What is IOT device?

What is IoT Device? How the Internet of Things (IoT) Devices Transform Supply Chains

As technology continues to evolve by the hour, it’s becoming easier for supply chain partners and businesses to connect with each other worldwide. And as the number of customers and suppliers grows, we humans may find it challenging to manage such complicated supply chains.

Well, this is where the Internet of Things (IoT) devices come in—to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences through their massive real-time data collection. Consequently, many industries are now leveraging IoT technology at different levels and for various reasons, and the logistics and supply chain industry is no exception.

In fact, a report by IDC projects that there will be a network of 55.7 billion connected IoT devices by 2025, able to generate about 80 billion zettabytes (ZB) of data. And the number is only expected to grow even further, with other reports projecting the global IoT in supply chain market size to be worth $41.8 billion by 2033.   

But what exactly are IoT devices? How do they work? And how exactly do they relate to logistics and supply chain operations? That’s what we intend to cover in this post, among other relevant topics. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

What is IoT Device? How the Internet of Things (IoT) Devices Transform Supply Chains
What is IoT Device? How the Internet of Things (IoT) Devices Transform Supply Chains

What is an IoT Device?

IoT devices are pieces of non-standard computing hardware, such as actuators, sensors, appliances, gadgets, and other machines that can collect and share data via the internet and other networks. They are designed for specific applications and can be integrated into various products, including mobile phones, medical devices, environmental sensors, and industrial equipment.

Types of IoT Devices

IoT devices fall into three categories: industrial, consumer, and enterprise. Let’s look at each in more detail.

  • Industrial IoT (IIoT) Devices

As the name implies, IIoT devices are intended for use in industrial environments, such as factories. They mostly entail sensors that are employed to monitor production lines and other manufacturing operations. The sensor data is then analysed by monitoring programmes, which ensure that critical processes are running smoothly and optimally, as well as forecast what needs to be changed, avoiding unexpected downtime.

In the event a problem arises, the system can notify a service professional, advising them of the issue and what is required to fix it. By doing so, the technician won’t have to come on-site to assess the problem and then go to a store to fetch the item required to resolve it.

Additionally, IoT devices are employed in the medical field to track and monitor a patient’s vitals and health. If a patient needs assistance, these monitors alert the appropriate healthcare staff.

  • Consumer IoT (CIoT) Devices

These include wearables, toys, smart speakers like Google Home, smart TVs, and other smart appliances.

An ideal application of consumer IoT devices in a smart home which features gadgets designed to detect and respond to human presence. As soon as a person gets home, their car connects with the garage to unlock the door.  Upon entry, the lighting adjusts to a lower intensity and colour, and the heating system to a predetermined temperature.

Other smart home technologies include robotic vacuum cleaners that know which parts of the house need to be cleaned more often and sprinklers that use weather forecast information to determine the amount of water to release on the grass. 

  • Enterprise IoT Devices

These are edge devices specifically designed for businesses, typically to improve operational efficiency or facility maintenance. A few good examples include smart security, smart lighting, smart thermostats, and smart locks, all of which are also available as consumer versions.

Smart devices can facilitate meetings in the workplace. On the other hand, intelligent sensors installed in conference rooms can assist employees in identifying and scheduling meeting rooms, ensuring that the appropriate room size, type, and amenities are available.

Similarly, retailers can employ Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and GPS systems to improve inventory accuracy and track their products as they flow through the supply chain. The result? Better supply chain management.

How IoT Devices Work

Like with any other devices, IoT devices differ in functionality. However, they share some similarities in how they operate. Fundamentally, IoT devices are physical gadgets that interact with the natural world in various ways. It could be an intelligent security camera in a facility or a smart sensor on a production line. Either way, the device perceives what is going on around it.

These devices often feature an integrated CPU, a network adapter, and firmware. They work by connecting to a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server and receive an IP address, which they use to communicate with others on the network. While most IoT devices are intended for use on private networks, some can be accessed over the public internet.

It’s also worth mentioning that most IoT devices are managed and configured using a software program or application. However, this is not an absolute requirement, as some devices feature built-in web servers and, therefore, don’t need an external program.

Once an IoT device is set up and operational, most of its data is outbound. For instance, an industrial smart sensor transmits sensor data, and a security camera transmits video data. Nonetheless, some devices, such as smart lights, receive user input.     

The Relationship Between IoT Devices and Supply Chain Operations

The Relationship Between IoT Devices and Supply Chain Operations
The Relationship Between IoT Devices and Supply Chain Operations

As we all know, modern technology has significantly improved our lives as people, as well as enterprise production activities. Mobile devices, which were once merely communication tools, have advanced to a new level where people can now share information and even operate other linked devices over the internet.

As the global population continues to grow, the use of mobile devices grows with it. To optimise the massive volume of raw data offered by IoT technology, clever applications and combinations are being developed. These include Big Data, IoT in security, etc.

