In the previous sections (Introduction, Part 1, Part 2) of our article series, we discussed the challenges facing supply chains, and we demonstrated how shared ledger technologies can help solve the problems that arise. In the next section of our series, we would like to show you what opportunities the IoT (Internet of Things) tools and shared ledger systems open up in supply chain digitisation.
What is IoT devices?
The term IoT may refer to any device or sensor that can communicate with the Internet in some way. In common parlance it is best known for its “smart home” solutions, but we also encounter many IoT devices and sensors in production processes and in the supply chain. Among the IoT devices used in the supply chain various telematics systems are the most widespread, but there are more and more stand-alone tracers and special sensors, which transmit their data and receive instructions via the Internet. The number and competence of these devices is growing exponentially, moreover, they are getting ever cheaper, which further accelerates their dissemination.
By getting more and more IoT tools, the reliability and transparency of the logistics process can be greatly enhanced. Currently, the main problem is collecting these data, as these devices join multiple systems; what’s more: they may belong to different owners. In accelerated logistics processes it is virtually impossible to coordinate these systems, so these data do not support the physical supply chain as a unified whole, but are piled up in separate silos and are essentially used and analysed “offline”.
In order to be able to analyse the data of all the sensors associated with a given consignment uniformly, we need an effective platform which:
- is always available to everyone
- offers easy access to data from all sensors and IoT devices
- manages permissions quickly and easily
- enables data owners and service providers to trade with their data
- guarantees authenticity of the data
- provides real-time information.
When developing our services we at e-track have always given high priority to the above criteria, but we have not yet managed to find a platform that would meet all our expectations.
What we need to know about IOTA?
It is IOTA’s shared ledger technology that provides us with the tools to overcome the problems mentioned. The “uploading” of data is solved in Tangle, security and credibility are guaranteed, and can be shared freely with partners. The IoT data in Tangle can be shared and even purchased. This technology opens up new horizons in the visibility of the physical supply chain. Imagine a shipment that contains several independent IoT devices – they may be built into the products, in the means of transport, there are devices in the palette, there may be applied temperature sensors, vibration monitoring sensors, trackers, GPS pads, seals, etc. If a complete cargo – whether it be a container, a railway wagon, or a truck – contains more than one IoT device and can be monitored and analysed together or separately, it dramatically improves the quality of the information about that specific shipment.
Even if the shipment is loaded on a means of transport that is not equipped with tracking devices or they are not accessible to us, we can still get information about the whole of the shipment by processing the data derived from the IoT devices planted in the items of delivery. Albeit the services developed by e-track have enabled us to process and interpret the signals provided by a number of devices, with the introduction of IOTA technology we have new perspectives. We are now able to handle all sensors on a platform, share it with partners in line with their access privileges, thus ensuring 100% visibility of the processes.
The service is not only capable of sharing different status information, but also facilitates electronic transmission, sharing, and storage of all logistic process documents. In addition to enhancing the transparency of processes, it also enables a high degree of data integration. Electronic forwarding of freight documents offers partners the opportunity to issue a POD or invoice promptly. In addition to other shipping documents, the system can even automate billing/payment processes, but we will return to this in a future article.
In you want to read more about the potential of the supply chain, please check out our previous news or browse our services, which provide a number of solutions that help ensure the visibility of logistics processes.