IoT and the transformation of transportation

The robot revolution takes to the road

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

It’s your sister’s birthday and you forgot. Again.

Luckily, there’s express shipping. And you’ll be able to get something delivered to her doorstep in the nick of time.

From the moment you press the purchase button, you gain access to a global stockpile of data that can keep you updated on your package’s journey — down to the minute and coordinates. But the benefits to be had from this explosion of data don’t end with the consumer. In fact, the data revolution is happening on a much larger scale in the transportation industry as a whole.

If the trailer belongs to the consumer, the cabin belongs to the deliverers. And it’s here, in this space no bigger than a closet, that the transformation of the transportation industry is taking place.

Digitizing the cab

Electronic logging devices (ELDs) in the cab are instrumental in the transformation. Through automated tracking of shipments and driver activity, companies can monitor everything from mandatory rest periods to hard braking and make the calls necessary to keep drivers safe.

“There’s no better time to be in logistics. There’s no better time to be in technology,” says Nathan Johnson, CIO of Werner Enterprises.

By 2025, 63.5 million trucks will be connected globally on the Internet of Things (Frost & Sullivan, Global Connected Truck Telematics Outlook, 2017). The digitization of the cab through digital freight and open telematics is set to dramatically improve operations, helping more people to own fleets, drive down the prices of goods, and make delivery times more responsive and efficient.

Beyond driver behavior, telematics can help to ensure the trucks are in optimal shape and form, and even identify nearby locations that are available to perform on-the-go maintenance. The constant influx of data is helping trucks, drivers and state infrastructure to keep open communication in bettering the industry.

Explosion of data

With upward of 1,000 sensors installed in a single truck cab at times, CIOs of transportation companies have access to significantly more data. More and more, they are evolving to become expert integrators, introducing technologies at the speed necessary to adapt to consumer demands.

“Think big, start small, deliver quickly,” Johnson says. “You need to keep the day job front and center and provide the resources that are making that step-by-step improvement.”

That day job becomes a lot smarter, with satellite navigation and sensors enabling near real-time tracking of trucks, airplanes and ships. This, combined with public data like road conditions, traffic patterns, weather, and fuel station locations, can inform systems that automatically calculate and optimize ideal routing.

The route calculations with engine output monitoring can also help to reduce fuel usage, a benefit to the environment. And freight location can be tracked to an exact degree, a benefit to customers.

A safer, more efficient, more mindful future

While transportation CIOs have their hands full simply keeping up with technology that already exists, the possibilities of the future are also of great interest for growth.

“When you look at the explosion in IoT and those technologies...we see that as an enormous opportunity to drive safety and productivity within our fleets,” Johnson says.

Guiding the industry toward a future in which humans and machinery work together in harmony is a source of optimism for many leaders. When coordinated effectively, emerging tracking capabilities, like radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, provide logistics managers the prospect of entirely new levels of safety. With heavy goods vehicle (HGV) platooning, several trucks can work together at exact speeds to reduce factors like wind resistance contributing to excess fuel consumption. And beyond fuel, the environment can benefit from waste reduction, lower energy usage and optimized loads.

The result of IoT technology on the trucking industry is a robotic revolution, and it’s sparking wins all around with lower costs, smarter operations and some very happy customers.

To learn more about trends and emerging solutions surrounding the transportation industry, visit our transportation industry solutions page. For more information on connected cars, fleets and more, visit our IoT vehicle solutions page.