You may have heard of parcels being delivered by drones and self-driving cars. So, yeah. Perhaps you missed it, but the truth is that IoT technology has gradually and quietly crept into supply chain and logistics operations. The preceding example is just but a tip of the iceberg—there are many use cases of IoT devices in supply chain management, several of which we’ll explore in a section below.  

By connecting various IoT devices, a network that doesn’t need human intervention is created. This ‘live data’ allows streamlining different supply chain processes. For one, the data would enable organisations to monitor conditions and track good movement in real-time. Payment settlements can also be automated through IoT-enabled smart contracts and blockchain technology. In any case, IoT increases supply chain efficiency and cuts down costs.    

How IoT is Assisting Supply Chain and Logistics

Employing IoT devices in supply chain and logistics operations is highly promising, especially considering the numerous benefits that IoT technology brings. Here are some of them:

Improved Visibility and Tracking

Suffice to say, IoT serves as the eyes and ears of the whole supply chain. It assists in tracking the product’s condition, movement, and location, as well as monitor internal policy compliance and inventory levels. This end-to-end monitoring facilitates a smooth flow of processes.

Reduced Costs and Risks

Another advantage of integrating IoT devices in supply chain management is cost-effectiveness. Through IoT, businesses can avoid product spoilage or damage, eliminate overstocking, reduce manual labour, foresee maintenance needs, and optimise delivery routes, all of which make the supply chain less risky and more sustainable.     

Improved Demand Forecasting

IoT not only enables organisations to gather and analyse real-time data but also forecast demand more accurately. This allows supply chain controllers to tweak their distribution strategies and production to meet consumer needs.

Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity

Employing IoT in supply chain management entails handling large amounts of data that can be evaluated to make operational changes. On top of that, supply chain administrators enjoy the automation of specific processes, such as predictive maintenance, shipment monitoring, inventory management, and more.

Optimised Inventory Management

Thanks to smart shelves, IoT also enables supply chain personnel to track inventory levels in real time. As such, it allows businesses to manage their inventory more efficiently, preventing stockouts or overstocking, as well as ensuring that products can always be accessed at the right time.

Real-World Industry Use Cases of IoT Devices in Supply Chain

When trying to integrate IoT into your logistics and supply chain operations, it’s best to draw inspiration from real-world leaders who have already done it successfully. Here are a few examples to learn from.

Walmart

Walmart is known to leverage IoT solutions to monitor energy usage, temperature, and other environmental variables when storing fresh produce. The company uses these technologies to adjust their HVAC systems automatically, ensuring that the stored food meets the highest quality standards.

Amazon

Through a venture investment program, Amazon invested $1 billion to “spur supply chain, fulfilment, and logistics innovation,” with a specific emphasis on workplace robotics and automation to offer faster delivery times and reduce manual labour.

“We see an opportunity to look beyond our own experience and empower companies that are developing emerging technologies in customer fulfilment operations, logistics, and the supply chain,” a statement from Alex Ceballos Encarnacion, Amazon’s VP of worldwide corporate development. “We’re excited to help advance these technologies as online shopping becomes even more important to people who are looking for more convenience and time savings.”

Encarnacion further emphasised Amazon’s commitment, stating, “With our scale, Amazon is committed to investing in companies that will ignite innovation in emerging technologies that can help improve employee experiences and safety while seamlessly coexisting with workforces across the supply chain, logistics, and other industries.”

Maersk

Maersk is also another excellent use case for adopting IoT devices in supply chain processes. The Danish shipping company, which accounts for nearly 15% of the global container trade, recognised that in order to keep growing, it needed to do more than just move products. Instead, it needed a plan for digital transformation to offer its clients meaningful options that would make the company a comprehensive supply chain solution and not just a carrier.  

In recent years, the company has made significant investments in blockchain and IoT technology to improve cost-effectiveness, safety, and transparency in its sea freight operations. One great example is Remote Container Management (RCM), a system that allows customers to track the location, humidity, and temperature of individual containers, as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

These efforts are critical to Maersk’s long-term viability, particularly due to the huge cost-saving opportunities that come with these technologies.  

Bottomline

For a while now, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been quietly transforming different industries, including the supply chain industry, as this post has shown. While it doesn’t attract as much attention as other technological breakthroughs, IoT remains a key player in optimising supply chain and logistics operations.

In other words, incorporating IoT devices in supply chain processes has many advantages, not only for big industry players but also for medium-sized companies and startups. To implement IoT in your business’s existing supply chain successfully, you must equip yourself with the necessary expertise, plan properly, and coordinate with appropriate technology partners to ensure optimal performance.

At Rollcage.ie, we are all about helping businesses optimise their supply chain operations. We manufacture and supply top-quality storage handling and logistics equipment, such as roll containers, pallets, stillages, etc.  

Ready to take your supply chain to the next level? Contact us to learn more about how our products can help you achieve better logistics efficiency and performance.    

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