IoT in shipping and logistics

Smarter shipping & logistics with IoT

Shipment tracking and visibility of goods as they move through the supply chain and to their final destination

By their very nature, the logistics providers that move objects by air, sea, rail, and ground have widely distributed networks and rely on rapid information about those networks to make decisions. As a result, they are quick to see the benefits of new sensor and connection technology, placing them at the forefront of the transition to a connected world.

Transportation and logistics industry players may have different goals and ambitions for IoT technology. Depending on their business strengths and strategic focus, the scope of the solution that is needed can vary widely. As scope varies, so do the difficulty of implementation and the potential benefit from IoT applications.

Asset Tracking and Supply Chains

One of the biggest trends poised to upend supply chain management is asset tracking, which gives companies a way to totally overhaul their supply chain and logistics operations by giving them the tools to make better decisions and save time and money. This transformation is already underway. A recent survey by GT Nexus and Capgemini found that 70% of retail and manufacturing companies have already started a digital transformation project in their supply chain and logistics operations.

Asset tracking is not new by any means. Freight and shipping companies have used barcode scanners to track and manage their inventory. But new developments are making these scanners obsolete, as they can only collect data on broad types of items, rather than the location or condition of specific items.

IoT technology for logistics and shipping

There are several new pieces of technology that are already changing how logistics companies work. First is active and passive RFID tags, which provide data on items to which they’re attached. The main difference between the two is that passive tags have an RFID antenna and a microchip for storing information, while active tags have their own battery power and can sometimes include additional sensors.

Internet-connected trackers use long-range networks or Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) to let companies track specific items throughout their delivery journeys. In the same vein, satellite trackers provide location data on an item almost anywhere on the planet, even in areas that do not have cellular coverage.

Bluetooth tags and beacons offer tracking data in smaller, more confined areas, and companies most often use them in retail stores to monitor customer traffic and offer marketing messages to said customers.

Finally, near-field communication (NFC) tags, based on RFID standards, allow workers to use their mobile devices as readers for the NFC tags, which provides an advantage over RFID tags and readers.

Use Cases and Business Objectives

IoT Use Cases:

  • Trailer/Container tracking: GPS or 3D location and condition
  • Bio-Pharma: Temperature, humidity, track & trace and cold-chain monitoring
  • High-value goods: geo-fending, tamper notification and light sensitivity
  • Sensitive capital equipment: shock, tilt and vibration

IoT Business Objectives

  • Respond quickly to unexpected situations
  • Save shipping costs through early detection of damaged products
  • Identify conditions leading to shipment damage or delays