How IoT is revolutionizing Logistics in 2022

June 2022

How IoT is helping businesses plan and monitor better and heighten the security of all operations.

Ever wondered how multi-billion dollar corporations manage their business efficiently? How do services like Amazon and eBay deliver products within a couple of days, without any delay? The answer is simple; these companies have their logistics organized. With the world shifting towards a more internet-dependent state, the demand for such services has greatly increased, causing companies to look for efficient solutions to logistical problems. 

Literally, logistics is the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. Its application in business refers to the commercial activity of transporting goods to customers.

With the current wave of IoT-based solutions gaining popularity, little has been left untouched. Logistical operations have been greatly influenced by IoT too: making the process smoother, time-efficient, and less costly. Logistical management requires monitoring several activities simultaneously and IoT is the key to doing this. It provides businesses with the tools for planning, monitoring, and heightening the security of all operations. 

Here are the top 5 use cases of IoT in logistics today:

Inventory Tracking and Warehouse Management

For any commercial business to function properly, the warehouse is the most important part. This is where the inventory is stacked. The inventory consists of

  • products that have to be shipped off to customers
  • products that arrived fresh from the factory

Businesses like Amazon have thousands of orders which need to be processed daily, making it imperative to have an efficient warehouse management system in place. Inventory records through human processing are time-consuming and less reliable, hence an automated system is the need of time. This is where IoT comes in handy. 

IoT based solutions help in creating a smart warehouse, easily locating items, and bringing up their status and position efficiently. RFID tags keep track of the items present in the warehouse. These tags can be scanned while storing and shipping products to keep track of the number of products present in the warehouse at any given time. IoT operated robots assist the staff in high duty maintenance thereby curbing labor costs and reducing product damage. Warehouse managers can receive orders throughout the day via an IoT operated mobile application. Ideally, those orders are then automatically fulfilled via robots. This reduces incoming calls and allows a more managed operation. With everyone placing their orders through the app, there is a less likely chance of messing up orders. 

Amazon has recently launched a semi-automated warehouse, where robots work alongside human employees. Basic tasks, like moving packages around or scanning barcodes, are outsourced to technology. Sorting through packages and moving objects of complex shapes (bottles, for instance) is still a part of human jobs. 

To deal with bottlenecks on ‘The Singles’ Day’, the company’s global shopping fest, Alibaba launched a fully robotic warehouse in 2018. There are over 700 guided robots designed to transport parcels across the place and deliver goods to delivery trucks.

Product Tracking and Improved Delivery

Commercial businesses thrive on good ratings. To get those ratings, customer service should be of top quality. To maintain their customer reviews, businesses have to go over the top to make their buyers feel comfortable. The top priority for consumers is to get timely updates about their orders. Furthermore, they yearn for faster deliveries. IoT is helping companies cover both bases. 

While ordering from the official business application, IoT offers consumers to track the progress of their order and the expected date of delivery. They can, moreover, constantly remain in touch with the supplier throughout the process. 

GPS sensors and RFID tags help business managers track shipping all the way up to its final stage. Further use of sensors allows managers to get real-time location data to ensure weather conditions will not jeopardize the delivery. IoT helps businesses compare routes and find the most cost-efficient and sustainable delivery plan. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are gaining popularity as they offer fast automated deliveries. They can be used to readily provide emergency supplies to customers while cutting operation costs. Smart vehicles, using AI technology, will lead to safer and inexpensive transport.

For 20 years Alien Technology has proven to be the trusted supplier of EPC global Gen2 and ISO/IEC 18000-6c compliant UHF passive RFID transceiver chips, tags, inlays & labels, fixed & mobile readers and related professional services for item tagging, retail/apparel, transportation, life sciences and many other applications.

In 2014, Alphabet launched its Project Drone, which was an independent company formed to improve deliveries through drones. Wing is an autonomous delivery drone service aiming to increase access to goods, reduce traffic congestion in cities, and help ease the CO2 emissions attributable to the transportation of goods. Wing is also developing unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that will allow unmanned aircraft to navigate around other drones, manned aircraft, and other obstacles like trees, buildings and power lines.

