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Logistics gets smarter with IoT

But traffic lights… that’s another story…

It’s one of the ironies of our age. With a GPS tracking collar, I can track where Fido – or for that matter any number of other items – are anywhere in the world, down to two metres, yet getting from the office to a meeting a suburb over sees me stuck at the lights forever, even when there’s no traffic, and despite my car being considerably bigger than Fido.

Both issues – tracking and transport – are something the logistics sector contends with daily. The good news is that IoT is changing logistics, and quickly, from tracking freight and trucks to predicting demand for products in warehouses.

“IoT is changing logistics, from tracking freight and trucks to ensuring an unbroken chain of refrigeration.”

GlobalData has forecast the market for IoT devices in the logistics sector will experience 93.3 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2020, to hit US$2.4 billion by 2020.

Location tracking is a key use for IoT in logistics, along with fleet management and environment sensing – particularly in the case of perishable goods including food and pharmaceuticals which are often temperature sensitive (the bio-pharmaceutical logistics market alone is expected to hit US$91.0 billion by 2020).

Last November, Air New Zealand began installing more than 5,500 Bluetooth tags on its cargo containers, pallets and unit load devices. One hundred readers are also being installed at 29 airports globally, enabling real time information to be captured automatically when the tagged items pass by a reader.

“These Bluetooth tags and readers will not only allow us to speed up cargo handling, but also improve our accuracy and inventory management and help to locate any missing items,” Air New Zealand cargo general manager Rick Nelson said.

The deployment is believed to have been the first time the technology had been deployed on such a large scale.

At the heart of the Air New Zealand deployment is Kiwi company Core Transport Technologies’ Bluetooth tracking. Core announced earlier this month that it has shipped more than 15,000 tags to customers including Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Qantas, UPS, United States Postal Service, Nippon Cargo Air and Korean Air are also on its customer list, with the company providing supply chain management and big data analytics for cargo and postal products, including high value ‘unit load devices’ in air cargo.

IoT and artificial intelligence powered predictive analytics are also being used to ensure an unbroken chain of refrigeration from start to finish, ensuring food and medicines don’t spoil in transit.

Elsewhere, Bluetooth beacons are being used to flag whether parcels are being loaded into the right trucks, 3D cameras are being used along with analytics to monitor loading processes in order to make the process more efficient, and smart sensors embedded in vehicles, combined with analytics, are enabling predictive maintenance.

And as for those traffic lights, well, IoT is helping reduce idle times, but it’s through effective route utilisation and real time communications, rather than sensors ensuring vehicles aren’t left idling at clear intersections. Camera’s too are being used to study and analyse the flow of traffic with the data used to optimise the timing of lights so that traffic flows easier and travel times are shorter.


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