The consumer trend in connected devices is all about connected cars, smart homes and cities — like fridges that order milk when it runs out and voice assistants that control home heating systems. But the Internet of Things (IoT) also has big things to offer to enterprises, particularly in logistics and trade. Here are some of the IoT and connectivity trends from RocketSpace's 2017 Disruption Report.
IoT Is Not Just for the Home
According to a study conducted by Forrester Research and Zebra Technologies, enterprise IoT deployments have grown a whopping 333 percent since 2012. Over two-thirds of survey respondents had deployed IoT technologies in their companies in 2014, compared to just 15 percent in 2012.
IoT has been transforming the logistics sector by connecting suppliers to shippers, carriers, warehouses and freight brokers, as well as tracking goods being transported, people, trucks and machinery. IoT has also been transforming the paper-heavy world of freight forwarding through e-freight.
By equipping vehicles, warehouses, goods, cargo carriers and everything else in the logistics chain with smart sensors, companies can track their shipments like never before. Firms can optimize shipping routes, manage their warehouses more efficiently and make real-time decisions that weren't possible before.
Simple Ideas to Simplify Shipping
The IoT revolution in logistics began with startups like Shipwise, which provides a web platform for small and medium enterprises who want to book and manage global freight shipments. Shipwise's online dashboard provides shippers end-to-end management of shipments, as well as analytics that help them make better decisions about the movement of their goods.
Shipping has traditionally been a paper-heavy industry, with a wide range of documents that need to accompany goods from place to place. But the move to e-freight is changing all that. Chain of Things, a Hong Kong startup, uses blockchain and IoT technologies to provide secure traceable shipping using smart contracts. Having humans handle paperwork at every stage of the logistics chain leaves the industry wide open to inefficiencies, errors, fraud and disputes. With sensors and smart contracts, shipments can be tracked globally, and documents can be transferred and added to electronically, with precise records available, to reduce errors.
Eradicating Human Error
Even requesting freight shipments is subject to error and mishandling. Freight quotes are wrong in around 20 percent of situations, costing $684 million annually. Meanwhile, according to a survey by the startup Freightos, the average quote time for a shipping request is four days, with over half of forwarders giving no response. To counter this problem, Freightos offers an online network of freight forwarders that provide shippers with automated freight quotes and a contract management system.
Another startup that's working on these issues is Flexport, which is both a freight forwarder and a licensed customs brokerage. Through an online portal, businesses can buy, manage and track shipments globally. By setting up direct relationships with trucking firms and container ships, Flexport is disrupting the traditional model of freight forwarding and simplifying the process for its customers. As of September 2016, Flexport had received $94 million in funding. It also grew the volume of goods it ships by 1,600 percent last year.
It's no surprise that VC money going into transportation startups has skyrocketed, from $726 million in 2010 to $4 billion in 2014. According to The Wall Street Journal, VC firms have poured over a billion dollars into freight-forwarding startups alone since 2014.
IoT is already transforming the logistics industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
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