August 2017 | Commentary | Checking In

It Happens Automagically

Tags: Logistics I.T., Logistics, Big Data, Supply Chain

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

I heard the phrase "it happens automagically" not long ago, and it reminded me of an editorial I wrote in 2000, when I mused that one day we'd have "a global internet without wires, melded with interaction free detection—finding something without looking." Today, it is real and it happened sooner than I expected.

The Internet of Things' (IoT) impact on your operations may just be beginning now, but given the rapidity of innovation, invention, and collaboration, you won't wait another 17 years to find what you need—customers, vendors, inventory, solutions, services, and yes, people—without having to look for them.

You've heard the clarion call, and a good measure of concomitant hype. The IoT market will grow from 15 billion devices today to 30 billion devices in 2020, and 75 billion by 2025, according to IHS Markit and other observers. One problem is these devices will all need their own internet routable IP addresses because they will not be able to auto-renew IP addresses to find varying networks, especially if they are moving. Many companies are working on solving this limitation. And they will solve it.

"We are at an exciting phase in how IoT technology is being deployed in supply chain and related operations," says Ashish Chona of ORBCOMM, an IoT solutions provider. IoT supply and demand chain integration will "seamlessly connect business processes, such as shipping and receiving, with people, data and things, such as pallets, containers and transportation trailers, to run networks at maximum efficiency."

But it is not just those logistics tendrils that will be transformed; there's also money (think blockchain) and all manner of machines and devices that manage flow and touches across global value chains. Recent IoT advances are particulary impactful, enabling predictive maintenance so managers can act before a device fails and a line goes down.

But all those billions of devices machineware driving transportation, warehousing, financial, and global inventory and supply visibility data points will be transmitting trillions of messages across the internet. Experts at CISCO know the current state of the internet is not set up to handle that exponential explosion of daily data demands.

That's why they've come up with an add-on to the IoT called the Internet of Everything, which they define as the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things. Intelligence at the local node or network level allows visibility across previously disconnected systems. More importantly, it limits the amount of data flow sent back to managers because the network intelligence allows for local decision-making without human intervention, based on defined business rules. Examples include smart meters that measure energy consumption and take action, robots that automate factory and warehouse operations, and intelligent transport systems that see and adapt to traffic conditions.

Whether your company is a manufacturer, retailer, distributor, or in e-commerce, the future is happening now, automagically