The World is Your Warehouse, 2.0

Inbound Logistics regularly reports on the benefits of better linking demand to supply lines. Given the new and ever-growing crop of supply chain technology solutions delivering global visibility and ability to execute, we sometimes refer to the world as your warehouse.

That’s why Apple’s patent #8,989,773 caught my eye. Granted on March 24, 2015, by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the patent is called "sharing location information among devices." It details new functions allowing you to use an iPhone or other mobile device to view—in real time—a visual representation of the path another person takes, as a way of following that person’s entire journey. This process is an expansion of the popular Find My Friends feature that allows users to find the specific locations of their friends.

Privacy worries aside, Apple envisions using cellular or web tone to share real-time route progress on a map, text and speak in the same interface, record the route for later use, and mirror what one user is looking at on the other person’s iDevice. With real-time maps, users share all available data, such as points of interest, hazards, traffic, and the nearest truck stop. Apple’s patent filing suggests applying this inexpensive form of beacon tracking to animals (such as dogs), inanimate objects, and even robots.

It’s not a huge leap of logic to see pop-up warehouses equipped with this low-cost technology, giving all stakeholders global visibility. Containers, pallets? Join the World is Your Warehouse Club at low cost, wherever cell tone is available.

Another relatively low-cost but revolutionary technology that will impact logistics is undergoing trials in Newcastle, UK. A device slightly larger than a GPS is being tested to control red lights—turning red lights green for vehicles that have the system. Currently, it is used on ambulances to ensure fast transit to and from hospitals. But it has logistics applications. "One key thing we are going to see over the next few years is platooning, particularly of freight (vehicles)," says Phil Blythe, professor of transport at Newcastle University. "When a platoon hits the traffic lights, it will go straight through, to avoid being split up." The Highways Agency is considering an application to allow driverless trucks to travel between a Nissan plant in Sunderland and the Port of Tyne overnight, using the new technology to create a green light corridor and move quickly over that six-mile distance.

Can you see where I am going with this? Low-cost commercial systems and equipment providing an exciting array of control options to the logistics community are just over the horizon, truly making the world your warehouse.

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