IoT and Sensors in Supply Chain

As technology continues to advance, so do people. There is now wearable technology like your apple watch which can monitor your heart rate, as well as Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence machine Alexa which is your digital personal assistant. People have grown to adapt to these machine-to-machine communication gadgets that enhance our daily lives and expect companies to follow suit. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors, which track and secure shipments, have come in use for companies and their interdependent supply chain.

IoT in its simplest form is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). Analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. With that massive number of connected devices there is no question that supply chains can use the information coming from them to assist in supply chain planning and execution. IoT can assist supply chains in sensing shipment fulfillment and being able to communicate with the devices and sensors attached to transportation modes (truck, vessel or aircraft). In addition, emerging big data, AI, and machine learning technologies can analyze the IoT data to create insights that drive new or changed orders, customer promises and delivery parameters. These are just examples of how IoT can assist with supply chain but there are many more.

A sensor is a device that detects and responds to some type of input from the physical environment. The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, or any one of several other environmental changes. Sensors in supply chain assist with location, temperature of vehicle, pressure of vehicle and more. These inputs come in use when supply chain executives need to monitor the conditions of a package or vehicle and locate exactly where it is and where it is heading. The value of sensors in supply chain lies in their ability to provide real time behavior status (e.g. location and speed of vehicle).

The value of bridging IoT and sensors for the supply chain creates the ability to give predictive insights into the supply chain process as well as real time behavior as mentioned before. These predictive insights generated from IoT sensors give supply chain executives the opportunity to understand the real time and future state of their interdependent supply chains.

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