Innovative digital technology, including the internet of things and artificial intelligence, is transforming the logistics industry to meet consumer demands. What does the future hold?
With its ability to generate boundless data, boost efficiency, and reduce costs, in our digital age technology is fast becoming the nucleus for transformation across a multitude of industries, including logistics.
A growing labor gap, exacerbated by the pressure of a booming e-commerce market, fierce competition, heightened delivery and returns rates, uncertainty around Brexit, advances in mobile device technology, and increased inventory levels, means there has never been a better time for the widespread introduction of digital technologies.
“In an increasingly digitized industrial world, data is the fuel that keeps companies’ engines running,” says Sharath Muddaiah, Director, Strategic Solutions & Business Development, Trusted Connected Devices, G+D.
“On the one hand, data – and primarily the information gained from it – offers opportunities in the form of efficiency increases or new, digital business models. On the other hand, the risks also increase, in particular when business models, and ultimately payment flows, depend directly on information from raw data.”
Cost reductions in smart industries
The most obvious advantage of introducing digital technology is cost savings. The use of data, from the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to blockchain and robotics, can help identify issues throughout the supply chain process and in turn prevent future problems.
Air freight is a particularly expensive area of the logistics industry and costs can be reduced by implementing digital technology. According to the World Bank, it costs between four and five times more to transport goods via air freight than by road, and 15 to 16 times more to transport by air than by sea.
Technologies are being developed and implemented to help bring down some of the costs. For example, Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND) has worked with G+D Mobile Security and ubirch, a German startup with blockchain expertise, to create a service which enables freight businesses to detect cargo damage. By using G+D’s SIGNiT solution, alongside a damage detection sensor, damage can be pinpointed.
The data collected can be used to optimize the supply chain by preventing this kind of damage happening in the future, thereby saving costs. It can also help boost security and transform relationships with transportation providers while delivering an objective and reliable method for managing global shipping.
The damage detection sensor solution is deployed on the container that carries the cargo through its journey. Each container unit is fitted with a SIM card using G+D Mobile Security’s SIGNiT® solution to securely transmit data across a telecommunication network.
The data is securely signed milliseconds after generation using a blockchain-style trust protocol, after which it is stored in a public blockchain. This use of secure SIM card connectivity and blockchain-powered cryptography ensures 100% real-time end-to-end security and integrity of the sensor data.
“The SIGNiT® solution is always used when several parties have a business relationship but have opposing interests,” says Sharath Muddaiah, Director, Strategic Solutions & Business Development, Trusted Connected Devices, G+D. “SIGNiT® allows one party to provide information that can be checked for correctness by another party through an independent body.”
IoT, AI, and 5G are transforming logistics
New technology can help boost understanding around market demand and material flow. This in turn can optimize delivery routes; perhaps a route can be shortened, thus improving efficiency and reducing the level of carbon emissions.
Working alongside technologies such as AI, IoT is proven to deliver environmental improvements for the logistics space. Distribution network Palletforce, for example, has used AI technologies to build a neural network that learns from historical data and predicts if any consignments are at risk of service problems.
5G is also facilitating the faster movement of larger amounts of data. Delivery business Hermes, for example, has launched a service which relies on 5G and big data to enable customers to embed rich content within a parcel label that can be read using augmented reality.
Another of the most prevalent emerging technologies being rolled out in the logistics space is intelligent robotics. Providing efficiency boosts, cost savings, and the ability to find a direct solution to some of the labor issues the industry is facing, it is unsurprising that new robotics technology is becoming so common in the warehouse.
The logistics industry is beginning to recognize the benefits of introducing the latest technologies into operations; indeed, those still hesitant to tap into the latest innovations might soon find themselves behind the curve.
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