Guest post by writer Sara Upton
The Internet of Things is generating a lot of headlines in 2016. But while this technological phenomenon lends itself to some pretty entertaining stories and interesting applications, a lot of the most impactful work of the IoT is still happening “behind the scenes.” One example is the way the IoT is quickly revolutionizing supply chains in business.
This is actually a pretty big deal for consumers, even if it’s not something we can necessarily see. The more smoothly and quickly a supply chain operates, the better things get for all of us. Companies save money and thus (conceivably, at least) don’t need to raise prices on goods. There’s also a better chance that stores will stay adequately stocked, reducing the number of times you go out shopping only to find that something isn’t in stock, or doesn’t come in your size.
But, again, the changes in the supply chain aren’t always necessarily apparent.
So how is the IoT actually revolutionizing the ways in which companies produce and ship products?
It all starts in the actual facilities where products are designed and created. In these facilities it’s almost hard to count the number of ways in which the IoT can be put to use. To begin with, we can think of applications like smart security and lighting systems, which are incredibly useful in production plants. Keeping the lights off when they’re not needed, controlling temperatures, maintaining security, and more all ultimately contribute to savings. However, applications in company production facilities being taken even further.
The Washington Post wrote about how GE was using the IoT on the production floor, implementing thousands of sensors to monitor different aspects of manufacturing processes. These ranged from temperature control in machines to recognizing tiny differences in products and getting to the bottom of what caused them. In the years since the IoT has only become more all-encompassing and have become vital to helping factory managers to better control every last detail of production to ensure top quality, cost-efficient work.
Arguably even more important is what happens with products after they leave their newly IoT-infused production facilities. Here the IoT is taking effect in a pretty significant way, as vans and trucks that companies use to move their goods are being outfitted with advanced GPS and IoT-connected sensors for the sake of safety, efficiency, and easy management. Networkfleet has explained what this helps fleet managers monitor every facet of the shipping process, from routing to vehicle diagnostics to driver performance. Additionally, products in vehicles can be tracked remotely from factory to distribution center, and then to the stores in which they’ll be sold. This can make shipping operate more quickly and smoothly, making for a better guarantee that stores can stay stocked at the end of the day.
Finally, we get to the actual stores, where companies are using the IoT in a number of ways designed to improve the shopping experience. Specifically relating to the supply chain there’s a small but impactful shift going on. B2C notes that sensors on shelves can now relay inventory information, automatically alerting the relevant systems or people in a company when supply of a given product is getting low. This sets everything off, and theoretically means that we don’t have to worry about stores being low on inventory anymore.
Altogether, yes, it’s a little bit dizzying. It can sound like there are just sensors everywhere and the term “efficiency” gets thrown around a lot. But many of these are subtle changes that aren’t visible to most of us, although they do stand a chance of making retail businesses operate in a manner that makes the experience better—and possibly more affordable—for consumers.
Written by Sara Upton
Sara Upton is a freelance writer based out of Minneapols, Minn. who has a passion for technology, fitness, and fashion.