Opinion Piece: Integrating Freight Logistics with the Internet of Things
For most of its life, the internet was a network of computers. Every computer in the world has the potential to be exchanging data on this universal platform.
But since the late 90s, we’ve been asking the internet to connect things other than computers. These ‘things’ include smartphones, thermostats, rain gauges, CCTV cameras and fast food ordering systems. This Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way we interact with our environment.
Wi-Fi connected thermostats allow us to change our lounge room temperature via smartphones. Sensors on supermarket shelves notify section managers when stock is low. Then there’s Uber, where GPS sensors installed on passengers’ and drivers’ phones facilitate a business transaction.
This is basic stuff compared to what the IoT could do. All it needs is a suitable platform. Platforms are the glue that holds the IoT together, creating the virtual space in which various activities take place. Platforms allow the IoT to control devices, gather data for decision-making and automate workflows.
Because the IoT is a network of devices and applications gathering and sharing data, it has great potential for freight container logistics. All that’s needed is the connective platform that uses data to deliver better logistics solutions.
WeChat – the Chinese super app
How powerful these platforms can be is evident from the success of one app in China. Around 889 million people each month use a Chinese super app called WeChat. Within this one app you can pre-order lunch from a restaurant, notify the restaurant when you arrive, order and pay for pet grooming while you eat, pay for your meal, order a cab and do some banking on the way home. All without leaving WeChat.
It works because all those businesses mentioned use an API (application programming interface) that lets them exchange data within WeChat, which is a kind of ‘platform of platforms’.
Turning businesses into platforms
The importance of APIs is growing. As Gartner IT strategist Christy Pettey puts it, we are moving towards an ‘API economy’.
“APIs make it easier to integrate and connect people, places, systems, data, things and algorithms, create new user experiences, share data and information, authenticate people and things, enable transactions and algorithms, leverage third-party algorithms, and create new product/services and business models,” she says.
“The API economy is an enabler for turning a business or organisation into a platform.”
The flexible technology that powers WeChat is found in Bluemix, IBM’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). This cloud-based platform comes with high-performance programming infrastructure to create new applications. App developers use Bluemix’s modular set of infrastructure services to build these apps, using the Bluemix platform.
1-Stop’s solution for freight logistics
1-Stop Connections’ innovation to bring a platform to supply chain communities across the globe is becoming a reality. The platform will streamline logistics connections within the port community. It’s this collaborative, community-driven model that makes 1-Stop technology a perfect fit for the IoT.
Like WeChat and Bluemix, 1-Stop’s platform is an ecosystem into which businesses bring their own APIs and apps.
These then operate within the 1-Stop ecosystem; 1-Stop acts as a super connector, providing all the functions for freight logistics to run more efficiently.
The 1-Stop platform is implicitly tied to providing business value in that it links the IoT endpoints to the applications and analytics needed to generate business outcomes. It is the linchpin in a holistic IoT solution, because it enables the data generated at the endpoints to be processed into meaningful information.
Everyone in the supply chain is invited to be a part of 1-Stop’s Container Logistics Platform through APIs.
When data becomes information
Data can include container availability, vessel schedule, detention times, customs status or holds and transport movements. But unless this data is collected and made available through an integrated platform, it remains just that: data. It’s only when data is placed in a structured context, alongside other data streams, that it becomes information.
One of the biggest issues facing the port community today is the coordination of containers through the supply chain. 1-Stop’s platform contains applications that make this process more efficient by linking and sharing information and cutting queue times at terminals by half.
For example, you may have a piece of data, namely that truck A is not carrying a load. Out of context, there’s not much you can do with that data. But if you know that truck A is 15 minutes from terminal B, where in 20 minutes, container C will arrive, then that data becomes information on which you can make an informed decision about supply chain possibilities.
Access to better information means you can save time and money through improved coordination.
The platform of platforms
The Internet of Things is a legacy of the connectivity of the internet. No longer simply connecting computers, it has the potential to connect every device that can provide us with data. As we have seen from WeChat, one app can provide us with ways to streamline our lives.
Similarly, 1-Stop Connections is the connector, the platform on which all the logistical data relating to a supply chain can be integrated. It’s a ‘one-stop’ solution to improve business results for the port community.
To talk to us about how you can join 1-Stop’s eco-system and be a part of the platform, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org