Internet of Things (IoT) is a specific combination of equipment, vehicles and other objects into one organism, implemented by advanced IT tools. Appropriate algorithms record and anticipate events and report them to the connected entities. IoT is increasingly being used in the economy. Does it make any sense in transport and logistics?
According to MarketsandMarkets forecasts, the value of the IoT market in the next few years will increase by a quarter, reaching the level of $640 billion (IHS Markit estimates indicate a number of 20 billion devices connected to the network). Business benefits resulting from the implementation of IoT solutions are already recognized by the manufacturing sector, trade and… transport industry. We are talking mainly about cost optimization, improvement of the supply chain, customer acquisition.
IoT technology is used even in places where we sometimes fail to see it. An example is the management of warehouse space. Intelligent pallets and racks are available, high bay warehouses are becoming more and more common, where goods are moved automatically by stacker cranes.
Having information about available warehouse space combined with data about the location of a specific product and the planned time of its delivery (including data collected in real time, e.g. about delays) helps to manage space efficiently, e.g. in logistics centres.
With IoT, you can easily and quickly manage your fleet and increase safety. This translates into profits – thanks to IoT solutions, e.g. monitoring drivers’ driving, you can optimize fuel costs, monitor dangerous manoeuvres while driving, help to find a parking lot, or at least keep the customer informed about the location and condition of the transported cargo,” Dariusz Terlecki, Sales Director at TomTom Telematics in TOP Logistyka explained recently
An example of IoT application in transport is the so-called intelligent, monitored SkyCell containers. They are particularly suitable for the distribution of biopharmaceuticals, i.e. drugs that are particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, pH changes and environmental pollution. Specialists have calculated that 40% of the more than $13 billion spent in 2017 on transportation of biopharmaceuticals was wasted by shipping errors.
SkyCell technology company has created refrigerated containers in which you can keep track of deviations of parameters, even to the smallest extent. All SkyCell containers are equipped with IoT sensors that connect to the data cloud. With service, you can remotely monitor and intervene on each container to ensure the same stringent quality standards wherever containers are located. They can be tracked in any country, on any continent, and the software allows you to monitor the parameters, but it also indicates whether the container is in the right condition. The collection of data resulting from the monitoring also allows for analysis and simulation of container transport routes. This, in turn, eliminates areas where the risk of disruption to the supply chain is greatest.
The IoT technology is also used by the users of so-called intelligent racking systems. The logistics centre in Aalen-Ebnat uses racks, each with three to five continuous storage levels (installed one above the other). Since pallets and materials stored on them have different formats: length, width and height, they need to be measured and weighed every time. After a computer analysis of the data, the roller conveyor system transports the goods to the warehouse. The dimensions and overall weight determine where the goods are stored. The designated aisle in the mobile racking system opens up automatically.
The IoT technology for the automated transport of cars of the Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg has a completely different application. The spectacular and well-known construction that fits into the assumptions of this idea is the local vehicle magazine. The cars are stored in two round towers, each with twenty floors (about 60 m high) and four hundred cars. The towers are connected to the factory by a 700-meter underground tunnel. Through this system, new cars are delivered to the exhibition (at 7 km/h) and automatically placed in appropriate locations.
Another example relates to picking assistance, e.g. dcStreamMobile in ID Logistics. It is about integrated monitoring of warehouse processes, supporting management and controlling operations, especially those related to order picking (especially multi-completion, multi-order picking), but also regulating the preparation of goods for distribution from warehouse to stores. The operation of dcStreamMobile is based on online registration of order preparation using high-resolution cameras placed on forklifts. The data is collected on the server and the video is marked with the article code, pallet number and customer name. This allows you to quickly find the right recording, check how the process went and why and where the possible error occurred. The material is used not only for processing complaints but also to improve warehouse distribution and operational processes.
This is the application of IoT today and how will it be in the future? It is well known that technologies based on IoT will be used, among other things, in “platooning”, i.e. to create automated convoys of vehicles in which the distance between them is predefined (a group of moving vehicles adapts their behaviour to the first one). Experts say that a situation in which only one convoy vehicle will have to have a driver and the rest of the vehicles will copy its behaviour is a tune of the near future, namely several years.
An interesting project, based on IoT and concerning the courier industry, is conducted jointly by Volvo, Audi, Amazon and DHL. The aim is to examine the possibility of delivering the ordered goods to the luggage compartments of customers’ vehicles. The tests were successful, the courier can locate a particular vehicle on his own or even open the boot using a special digital key. Thanks to this, the effectiveness of delivery may increase soon (the trunk of the car is another place where you can leave the shipment).