How to Make A Smarter Supply Chain With Mobile IoT
As Internet of Things (IoT) has become more pervasive in daily life over the last decade, so too has logistics. Its complexity has grown, and the demand for end-to-end detailed asset tracking along with it. In recent months, the global pandemic has set new challenges for supply chains, with consequences for the many enterprises and consumers dependent on them. How can Mobile IoT transform the supply chain landscape?
Industry 4.0 and 5G Massive IoT
IoT has become a key component of Industry 4.0, a term that refers to the fourth industrial revolution that is occurring in manufacturing. The first revolution was through water and steam power, the second through electricity and the third with computerization. The fourth takes this a step further with the adoption of smart machines – that become even smarter through machine learning. This revolution is still very much underway. With the advent of 5G networks, the number of IoT devices and their capabilities will grow exponentially, leading us into the world of 5G Massive IoT.
Mobile IoT vs. GPS in the Supply Chain
Supply chains are complex – made even more so by multi-tiered distribution models and the need for real-time decision-making, the backbone of which is location tracking. GPS can be used to provide this functionality, but is expensive to implement, suffers from low battery life and ceases to be reliable when there is no clear line of sight to the sky. Indoor use cases, such as asset tracking in warehouses, storage containers and covered parking garages, require an additional layer of network infrastructure and software.
Mobile IoT uses existing mobile infrastructure, which already reaches 97 percent of the global population and mitigates the need for costly, dedicated networks. Mobile network plans are cost-effective, particularly for low-bandwidth data used for asset tracking. Inexpensive Mobile IoT solutions also provide the potential to track many more assets, including those that are of lower value, which explodes what was previously deemed worthy of tracking. With small form factors, devices can easily be affixed to any object and have a battery life that stretches to years rather than days. IoT solutions also significantly improve indoor connectivity. Since they operate on a lower band of the cellular spectrum, they have five times more penetration of coverage than standard mobile signals.
With increased compute power on ever smaller IoT devices, more complex features begin to open up. This further increases the intelligence of supply chains as they collect and process information instantaneously. This data is not limited to location, but can include temperature, humidity and shock. It can be actioned through manual intervention or automation, and analyzed through machine learning.
Supply Chain Use Cases
Warehouse Managers can only truly manage what they see – and need to know exactly where vehicles and equipment are in order to properly use them. Real-time visibility of critical assets, which can be anything from fleet equipment to humans, is essential for operating a supply chain at peak efficiency. Fast, real-time decisions can only be made when a manager knows the real-time location of all tools in their arsenal.
When something you need is indoors with no line of sight to the sky, GPS is useless. Mobile IoT allows enterprises to connect millions of low bandwidth asset trackers to tap into equipment’s location, whether it’s inside a building or out on the open road.
Not only is inventory tracking powered by Mobile IoT more efficient, but it reduces the impact of human error. Employees can be also be freed from the time-consuming and mundane role of roaming warehouse floors to scan for products themselves. This can increase their productivity by engaging them in more complicated or demanding tasks.
People have been tracking their trucks for decades with older technologies like GPS or RFID – only recently has Mobile IoT been discovered as the Holy Grail of transportation insights. Retailers are faced with the challenge of optimizing product travels to improve the customer experience and heighten the likelihood of repeat orders. Companies utilizing Mobile IoT solutions to pinpoint where packages are quickly can help enterprises catch potential issues and take action, like changing delivery routes in response to current traffic conditions. The key: Mobile IoT allows for indoor and outdoor tracking, with far lower cost and longer battery life.
Perishable goods are notoriously tough to manage within the supply chain. The chances of a perishable product making it to an end customer depends upon multiple factors. In particular, optimal transportation conditions are crucial. If the temperature is allowed to deviate by just a few degrees, the entire product can be spoiled.
Intel stated that 30 percent of all perishable produce never makes it all the way from the farm to the table, which leads to an extraordinary amount of waste. Mobile IoT solutions can improve this issue with temperature sensors that provide real-time monitoring of conditions within containers. Preventative measures can then be taken to save the product before it spoils. In the event there is an issue, the location of and conditions of the route in which the spoilage occurred can be quickly identified for the benefit of future product.
We have seen that IoT over existing cellular coverage enables more end-to-end visibility of the product journey through the supply chain than GPS, and is more cost-effective. Assets can be tracked at a more granular level and capabilities extend far beyond location tracking. 5G Massive IoT will exponentially increase the number of connected devices and the amount of information that can be collected, analyzed and acted on in real-time. Machine learning and automation add further layers of complexity and intelligence, driving tomorrow’s smarter supply chain.
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