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In the world of supply chain logistics, many view this chain as a black hole, meaning they have no visibility concerning the status of their goods while in transit. They are completely in the dark with regards to the status and location of the shipment. The goods ship and then arrive. But what happens in between is largely unknown. The duration between the ship date and the arrival date can vary dramatically so predictability for the timely access to the goods is unclear too. One time taking days, another time it is weeks, and yet another time, it takes months. It is chaotic.  And, impossible to manage.

With business demanding precision and project schedules so tightly interwoven amongst many vendors all coordinating their work efforts aimed at a simultaneous due date, this logistical challenge can upset even the best run companies.

This problem can be resolved with the visibility provided by the new role evolving for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the logistics industry.

There are many modes of transportation, waypoints, and shipping systems for goods to utilize on the journey from manufacturer to integrator. These include trucks, trains, airplanes, ships, warehouses, crossing docking facilities, break-up services, pallets, containers, and more. The goods can travel just a few city blocks or around the globe. What should be known and transparent is largely unknown and imperceptible due to outdated computer systems that are not linked and processes and procedures still buried under a landslide of manual paperwork. Add in governmental processes for customs, with third-party brokerage for clearances and fees, and the entire supply chain becomes murky and vague.

The health of the goods along this journey can be known as well. If a container is excessively tipped or adversely impacted, to affect the condition of the goods, then these events are logged and date-stamped by sensors to provide the buyer with situational awareness of the adverse and unexpected affects from the journey. If insurance claims are necessary, then empirical evidence is on-hand to support these claims.

Other sensors can detect temperature and moisture levels to ensure that sensitive goods are not adversely exposed to environmental elements that can damage them or impact them later in their lifespan.

Several other technologies will be blended into this supply chain solution too. These include the requisite security to protect the data, and a means to share data in a proper and safe way between the various transportation chain participants, so blockchain is likely desired to track the transactions from one service provider to the next. Artificial intelligence will further enhance the situational awareness and provide deeper insights into the flow of data from one link to the next link. With products that are sensitive to the looseness of the supply chain, like the shipment of food products, a predictable and transaction-based supply chain is essential for food health and just-in-time delivery from the farm to the fork.

Awareness of the unusual conditions that negatively affects your goods while they are in transit permits better planning and coordination for just-in-time deliveries. By knowing the location of the goods, it allows better collaboration between project vendors since this new found visibility enables predictability and synergy.

As the global shipping companies add IoT to their major logistical processes, it is just a matter of time before the associated last mile shippers that complete the links in the supply chain jump on board and leverage the same tracking system and interconnect their computer systems to the major carriers. End-to-end visibility is evolving and will soon permit visibility of goods anywhere around the world. The low costs for these IoT tags and mesh networks makes it all affordable. The enhanced visibility will provide significant savings, and the predictability will save even more in lost project costs and the ability to realize revenues faster and in a meaningful way. The impacts of IoT will be far ranging into the business chain. For example, the IoT visibility will even make the bankers happy as they hate unpredictability when they fund a project. Everyone wins when we shine light into the logistics black hole.

————————–MJM ————————–

About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.

He is a business and technology consultant. He is employed by Wirepas Oy from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.