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Recently, research firm Gartner released a report on the importance of the Internet of Things (IoT), a buzzword that simply refers to the connectivity of physical objects, devices and products not technically considered computers.
Many of these connected devices are, in fact, elements found along the supply chain – including smart palettes, trucks, refrigerators, home alarm systems, forklifts, even watches and other wearable technology.
Based on the latest available stats, there are currently 15 billion connected devices, with this number set to increase to about 50 billion by 2020. In its research, Gartner points out that this massive increase in internet-connected physical devices will “significantly alter how the supply chain operates.”
It is critical to point out however, that one of the most crucial elements within this system of connectivity is the software or management systems that link these items. Without effective software management systems to gather, analyse and share this constant flow of information, the Internet of Things has no real benefit to logistics companies.
For companies involved in supply chain and logistics, these controlling systems, apps and technologies are the difference between failed or successful real world deliveries.
The benefits from the Internet of Things means are most profitably leveraged through the real-time access to, and analysis of, more and deeper data. The compiling, evaluating and sharing of this data amongst various players within the supply-chain ensures for example, in-transit visibility – meaning these smart systems enable companies to make decisions, avert disasters, and manage clients in an incredibly competitive environment.
An application of this kind of system is VSc Solutions’ transport management solution that enables real-time visibility of vehicle movements against a delivery plan, allowing for the proactive management of issues as they arise during the day.
Within the South African transport environment and its specific challenges, the benefits from this type of system are manifold, for example when it comes to the role of drivers within the transport chain. While technology may replace people in many areas of industry, human drivers will still be an integral part of moving goods from one end of the supply chain to the next.
Wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch and other similar technologies, is ready to be applied to supply chains in order to enhance inputs into planning and route compliance software. This technology, integrated into the system, can both protect and monitor drivers, leading to multiple benefits for both drivers and logistics companies.
The key benefits of incorporating Bluetooth and wireless technology into wristbands, similar to watches, center on their ability to measure the rhythm of the wearers’ heart, ensuring reliable information, even being able to ascertain if a driver is under stress. For example, a sudden jump in heart rate will indicate a stressful event such as a hijacking, enabling the control center to send for help in case the driver is unable to raise the alarm.
Ultimately, the Internet of Things, and all the related elements are technological tools that enable businesses to provide better service to customers. In order to remain competative within the regional or global sphere, logistics companies need to embrace these tools and find partners to assist them in leveraging the most possible benefits.