Logistics industry is technology-intensive. We get to see a range of emerging technologies under research and development phases every year and another set of technologies making their ways toward commercial availability. A slight retrospection of the decade reveals that a number of new areas for research emerged while others moved onto the commercialization phase. In essence, technology in logistics is constantly evolving.
This article shares some of the innovative technologies that are highly likely to make commercial availability on a limited or large scale in the logistics industry. Each of these technologies mainly falls in internet of things (IoT), extended reality, automation, blockchain and self-driving domains.
5G integration into IoT for Wearable Technology in Logistics
The cases of IoT in logistics and supply chain are now frequently coming up. Fleet managers can track the locations of each vehicle in real-time while warehouse managers can verify the authenticity of goods. Besides warehouse staff can also locate every item instantly and determine ahead of time when the supply of a product falls short or exceeds the required limit.
The upcoming year would further intensify the use of IoT since 5G is most likely to get commercialized. The speed of data transfer between transmitters and receivers would increase manifold while latency would reduce remarkably.
Improvement in speed and latency is inevitable now because real-time data information sharing is no longer a choice. Instead it is a compulsion for a range of reasons. The two most pressing reasons include:
- The US alone suffers from as much as $43 billion annually in food losses. There is an increased demand from regulators as well as retailers and consumers to place perishable items under real-time surveillance.
- Apart from food losses, supply chain leaves a huge carbon footprint. As the governments are pushing businesses to implement strict policy for reducing emissions, the businesses have no or little choice except complying with standards.
The number of logistics operators integrating IoT in fleet management systems is going to increase significantly in 2020. Businesses would be required to integrate sensors in fleet that monitor humidity, pressure and temperature and share the results with fleet managers in real-time.
Besides, the use of sensors identifying amount of emissions and the corresponding data sharing medium within a logistics management software would also witness a sharp hike. Each operator would eventually require publicly sharing data about emissions to democratize the entire logistics chain.
Robotic Process Automation for warehouse optimization
The use of QR codes and subsequently, RFID tags enabled warehouse managers to do away with the task of verifying each item manually. QR readers are extensively used in at warehouses and retail stores to confirm authenticity of a product.
Besides, QR readers also enable staff to find price of an item instantly. Scanning a unit having QR code with QR reader shares the results on a dedicated mobile app. This is helpful in multiple ways
- A store owner can remotely confirm if a product is available in sufficient quantity or not.
- The managers can tackle counterfeiting of products. Moreover, smart warehouse technology in logistics management also prevent expired or smuggled product units.
- Staff members of a store can locate a unit instantly.
- Warehouse managers can perform effective aggregate planning by ensuring that supply corresponds to demand.
Mob Inspire delivers field service management software customized to each operator’s needs. The software solution with its extensive range of robotic process automation tools eliminates the need to perform manual warehouse management. You can keep as little workforce as you wish by adding the amount of automation.
Blockchain Technology in Logistics for instant payment verification
The amount of time consumed in delivering a shipment from one part of the world to another is unnecessarily huge. Each shipment has to be verified for smuggling, payment verification, and counterfeiting by a number of stakeholders including manufacturers, warehouse owners, retailers, end consumers and regulators. Consequently, the cost of logistics also increases significantly apart from time.
Blockchain is widely regarded as the most viable solution for 2020 and beyond. All major fleet operators including MAERSK with its largest containership fleet are adopting blockchain. The effectiveness is not limited to fleet management. Blockchain based logistics management software is also causing a revolution in retail store management.
Two of the most noteworthy use cases of blockchain technology in logistics management include:
- Card-less Payment and Verification
- Retrospective Tracking of Goods
Payment through cash was already a thing of past. Blockchain enables you to move even a step ahead to eliminate centralized banking entirely. The decentralized banking through cryptocurrencies allows you to make payments through bitcoins. You can even have your own cryptocurrency if you intend so.