Advanced Analytics

Finding the right target market is one of the key things to look for in a business. This can only be done through tons of research and customer feedback. A multitude of data has to be collected pertaining to different age groups and demographic and geographic locations. Products that are popular in the US may not be used as commonly in Pakistan. IoT based solutions, however, are working to provide businesses with the analytics they require. These tools can also be used to identify the right age group to which the product should be advertised. It can provide data on the effectiveness of different types of advertisements, allowing businesses to make educated decisions when it comes to marketing. It can also provide the data for the number of sales of the product in a particular locality to check whether the product is a success or not. 

FogHorn provides an edge AI platform offering analytics solutions. The machine learning-based solution enables a device to process and analyze the collected data at the edge devices such as PLCs, gateways and industrial PCs rather than in the cloud. The fully-integrated, closed-loop edge to cloud solution provides onsite data processing, real-time analytics, ML and AI capabilities. Has use cases for manufacturing, oil & gas, transportation, retail, healthcare, automotive and other applications.

Improved Security and Employee Safety 

Security has always been an important factor to consider whether you are at home or work. For warehouses, this is an even bigger concern as they have to store goods worth millions. Where conventional security systems have been somewhat lacking in their services, IoT offers better solutions. 

AI surveillance cameras in the warehouse now offer sophisticated ongoing visibility in the absence of human oversight. These cameras can be connected to the manager’s phone for timely updates. Heat and motion sensors can be activated to alert the person in charge of all personnel present in the warehouse at all times. Automatically controlled doors can prevent robbers from leaving the warehouse during their escape. The local police can then be easily notified about a break-in.

IoT technology also ensures long-term workplace safety by analyzing data and using it to develop occupational health and safety strategies for employees. An example would be when IoT tools are integrated with HR and workforce solutions to develop factory workers’ schedules that would minimize exposure levels or ensure that the workers accurately spread out for 24-hour shifts.

Hitachi Solutions IoT Service Hub for Worker Safety is an end-to-end, cloud-based solution that helps protect workers’ well-being and ensure the safety of equipment and work environments by gathering data at the edge, then using artificial intelligence to provide real-time visibility, actionable insights, and alerts when safety and environmental parameters are exceeded.

Scanning Goods and BOL

Customers are increasingly demanding reliable transparency on the status of shipments from their service providers. This requirement presents logistics companies with an enormous challenge. On the one hand, the recording of the conventional barcode by warehouse personnel is time-consuming and therefore inefficient. On the other hand, additional information, such as temperature or vibrations, must be transmitted to the customer more frequently. Current transport systems are often not suited to provide this type of information. With the help of sensors within the packaging, IoT helps business providers and consumers alike in assessing the quality of the product prior to any sale/purchase. There are special IoT apps that help tag products and monitor a number of environmental characteristics. For example, they can check the humidity, light, and temperature, as well as shock and vibration exposure during transportation to and from the port, manufacturer, or warehouse.

Applications of IoT in the logistics industry, when combined with Blockchain technology, create a digital Bill of Lading (BOL) that creates whole new transparency in the supply chains. BOL allows a company and its customers to trace the transportation cycle of the products being shipped. This reduces retail fraud and enhances the trust of the customer in the business. 

The AT&T Fleet Complete service depends on LTE-M connectivity, a low-power wide-area network technology. The AT1 sensor captures data such as humidity and temperature readings, light exposure and impact status. The solution utilizes solar power for recharging and is suited for monitoring assets in many industries, including medical supplies, construction materials, and machinery.

With mega businesses and e-commerce on the rise, the logistics industry is facing unprecedented challenges. In parallel with increasingly demanding global requirements and customer demands, the logistics industry has to cope with enormous staff shortages in transport, fragmented markets, and low margins. The potential for IoT in logistics is plenty, and engineers have just begun to explore this industry. IoT based solutions are offering the way forward to a more automated and user-friendly industry.