Global Logistics
  January 30th, 2016 | Written by

Modern Supply Chains Benefit From the Internet of Things

Connected Objects Will Total More Than 50 Billion By 2020


  • IoT is a network of objects that are enabled to collect and exchange data.
  • IoT devices “can monitor their environment, report their status, receive instructions, and take action.”
  • Tracking devices in trailers, containers, and pallets will reach 5.8 million by 2019.
  • Technology providers are dreaming up more and more uses for the information that the IoT provides.
  • Future supply chains will benefit from the Internet of Things thanks to in-transit visibility.

Much has been written recently about the internet of things. A recent white paper written by Greg Braun senior vice president at C3 Solutions explains what it is all about and how it can benefit supply chain.

The term internet of things (IoT) was coined in 2009 by Kevin Ashton, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he helped create a global standard system for radio-frequency identification (RFID). Braun defines IoT as a “network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.”

IoT devices “can monitor their environment, report their status, receive instructions, and even take action based on the information they receive,” according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that connected objects will total more than 50 billion by 2020. Tracking devices in trailers, containers, and pallets reached 1.8 million worldwide in 2014. “This number is expected to reach 5.8 million by 2019,” according to Braun.

The IoT is enabled by the broadband internet combined with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. “It’s also made possible by the increasing miniaturization and growing functionality of the sensors and transmitters needed to enable this communication,” noted Braun.

What does IoT means for supply chain operations?

New applications and services will be developed “as technology providers dream up more and more uses for the information” that the IoT provides.

GPS technology already tracks vehicles, cargo, and people in real time through smartphones. Embedded tags record and report data about the location and condition of cargo.

Future supply chains will benefit from IoT thanks to in-transit visibility. Tracking of trailers and intermodal containers is already common “and technology advancements allow for even smaller logistics units such as individual pallets or cargo boxes to be tracked at reasonable costs,” according to Braun. The maritime shipping industry has started to embrace real-time container tracking on a large scale, especially for refrigerated intermodal containers.

Logistics and transportation companies are now accelerating their IoT efforts to improve productivity and customer service levels by taking advantage of the increasing amount of data generated by cargo tracking solutions,” said the white paper. “As well, effective cargo tracking will aid companies in ensuring compliance with the increasing chain of custody regulations being implemented worldwide.”

The burgeoning field of data analytics is also benefited by IoT thanks to advances in data acquisition. “There is huge potential for useable demand information,” Braun concluded, “as items that have reached the end consumer will continue to provide data about how they are used, and when they reach the end of their lifespan.”

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