What IoT, analytics solutions can be developed with 5G in logistics?
Advent of technologies such as the 5G network carry the potential to rapidly advance economic growth for India. A quick glance around tells the viewer the growth of the country’s digital economy, as payments, processes and various services become increasingly digitised, contained and accessed through smartphones and other devices operating via the internet. India’s evolving commerce and trade has earned India the status of one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and a critical player in the overall growth story has been the logistics industry.
Accounting for 14.4% of the country’s GDP, logistics is considered the backbone of the economy. In a span of five years, India has improved its position, climbing 6 places in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI), to be ranked 38th out of 139 countries. Its goal to form a part of the top 25 countries in the world could be fuelled with the help of technology adoption for India’s logistics industry, as cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, IoT, big data analytics, blockchain, and other new-age technologies disrupt and herald Industry 4.0.
The new standard of cellular networks and wireless technology, with its low latency, exceptionally high speeds and broader coverage, promises the possibility of achieving higher levels of connectedness. This presents a uniquely beneficial opportunity for a highly fragmented industry such as logistics, which remains composed of over 90% of the unorganised sector, and employs a large population. Smartphone penetration over the years has spurred the growth of e-commerce, directly inducing the need for logistics efficiency. With increased penetration and adoption of 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics, logistics operators stand to access and analyse significant amounts of data from transportation assets, supply chains, warehouses, fleets and remote locations.
Transportation, for instance, stands to be transformed with the adoption of 5G networks and ancillary technologies. The logistics industry in India depends heavily on roadways for transportation of domestic freight, which occurs through a diverse network of logistics companies, fleet owners and truckers. The trucking sector thus accounts for a large section of logistics, as an estimated 65% of the total freight transportation in the country occurs via roads. This includes approximately 80 lakh trucks transporting goods from one part of the country to another. 5G networks, and the benefits entailed by it have the potential to transform this industry, which is largely fragmented and opaque due to the presence of over 2 lakh brokers and intermediaries functioning between fleet owners and logistics service providers, and which has little digital penetration yet. Adoption of digital technology has risen over the past few years, as Indian startups have emerged that provide platforms that leverage technologies such as IoT, data analytics and machine learning to enable intelligent freight-matching, further providing an opportunity for shippers to access a network of fleet owners and truckers who are reliable, while equipping them with real-time data and visibility on shipments to plan and implement cost and operationally efficient strategies to become profitable. Such truck-tech platforms can make load discovery easier for truckers, who benefit by being able to utilise their assets more effectively, that is, by ensuring reduced empty miles, lesser fuel consumption from optimised routes, and access to instant digital payments.
Evolving consumer expectations around product availability and delivery are higher than ever, and there is an imminent need for the logistics industry to transform in order to meet such expectations. Interconnected devices are capable of delivering accurate, insightful data for analysis. 5G enables data sharing at a much faster, and more reliable rate. This can further lead to improving real-time tracking and monitoring of shipments in India’s logistics industry. 5G and IoT together can provide fleet owners improved bandwidth and connectivity to better engage with their assets, with information on route and weather conditions that allow for efficient planning of resources. Improved visibility into the supply chain can directly lead to optimal outcomes, unlocking efficiency and resiliency for operators.
5G and IoT can significantly enhance warehouses, ports, shop floors and factories. They can potentially enable smart inventory, tracking autonomous operations, and streamline processes. IoT devices that deploy sensor technology can be used for vehicles and packages for accurate location information and tracking. Another key feature of 5G, and its integration with IoT devices can render enhanced safety within the supply chain, by reducing the risk of lost or stolen goods. As sensors notify logistics operators of any derailment, they are able to respond to the situation quickly and effectively. Moreover, fleet managers can monitor vehicle health, driver behaviour, payload, traffic conditions, and much more, simply by using technology. The data can be used to not only improve logistics operations, but make supply chains altogether efficient.
The 5G network bears capabilities such as providing thousand times more data per area. It has the ability to support hundred times the number of connected devices, compared to 4G. Such advantages, among myriad others, have led to 5G roll-out across more than seventy countries, covering half of global markets and almost a third of the world’s population. Logistics plays a vital role in ensuring proper functioning of a number of other industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and others. The use of 5G and IoT can further enable real-time monitoring of equipment and vehicles, which can provide more opportunities for logistics operators and asset owners to address maintenance and safety issues.
The adoption of 5G networks and other cutting-edge technologies can thus lead to creation of a larger, better connected logistics ecosystem. Digital freight networks can offer faster, more reliable and more efficient logistics services. The use of such technologies and a data-centric approach can therefore enable businesses to streamline operations, reduce risks, control the impact of delays, respond to disruptions with agility, and operate more sustainably.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Indian Transport & Logistics News.