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ITE Transport and Logistics

Cold chain & the Internet of Things – what you need to know

As all cold chain operators know, technology moves the industry forward. Maintaining the perfect atmosphere for that all-important temperature controlled cargo is vital and technology has to reflect this. The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to revolutionise the cold transport industry. Here’s everything you need to know.
Defining the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a relatively simple concept. Essentially, it is the global network of physical objects, including devices, buildings and vehicles, all linked to the internet. As such, the IoT has numerous practical applications for the cold chain sector. 
What does this mean for cold chain benefit?
In cold chain, information is power. After all, the cargo transported, be it via ship, aeroplane, truck or train, must be kept at the perfect temperature. Even the slightest change in conditions can spell disaster.
With potentially billions of dollars’ worth of cargo at stake worldwide, the careful live monitoring, sending and receiving of business critical information is essential to success. When it comes to collecting this data, the Internet of Things is exceptionally versatile and useful. 
A practical example of the IoT and cold chain in action
In-transit visibility is greatly enhanced by the Internet of Things. Logistics eco-systems feature many players and moving parts. Cargo passes from the manufacturer through suppliers, distribution centres, retailers and ultimately on to customers. With this many different steps in the supply chain, there is a very real need for up-to-the-minute product location information, temperature monitoring and so on.
Combined with other technological innovations, such as cloud computing, GPS and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, real time identity, location and other cargo information, can be tracked securely anywhere in the world. 
The data gathered from the GPS and RFID sensors can be used by supply chain professionals to automate their shipping and delivery procedures, as they will be able to exactly predict the time of arrival. Temperature and other important details can also be monitored for improved efficiency and to isolate any container issues while in transit.
In an industry where temperature is everything, these sensors can also report back any change in cargo conditions which could potentially spoil perishable goods. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, roughly a third of all food perishes in transit. Utilising IoT ready equipment can avoid this. 
The GPS tracking and RFID components can also allow for other factors to be monitored and analysed, such as weather and traffic conditions, positioning of specific pallets or products in the overall cargo shipment and many other aspects that can improve productivity and efficiency at all nodes of the supply line.
What other benefits can the IoT bring cold chain operators?
The above is just one example of how the IoT can benefit cold transport & logistics firms. The whole concept of the Internet of Things is built around connectivity. With intelligent data gathering and communication across the supply ecosystem, the IoT offers a truly global transport information network.
Thusly, a wealth of business-centric opportunities are afforded to cold chain operators via the adoption of the IoT into their supply lines:
• Asset loss reduction – Product issues are identified in transit so solutions can be concocted at the next supply node.
• Fuel cost savings – Real-time traffic monitoring can lead into optimised fleet routes.
• Improve fleet efficiencies & reduce redundancies – The Internet of Things allows operators to isolate any redundancies at any stage in the cold chain, allowing for business critical efficiencies to be built and improved upon. 
• Manage warehouse stock – Warehousing is much more transparent and easy to manage with the IoT. Live stock feeds, for example, can lead to a reduction in out-of-stock situations.
While at this stage, adoption of internet-ready technological innovations is still nascent, canny cold chain operators are realising the enormous benefits the IoT can bring. A greater understanding of supply and demand can be afforded which benefits manufacturers, distributors and retailers. 
The Internet of Things plays into a larger picture displaying the digital business landscape. Connected devices allow organisations to work smarter, plan better and make more intelligent business related decisions. 
Image: Håkan Dahlström via Flickr


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