Future of IoT with Focus around Logistics

By Kapil Mahajan, CIO, Safexpress Pvt Ltd

Looking back at where we stand today in terms of technical advancement, I can only say that we have come a long way from a predictive technology evolution era to a totally disrup­tive era of technical advancements.

The biggest technology driver for the common man in the modern times has been the inter­net and with today’s technology disruption we have also entered a unique period in internet’s life – the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT story that started off as a concep­tion from some of the science fiction movies has now be­come a part of our everyday usage with implementations and applications, ranging from connected consumer elec­tronics to smart vehicles to clothing and wearable devices that have an array of sensors which are always connected.

The next few years to me will revolve around the smart-home devices and niche use cases in industrial au­tomation and supply chain logistics space. This will result in explosion of not only the physical devices and objects connected to the internet but also give more definitive shape to the idea of IoE (Internet of Everything) where People, Process and Data along with Things will create an incredible technology ecosystem that will drive value and automation in ways that we have never thought before.

Let’s look at the value that we can derive from IoT and IoE in the logistics space given that we are working on some of these complex and very interesting use cases that would merge technology with business process in a seamless manner and pave way for the logistics of the future.

Think of a prospective valuable item that you want to deliver from one place to another. In today’s world, we would probably book it with one of the big logistics company and use their premium service option probably Air delivery, with the assumption that it is going to be safer (in terms of damage and theft) and quicker than surface transportation. From there on we would get pe­riodic tracking at regular intervals and assume that our carrier will deliver the item safely and on time.

Most of the logistic companies today have some level of automation and technology available to track these items in real time and have optimum routes defined to deliver it in quickest manner. The future state however goes much beyond this and will start with the package being connected to the internet (via a RFID, Beacon, Zigbee, Bluetooth, etc.) and communicating with the core IT systems the minute it is handed over to the car­rier. It will start uploading its coordinates; inform the carrier if it is mishandled (since its shock sensor detected a threshold breach) and through the IoT enabled smart transit hubs, the high-speed IP cameras with video analytics capability will detect changes in the shape of the package to suggest a possible damage during tran­sit while lying in the hub. This will possibly trigger an exception process and prevent this item from further movement until its manually inspected and repackaged to make it transit worth.

Now assume that while connecting this material to the next hub the person loading the material moves it to the incorrect route vehicle but the minute he does that an alarm gets triggered since the package has already com­municated with the vehicle sensor reader and informed that it is going somewhere else. Another interesting use case is around transit delays i.e. what happens when there are unforeseen circumstances like a landslide or a curfew which are likely to result in shipping delays, what if the system can predict the delay and suggest a better con­nectivity option directly to the customer which might in­volve switching the package from surface to air transpor­tation at the next hub to meet the delivery time. It also goes ahead and informs the customer about the addi­tional cost involved in compensating for this delay. Upon approval of this additional cost by the customer over his/ her mobile app, the system triggers the workflows to cre­ate automated booking request to the suggested cargo airline and routes the package from surface to the nearest air hub with seamless integration and no human inter­vention. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to logistics and the possibilities are endless.

For IoT to truly defy the next transformation wave, at its core, it will require creation and governance of in­telligent network of assets that can connect with other devices on demand and deliver an astounding user expe­rience and value creation. To summarize, with the cost of the IoT hardware drastically coming down the usage will explode to mammoth proportions and the smart home devices will lead the way in creating a world where pos­sibly everything can or will be connected.

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