The Internet of Transported Things

19.08.2020 by Ümit Günes
Man with high visibility jacket coordinates truck and container in port

Networking your goods on the Internet of Things and tracking them along the entire supply chain gives you an advantage in the globalized, and thus increasingly complex, logistics landscape – especially in the current period.

Real-time data from mobile goods is hard to come by: Containers and pallets are transported through remote areas, goods are stored in buildings and cellars. Delivery bottlenecks are currently increasing due to factories shutting down operations or delays during the transport of goods across multiple national borders. The consequences: Logisticians must redirect supply chains. Low mobile phone and GPS coverage also makes localization difficult. Using locating devices with low battery life is often unprofitable and impractical. The Internet of Things (IoT) provides a solution: with digital, networked asset tracking solutions and new technologies.

Low Power Wide Area: How the IoT Works

In order to be able to track and monitor goods worldwide, it’s necessary to rely on help from space. New GNSS modules (Global Navigation Satellite System) improve the location of mobile goods across the world, as they use both the American GPS system and Russian GLONASS satellites. Signals from orbit are one part of the equation, while a stable radio connection for the tracking module on Earth is the other. It won't work without it. However, the 2G/3G/4G mobile service is not available everywhere. For applications in the IoT, where – in contrast to the mobile internet for smartphones, for example – usually only small data packets are transmitted at long intervals, using a mobile network is also too cost-intensive.

A new generation of so-called LPWA technologies (Low Power Wide Area) provides the solution. These standards, which are based on mobile communications such as Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) or NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT), have been developed by the mobile communications committees cooperating in the 3GPP initiative especially for small data transmissions on the Internet of Things. They offer several benefits:
 

  • The LPWA signal penetrates deep into warehouses and cellars and ensures reception even in remote areas.
  • The cost of data transmission is low.
  • The modules consume very little electricity: This additionally reduces costs and ensures a very long lifetime.
  • In addition the devices don’t need much storage capacity.


The LPWA connectivity modules have a correspondingly simple design and can be used flexibly. With the Business Smart Connect solution from Telekom, companies can implement such IoT projects easily and without complication.

Edge Computing and Fast Network Switching

The concept of edge computing brings further advantages: If the data is processed directly at the source in order to transmit only relevant information, this additionally reduces transmission costs, the bandwidth required and the storage space in the cloud.

Logistics can also benefit from new developments in SIM cards. With the nuSIM, the functions of the SIM card are integrated directly into the communication chip. They are inexpensive and work for several years, because since no additional SIM card must be operated, IoT devices with nuSIM consume less power.

Special IoT or M2M SIMs (machine-to-machine) are also more robust than the conventional smart cards installed in smartphones or tablets. They’ve been developed to withstand all weather conditions during transport, as well as the high temperatures in industrial environments.

Detect Delays in a Timely Manner

There are other digital and technical developments that can benefit the logistics industry. For example, asset tracking: If the pallet, container or vehicle is stable and constantly connected to a monitoring platform in the cloud, the freight company always has an overview of the position of the goods. Delays are recognized at an early stage, which ensures greater security, especially in times like these. If bottlenecks occur, routes can be promptly rescheduled. This also reduces the demurrage fee for trucks or the mooring fee for ships in the port. And in the event of theft, a container’s route can be tracked precisely.

Constant Monitoring of the Condition of the Goods

Then there’s the example of Condition Monitoring: Transport companies use the appropriate sensors to constantly monitor the condition of the goods. Whether it's the cooling temperature in the trailer, the pressure in the gas tank or moisture in the cargo hold – problems and causes can be identified and documented remotely. Companies that completely digitalized their supply chains before the crisis know that they also gain security in terms of insurance.

Potential for New Business Models

The use of IoT in logistics currently supports keeping an eye on supply chains and being able to react to delays and disruptions in good time. But even after the crisis, IoT has the potential for new business models in logistics.

With a supply chain that is optimized and always transparent, companies can fulfill customer wishes such as same-day delivery or real-time tracking of goods via smartphone. Networking and seamless monitoring also allow for the establishment of new rental services: The customer only pays for the actual journey time of a freight car, the weight moved by crane or the distance covered by a container.


 

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Ümit Günes
Ümit Günes

Marketing Manager IoT

Ümit has been working at T-Systems since 2015 and knows a great deal about many facets of the Internet of Things. He is particularly interested in topics related to the digitalization of the business world. For the blog, he reports on new developments and trends in the IoT world that offer real added value for customers.