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Transportation and logistics operations are in a brittle, fast-changing business landscape. Logistics is all about ensuring accuracy, transparency and timely services today. The Covid-19 crisis demanded logistics companies gain overall visibility, flexibility and agility despite the industry’s growing complexity, and Brexit has added a new set of challenges.
It is no longer a secret that customers expect more, and with rising customer demands, fleet companies need to be flexible and innovative. Digital solutions like telematics help them meet those needs, extend beyond traditional approaches and be prepared to deploy futuristic concepts.
Telematics combines telecommunications and informatics to unlock critical insights that help logistics and fleet companies make strategic decisions, address multiple fleet management challenges and boost fleet efficiency. Hence, logistics businesses worldwide are investing in telematics solutions and making fleets interconnected like never before. McKinsey estimates that data shared through telematics will be worth $750 trillion by 2030.
However, telematics has advanced over the years and shifted from collecting data about vehicles to analyzing data about drivers. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, IoT and advanced analytics have facilitated telematics to unleash previously impossible applications and leverage the benefits of real-time data transmission.
Then, what is the future? Undoubtedly, telematics is here to stay, making the future of logistics and telematics digital-driven. In fact, connectivity and convenience will rule the coming years, fostering on-demand and flexible logistics. And here, technology will be the biggest driver.
IoT and blockchain
Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), everything is connected. IoT sensors and connected solutions are already helping logistics companies to intelligently combine the physical world with the digital world and simplify the unbending world of logistics, bolstering visibility and efficiency. Intelligent logistics networks are looming, enabling fleet companies to trace and ensure reliable operations.
IoT will enable more intelligent connectivity and share information about product conditions, whereabouts and goods management. When fleet managers can remotely know the exact temperature in trailers, they can ensure safer and more efficient deliveries, mitigating the risk and costs associated with dead stock. Timely decision-making insights can go a long way to maintaining broad margins.
IoT combined with blockchain will provide greater transparency. Distributed ledger technologies will allow every party in the supply chain to track goods and entirely rely on the data’s accuracy. The peer-to-peer technology of blockchain will coordinate deliveries to vehicles directly and automatically without any human intervention. Everybody could see and analyze each movement and activity, identify improvements and action them now (and rapidly). Over time, we can also expect IoT devices to be smaller and easily accessible.
Providing a connection intensity of 1 million connections/km2, 5G is set to disrupt the world with super-fast internet speed. With a ten times quicker speed than 4G, 5G will enforce Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) applications. Vehicles will share information, understand infrastructure signals and encompass knowledge of cyclists and pedestrians without going through the network. And with a response time of less than a millisecond, we will witness vehicles perpetually talking to each other like in-person human conversations.
Fleet and logistics companies can improve safety, operate on transparent data and improve fleet management with such robust network capabilities. Besides, 5G can be the wave-maker for trailblazing innovations like augmented reality fleet applications.
Indeed, 5G promises lower latency, impeccable bandwidth and faster communication, implying that we need robust telematics systems to handle such a surge of data, quickly analyze data in real time and make the most out of valuable data sources. “Real-time digital twins” — a new software technique — provides the necessary evolution in the existing telematics software for streaming analytics.
Rather than processing incoming telemetry through delayed batched analysis, digital twins do it as data rolls in. It simply creates a twin of each physical data source and studies inbound insights from that particular data source. Here, data sources are vehicles, drivers or containers. So, each digital twin holds critical detailed information about its corresponding data source, assists in evaluating incoming information and effectively updates the specific data source’s knowledge. With such on-the-spot information from digital twins, fleet admins can make the most rational decision on anything that requires immediate attention.
Typically, delayed batch analysis can take hours to aggregate and analyze incoming data, but real-time digital twins taper the entire process to seconds and empower better situational awareness. Additionally, digital twins can use the 5G network to send back signals to the vehicle and elevate dual-communication capabilities. For example, using machine learning algorithms, digital twins can catch sight of an imminent vehicle equipment failure and alert drivers immediately.
And as these digital twins operate on in-memory, scalable computing systems, logistics businesses can easily manage increased data sources with growing fleet size by injecting more digital twins. Due to logistics’ complex nature, digital twins will aid telematics to keep the fleet’s challenges under the thumb.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
A fair and responsible logistics system will play an essential part in fleet management strategy and work towards a safer, cleaner future for all. With the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), transportation and logistics need to shift to a supply chain that does not harm the environment and evolve into a greener and more sustainable mobility. Thereupon, fleet businesses will have to follow a market-responsive, demand-driven supply chain model, and MaaS will become dominant.
Integrating various modes of transport services into a single mobility service available on demand, MaaS will allow logistics to move from one point to another on time and cost-efficiently. But when integrated with telematics, MaaS can unify a range of operations from mobility planning to asset management. Instead of handling a few physical assets within the company, fleet owners can manage mobility for all assets across numerous companies.
MaaS enables fleet businesses to naturally scale efficiently and leverage the economic benefits of sharing vehicles with other companies by using existing facilities and a labor force. In reality, logistics will focus on vehicle usage rather than vehicle ownership. The environmental impact will directly be linked with the company’s failure and success, making reverse logistics critical and changing the linear supply chain to circular.
The future will be defined by how well logistics can focus on deploying technologies onto their existing systems. Evolution will take place from siloed reactive operations to forethoughtful thinking to meet the rising demands of delivering goods in a personalized and purposeful way. Increased connected solutions will foster logistics companies to work across the ecosystem, making cross-border collaboration the new normal. So, telematics and logistics will unfollow being cheaper and efficient but rather be intelligent and personalized.