Apart from payments, logistics operators are successfully verifying payments through blockchain in a remarkably lesser time. The verification that took days in the past takes only a few seconds now. Besides, blockchain enables you to democratize transactions by allowing each stakeholder to have visibility of payment history in real-time.
Blockchain provides another strategy to track perishable goods. Each stakeholder can find the date of production and duration of travel for the unit being shipped. The involved parties have the access to entire history but none of them can forge or delete data since blockchain technology is immutable.
The tracking through blockchain is highly efficient in tackling the counterfeiting of drugs – one of the biggest challenges in global pharma industry today. Each block provides exact and immutable details of the origin of a drug to ensure that retailers do not accept consignment with counterfeited units.
The accumulative losses from delays in transportation, drug counterfeiting and foodborne diseases are of the order of several hundred billion dollars. Thus, blockchain based logistics management app solutions are inevitable for transportation and logistics industry.
The commercial framework for autonomous fleet in supply chain
Autonomous vehicles are rapidly becoming a norm. The year 2019 remained revolutionary with multiple operators launching level-3 self-driving vehicles. Apart from Tesla for private use, Uber and Waymo are utilizing autonomous vehicles for ridesharing purposes.
Although there are incidents involving crashes, yet the probability of an autonomous vehicle crash during a journey is very small relative to conventional vehicles. The number of miles traveled against that of crashes confirm this claim.
The encouraging results are pushing logistics fleet owners to introduce autonomous vehicles in supply chain too. Some of the sea-based and aerial logistics operator already have autonomous systems. However, a number of operators would introduce ground based autonomous fleet.
“Automated or self-driving vehicles are about to change the way we travel and connect with one another.”
Elaine Chao – U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Some large-scale logistics business managers are partially operating autopilot in vehicles. The autopilot technology in logistics is extensively used during intercity travels where traffic is minimal. The vehicles in the fleet are capable of applying brakes as soon as the leading vehicle applies brake.
This strategy is proving to be paying so well to research and development in fleet efficiency. The vehicles traveling at constant speed with calculated inter-vehicle distance ensure minimal air friction. Consequently, there is a considerable reduction in fuel consumption.
The commercialization of level-5 autonomy is highly unlikely to be on the cards anywhere before 2025, a number of businesses however would be introducing partial autonomy by the second half of 2020.
Extended reality to facilitate drivers and augment driving experience
Some of the major logistics service providers and vehicle manufacturers are introducing augmented reality features in vehicles for a highly immersive experience. The information including but not limited to weather update, cabin temperature, driving speeds, usual and unexpected blockades is now ubiquitous.
The fleet operators can also mark milestones virtually so that drivers would be able to see each labeled object and the corresponding information in real-time. Moreover, you may also provide real-time 3D navigation facility to drivers so that they find and traverse the most optimized route.
Google announced AR Maps earlier this year and launched what it calls Live View. This feature in Google Maps, still in its testing phases, is set to make widespread adoption in 2020.
Apart from enhancing driving experience, augmented reality technology is also enabling truck drivers to repair minor faults. The combination of wearable gadgets mainly AR glasses enables drivers to find the fault lines and take corrective measures.
Many logistics operators are starting to offer a selection of these AR features. DHL shares some of the use cases of augmented reality and wearable technology in logistics in this brief video.
Transportation industry has over 13.3 million employees in the US due to the repetitive jobs. Utilizing extended reality technologies effectively can save a huge volume of costs. Some glimpses from DHL indicate that businesses employing AR would make huge gains in 2020.
Logistics in 2020 – A Recap
Do you look forward to 2020 and beyond?
Logistics industry continues to evolve with innovative technologies. While AI, big data and IoT technologies are around for some years now, many new inventions and advancements including blockchain and 5G are setting feet deeper into delivery, logistics, and transportation.
Mob Inspire stands among the top technology solution providers and logistics app developers in the world with a range of digital solutions including field service management software, last-mile delivery solution, and logistics management.
Do you intend to optimize your logistics business or aim to launch one from scratch? Contact us today so that we can develop a feasibility study and provide you with a comprehensive business plan before moving on to development phase.