IoT: Are you ready to embrace disruption?

First published in My Logistics Magazine

No matter what sector you work in, the chances are there’s some sort of disruption going on. Whether it’s caused by the meteoric rise of the sharing economy, the reach and dominance of big players such as Uber, Airbnb and Deliveroo or the big banks getting twitchy at the FinTech upstarts, everyone is feeling the pressure to innovate.

New processes and approaches to governance may be available to everyone but, unsurprisingly, it’s the big technological advances that get the most attention. For logistics, it’s the usual suspects of self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, drones and 3D printing that always seem to grab the headlines.

Yet innovation has been at the heart of our entire industry for decades. Companies have always known they need to change to remain relevant – what’s different now is the pace of that change. Over the past decade, it’s been accelerating exponentially.

Why? It really boils down to one thing or, to be precise, one Internet of Things (IoT). One global network of devices and objects that can connect with one another and exchange data. IoT is driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But given the internet has been long established, and connected devices have been around for even longer, why has it taken until now for IoT to be the catalyst for all this disruption?

Connectivity. Multiple options for exchanging data over cellular, satellite and Bluetooth which are accessible and straightforward to implement.

Chips and sensors. Huge advances in processing speeds, types of sensors and reduction in size allow chips and sensors to be embedded almost anywhere.

Affordability and prototyping. Where it may previously have been cost-prohibitive, the scope to deploy for certain technologies is now much wider. It has become possible to explore the potential of new tech by creating a quick prototype without investing huge amounts.

Asset tracking in logistics has always been vital, and IoT now gives us the opportunity to create huge efficiencies and reduce loss. Accurate location data allows goods to be delivered faster by reducing processing and storage times.

Solutions such as Pathfindr are behind a shift from asset tracking to asset intelligence, made possible by the ability to combine technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, mesh networking, optical recognition and RFID.

In turn, this shift to Asset Intelligence provides next generation insight. For example, embedding a range of sensors in tracking and monitoring hardware enables you to collect real time data on any environmental measure – from temperature to humidity, air quality to acidity.

Applications for this insight differ, depending on where you are in the supply chain, but the potential benefits for quality control and achieving guaranteed delivery deadlines are great.

Another benefit is the optimisation and smoothing of asset utilisation, ensuring you have the correct number of any duplicate fixtures and tools and they are receiving equal usage. It is also possible to provide predictive maintenance alerts, enabling correct servicing before any failure and loss of efficiency.

Complete, automated visibility throughout the entire supply chain was once too complex to contemplate. But IoT now makes this possible with affordable tracking and monitoring hardware that can be efficiently deployed and will communicate and integrate with multiple systems in disparate companies across the globe.

Everyone may be talking about disruption, but new tech actually offers smoother, more integrated logistics. It can be daunting, and you may not know where to start, but it’s vital to stay up to date with the opportunities created by smart technology. Aim to disrupt rather than be disrupted!