world where interconnectivity equals efficiency and profit their solution is an exciting one.
In logistics predictive analytics helps companies improve their decision-making process, gain smart business insights & manage risks. Paired with IoT which generates huge quantities of data predictive analytics can be used for route and delivery planning to identifying the lifespan of machinery. Berlin-based AiSight has developed a sensor for machines that collects data and can detect failures in in machines and time to failure to 95% accuracy. Applied to a network of machines the cost savings and efficiency gains are huge.
In the not so distant future self-driving vehicles and drone-based delivery promises to push the boundaries of what IoT can achieve in logistics. Companies such as Freightwaves (driverless middle-mile delivery) andWing Aviation (urban delivery service by drone) are just a couple of examples of where the future is already becoming a reality.
The increased connectivity that IoT brings will definitely make our lives as consumers more convenient and comfortable (from smart homes to connected cars). That is if you are unlike me and are not cynical of how big corporations collect and use our data. However, IoT’s biggest impact will be seen in industry — it’s efficiency gains are undeniable. As mentioned throughout, startups have already identified the biggest pain points across the supply chain and begun to crowd the market using IoT solutions. Amplifier is excited to see how startups in this space differentiate themselves, which specific problems they aim to solve and their scalability across geographies.
WND UK, is the UK #0G secure sensor data network operator, powered by Sigfox. The public network, which was deployed in a period of just 18 months, covers over 90% of the UK’s population. WND is now continuing to strengthen our network through densification and by working with channel partners to achieve deep in-building coverage where required.
Sigfox is the world’s first global dedicated low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) communications service for sensor data, typically deployed in Internet of Things (IoT) applications. WND UK’s network solution provides reliable and affordable communications for sensor devices that require very little power.
WND UK’s growing ecosystem of channel partners operate across a broad range of industry sectors providing a range of applications, such as the monitoring of legionella in healthcare and public sector buildings, automated meter readings for utilities, property technology, leak detection and asset management within logistical, returnable packaging and post and parcel sectors. Learn more: WND Technology Overview