As the supply chain industry regroups post COVID-19, the common themes are centred around resilience, flexibility and control. With IoT well-placed to transform the supply chain, there are significant operational benefits to be realised with this accessible and mature technology. Column by Loic Barancourt, CEO and Co-Founder of Thinxtra.
At the centre of the Internet of Things (IoT) technology is its ability to offer more control and visibility. With COVID-19 sending shockwaves through the global supply chain network, real-time data insights about location and condition of shipments or assets are needed now more than ever to make better informed decisions
Resilience and efficiency will be the crucial values in the next normal post COVID-19, and cost control is more critical than ever. Disruptions caused as a result of a lack of visibility across the supply chain ultimately lead to unplanned costs and serious operational issues.
By increasing visibility and control, you can minimise these costly disruptions well before they occur. If you can know where your assets are throughout the working day as they move through the supply chain, , as well as what condition they are in, then you can pre-emptissues that may arise as a result of lack of transparency.
When we founded Thinxtra, The IoT Telco, our mission was to accelerate the adoption of IoT, to unlock large efficiency gains while building more sustainable business practices. Our vision preceded COVID-19, but the fundamental benefits of IoT have never been more relevant.
What is IoT?
While there is a lot of mystery around new technology such as IoT, in its simplest form IoT is a collection of interconnected physical devices that can monitor, report on and exchange data. Simply put – with IoT you can ask your assets ‘where are you’ and ‘how are you feeling’ and then use that information to make them work smarter for you
IoT devices are typically connected to computer systems via IoT networks. In the case of Thinxtra, we have built the 0G IoT Network infrastructure in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau. This network is part of the global 0G Network, powered by Sigfox technology, a low power, wide area network (LPWAN) that reduces the cost and effort of deploying IoT solutions at scale, locally and globally.
This enables a plug and play scenario, whereby once you are ready to track your assets the public network is already established and ready for you to connect.
Furthermore, the decision to build and operate the 0G Network was a strategic choice for Thinxtra, driven by the fact that we knew that across the supply chain there are hundreds and sometimes hundreds of thousands of assets need to be tracked daily, and could not be connected over the 4G/5G networks due to cost and battery-life issues.
But when we say need to be tracked, we mean that you need to know where they are maybe once, or twice a day. Rather than a constant stream of information that is not adding value.
For example, take roll cages. You may lose hundreds of these across your network every year. But if you could have access to real-time data once a day about where all of your roll cages are located across your network, you virtually eliminate the chance of losing them.
The 0G Network offers a never-before realised cost effective way to track low and medium value assets across the supply chain.
As opposed to 4G or 5G networks, that usually provide a constant, high volume stream of information and therefore require a large amount of power and bandwidth, the 0G Network provides a cost-effective way to track assets once or twice a day and can boast battery life of many years, often up to seven years
The 0G Network still allows for tracking location, movement, temperature, humidity, shock and many more parameters, but the amount of times a day this data is communicated makes the case a compelling, affordable and operationally viable one. This makes the technology ideal for roll-cages, trailers, drums, beer kegs, containers and even pallets who need to be tracked over years.
The new way
While tracking is not new, with technology like RFID and barcodes now commonplace in the supply chain, the business objectives of being able to have more useful data on a regular basis, as assets move between locations, can be realised with IoT. It is now also possible to monitor the condition of goods as they move, for example temperature, humidity, shock or water leakages. By combining location with condition data, a whole new range of valuable data insights can be created for all supply chain partners.
RFID and barcoding are reliant on manual processing and scanning. You only know where your asset is based on the last time it was scanned. Furthermore, manual processes around data capture and reporting often follow with these kinds of technology. But with IoT, the data is automatically uploaded digitally to the cloud and can be integrated with any systems
This more traditional practice is also limited by location. You can track the location of something at one location, but you can’t track that movement. So, if you lose something along the way, or it gets left at the wrong depot, you have no idea where that happened across the supply chain. With IoT, you have a regular flow of data so you can limit losses and damages.
Is IoT too expensive?
The simple answer is no, not anymore. With the 0G Network, you can track a high volume of assets, seamlessly and globally at a fraction of the cost of 3G, 4G or 5G technology.
The question you need to ask yourself is what do I really need to get out of my assets? For low value assets, that is usually just where they are located and in what condition and in terms of frequency, maybe once or twice a day.
What may at first seem like a small amount of data, in reality offers huge operational benefits. If you know where your full fleet of assets is, every single day, you can achieve next level of control and flexibility to manage your supply chain operations.
Furthermore, by utilising Thinxtra’s 0G Network the set-up cost is much lower than at first appears when all you need is the devices, connect them to the public network and integrate the data in your systems and processes to monitor them.
We’ve seen businesses realise an ROI in a matter of months, with loss ratios down, utilisation increases, waste reduction and a boost in staff productivity.
Joining the IoT journey is easier than you think. All you need is a business issue you need to solve through accurate data, and we know there are many of these.
If you don’t know where your assets are, your business is constantly at risk. With IoT you have peace of mind that you have complete transparency and control over your entire network.
The 0G Network provides the perfect opportunity to scale the technology across an entire fleet network, providing benefits across a nationwide or international supply chain.
Once installed, you can realise the benefits of IoT for many years, oftentimes up to seven years with minimal disruption or maintenance. This has been strategically developed to coincide with the lifespan of many assets in the supply chain such as IBCs, pallets or roll cages.
As we move further towards a sustainable future, IoT technology is set to play an increasing role. By being able to track where your assets are and limit loss, you can operate a much more lean and green business model by reducing waste and cutting emissions.
We live and breathe IoT and we are excited about sharing the operational, sustainable and cost benefits of the network and technology that we have developed with you.