Recent events have taken everyone by surprise – every industry and every organization are finding new ways to tackle the difficulties posed by Covid-19. Dealing with these challenges has proven a mammoth task for traditional systems like healthcare, manufacturing, and particularly logistics and transportation. Some of these industries have only coped during this crisis thanks to sheer determination and commitment. Others have faced the obstacles head on and scaled their operations more easily, such as the last mile delivery fleets. When hospitals worldwide demand certainty about the location and final destination of millions of crates marked “PPE”, logistics companies must rise to the challenge with increased investment in IoT technology, such as connected devices and smart sensors.
Leveraging the Internet of Things and a management platform enables businesses to connect shipments, the pallets carrying them and the ships transporting them around the world. With the right technology, the logistics market can benefit from a fully connected supply chain that creates data driven insight. These insights provide opportunities for real optimizations and drive significant competitive advantage in such a fast-growing market.
Deploying smart devices to track shipments may be an obvious win for logistics players but consider the sheer number of products being shipped daily globally. A recent report from ABI Research stresses that, in the current crisis, “both capacity and pricing swings are anticipated across transportation modes, with the associated impact to shippers worldwide”. The expected upswing is already accelerating, and for every logistics player, keeping sight of this increased shipping capacity is vital.
We’re predicting 1 trillion devices will be connected to the IoT by 2035 – the kind of scale that the market could not possibly cope with today. To stay on the cutting edge of future technology needs, organizations must plan ahead and find the right management platform now.
Key considerations for IoT logistics at scale
Even if the decision to connect more devices and collect more data seems obvious, doing so can be complex. With so many moving parts, how do logistics firms ensure secure, reliable connectivity to the vast number of devices that are in the field? There are several factors to consider for managing these connections.
Guaranteed connectivity, anywhere
A reliable connection is critical, especially when essential items are being shipped, which absolutely cannot be lost in transit. When your connected device powers on, powers off, wakes up in a different country, it must be able to consistently connect to a network and securely transmit data. Reliable, global network coverage with guaranteed uptime, regardless of the number of connected devices, is non-negotiable. If there is ever an issue with a device, you need to know about it fast. A Connectivity Management platform is vital, transmitting information to the right place at the right time, preempting any potential problems.
Any device, any standard
Finding the right form factor and connectivity option for your device is complex, and once that decision is made, your management platform must be able to handle it. Depending on your use case, you may need a tiny device that attaches to a pallet and sends small amounts of data sporadically. That device might travel via air to sea to ground and finally end up in a retail store but must be tracked throughout its journey.
Predictable running costs
With millions of shipments traveling around the world, connected to a range of different network providers at different rates and transmitting a variety of data at varying times, costs can quickly spiral out of control. This is especially true at a larger scale. To address this challenge, a connectivity management platform can consolidate billing with one contract and 100% predictable running costs.
Automation for scale
Automation is the heart of an IoT solution that scales. The logistics industry absolutely must address the huge scale required by the market but scaling out needs efficiency. This is where a management platform steps in, with automation that allows for huge labor and time savings and enables new use cases and business opportunities for logistics and transportation companies. Managing millions of connections is made possible by the implementation of an automation engine. The engine is built to constantly monitor network traffic for triggers (simple rules set up by the business and tailored to their needs).
eSIM: The future of connected logistics
In the current climate, IoT deployments have had to respond quickly to operational needs, in incredibly difficult circumstances and remotely wherever possible. New deployments have been spun up, devices already in development have been quickly brought to production and deployed. In the logistics and transportation industry, as IoT investment deepens and the number of connected devices increases, addressing that growth with reliable connectivity has never been more crucial. To tackle these requirements effectively, organizations need to get their system right from the outset – planning out ten years or more possibly, and not quickly implementing a platform for short-term needs.
In a nutshell, unsurprisingly, tackling scale is about the macro picture: how does the industry get there with secure devices within a secure system that delivers all the data and insights needed, regardless of deployment size?
Within Pelion, we foresee technology such as eSIM being key to scale going forward. Usually each cellular enabled IoT device requires a different SIM to ensure connectivity and compatibility with regional mobile networks. The cost of producing and shipping numerous devices and managing the mobile network operators (MNO) in each territory worldwide can increase cost and limit scalability. eSIM reduces the complexity that can be a barrier to larger deployments and provides IoT connectivity that is seamless. It is embedded at the point of manufacture and can be deployed automatically out-of-the-box in any geographical region. The move to eSIM greatly simplifies the supply chain for logistics and offers an elegant, robust, and almost infinitely scalable solution to the legacy SIM challenges in IoT applications.