November 2020 Guest Opinion: IoT Is Enabling a New Era of End-to-End...

November 2020 Guest Opinion: IoT Is Enabling a New Era of End-to-End Supply-Chain Monitoring & Actionable Analytics

November 2, 2020

LPWANs Help Realize Supply-Chain Monitoring’s Potential

Real-time, transparent, and seamless tracking of assets, both indoors and out, while optimizing logistics and supply chains, has long been the focus of innovative companies around the globe. In early iterations, the connectivity used for asset tracking was either cellular or satellite. The objective was purely to have remote visibility of the location of the asset. Nowadays, we are able to communicate not only the position of the asset but also key information, such as the status of the object and data, such as temperature, speed and asset-specific information. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is on the cusp of ushering in a whole new era of end-to-end supply-chain monitoring and actionable analytics. In particular, the recent emergence of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs) is driving this transition.

Analyst firm Berg Insight reports that the number of active tracking devices deployed for cargo-loading units, including trailers, intermodal containers, rail freight wagons, air cargo containers, cargo boxes, and pallets, reached 6.1 million worldwide in 2018. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.3%, this number is expected to reach 20.4 million by 2023. The fast-rising volume of globally transported goods, along with the highly diverse supply chain spans a wide range of different attributes and requirements, requiring intercontinental and global solutions. Routine activity encompasses everything from the shipping of large products from factories to distributors and customers to the minutiae of ensuring the tiniest parts arrive punctually at just-in-time production lines.

Supply-chain management is at the heart of the retail sector. Because traditional patterns can no longer be relied on, facilitating decision-making by providing timely data that can be analyzed and acted upon is a vital capability for manufacturers, retailers, and distributors. Deloitte’s “Global Chief Procurement Officer Study 2018” found that only 6% of organizations have full visibility into their supply chain, and 65% of organizations have poor or no visibility beyond their tier-1 suppliers.

Ensuring stock is available and swiftly dispatched to customers or stores is integral to ensuring the right equipment is in the right place and in the right condition to enable the activities of many other industries. As economies combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it will take even greater visibility into supply chains to enable factories that depend on just-in-time delivery of goods to reopen and adapt to new operational requirements.

Why LoRaWAN fits the needs of logistics organizations

From the huge volume of tonne-kilometers transported globally, it’s clear that asset tracking, particularly of shipping containers, is an enormous market, and this is only added to by smaller assets, parcels, equipment, and vehicles that need to be tracked throughout the logistics industry.

A unifying factor is that much of the assets to be tracked cross borders, even moving from continent to continent, and therefore globally applicable solutions to asset connectivity are needed to enable tracking.

Of similar importance is that this is not a high bandwidth industry. The asset only needs to communicate its location in order to be tracked and, even advanced applications such as cold chain transport only need to transmit small amounts of data about the temperature of the product being shipped. Therefore, relatively low bandwidth is ideal and low latency is not required. In addition, when stacked against the cost of higher bandwidth satellite or cellular connections, it’s clear that LPWANs such as LoRaWAN have much to offer and can easily handle the sheer scale of asset-tracking market demands.

LoRaWAN specifically is an excellent fit, because it brings together competitive cost with the capability of handling extremely high device density at a given site. If you think of a logistics facility with the tens of thousands of containers, assets and parcels that traverse it every day, this capability is essential. Also essential is the ability to have deep indoor coverage, which is vital for the large warehouses that form the core of international logistics, some of which involve underground capacity. LoRaWAN has the capability of penetrating these large buildings, ensuring uninterrupted asset tracking.

At these facilities, LoRaWAN offers the option of public or private networks, which is attractive to large site operators because it can drive economies, assure performance and is perceived to be highly secure. In either type of deployment, it’s worth noting that LoRaWAN has mature security that has been developed over many years.

A further strength is that LoRaWAN devices typically have very long battery life, making them ideal for multiple long journeys, such as for the months involved in intercontinental shipping, or for more complex applications such as updating the location and status of a truck daily.

LoRa Alliance® member companies explain how they leverage LoRaWAN to deliver supply-chain benefits:

Senet, a leading provider of cloud-based software and services enabling global connectivity, operates the largest public, carrier-grade LoRaWAN network in North America. Senet’s IoT network and flexible network deployment models enable solution providers and their supply chain customers (manufacturers, distributors, 3PLs, and retailers) to benefit from low cost, low power sensors to track assets and goods through the global supply chain. For example, through its partnership with NanoThings, a developer of long-range, temperature-tracking smart labels, companies can remotely monitor product temperature from inbound supplier shipments prior to arrival and from cold storage warehousing facilities to outbound retail locations. This contactless remote monitoring allows for the rapid disposition of shipments to determine if goods should be processed as planned, or rerouted for further quality control action. The solution also supports compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), providing end-to-end temperature monitoring and secure cloud storage to ensure transit and temperature data is available whenever it is needed.

Oxit leverages LoRaWAN to provide custom product development and System Integrations for companies within the Internet of Supply Chain vertical. Oxit enables companies to capture valuable, actionable data and utilize best-in-class tech to improve quality outputs and increase profitability through the early detection of errors and issues. This forward-thinking approach to the manufacturing process is a significant way that Oxit uses LoRaWAN to empower & enable clients to succeed.

Semtech’s LoRa devices are widely adopted long-range, low-power solutions for IoT that gives telecom companies, IoT application makers and system integrators the feature set necessary to deploy low-cost, interoperable IoT networks, gateways, sensors, module products, and IoT services worldwide. IoT networks based on the LoRaWAN® specification have been deployed in 100 countries and Semtech is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance®, the fastest growing IoT Alliance for Low Power Wide Area Network applications.

For supply chain track and trace, Viaanix is using Semtech’s LoRa devices.

Viaanix is a true end-to-end IoT firm that designs and manufactures RF Modules, Beacons, Gateways on multiple wireless communication technologies and has its own IoT Platform thus delivering solutions from conceptualization to deployment stage for its clients. Viaanix manages all aspects of a customer’s solution from designing the hardware, software, packing and manufacturing for a complete solution using IoT Technologies. It is a place where good ideas are transformed into great products and great services, that leads to social and economic empowerment.

The LoRa Alliance® is the fastest growing technology alliance. A non-profit association of more than 500 member companies, committed to enabling large scale deployment of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) IoT through the development and promotion of the LoRaWAN® open standard. Members benefit from a vibrant ecosystem of active contributors offering solutions, products & services, which create new and sustainable business opportunities.

Through standardization and the accredited certification scheme, the LoRa Alliance® delivers the interoperability needed for LPWA networks to scale, making LoRaWAN® the premier solution for global LPWAN deployments, with an extensive global footprint of public networks and real-world deployments. 

To contact LoRa Alliance®, email: [email protected]