Technology is always advancing, and any business owner knows that staying ahead of the current trends is one of the most important ways to stay relevant. But there are few industries that have been as affected by recent developments as the logistics and transportation business has. Cloud computing has really opened up the business, supporting the vast development of third party logistics (3PL) companies. Small businesses that would previously never have access to a meaningful supply chain can now compete with much bigger operations, and that creates a wealth of opportunities for logistics companies. But companies that don’t stay relevant with thoughtful development technology and modern software like a logistics app have little hope of succeeding. Here are the current, emerging, and future technologies you should be aware of.
More Robust Package Tracking
GPS is nothing new for the logistics industry. Most companies have had the capabilities to track their drivers for years, but what is changing is the sophisticated features of this technology. Developers learning how to develop a logistics app are focusing on how they can maximize the potential of GPS technology and find the right tech stack that allows for new features to be folded in to future versions without having to rewrite reams of code.
A big trend in current GPS technologies is more assisted communications with drivers. Modern logistics app development offers some really convenient automated functions for drivers by sending them automated alerts when they’re approaching their destination, automatically suggesting alternative routes in time with traffic conditions, and improving the driver logging process by recording mileage and driver hours.
But these new developments also provide more oversight on a whole fleet’s activities. The field known as telematics sources GPS information to a centralized database. It lets managers know when trucks need to be scheduled for maintenance and immediately alerts base when a check engine code pops up in a truck’s computer. This allows for a more efficiently managed fleet and prevents the threat of late deliveries and inconvenient roadside breakdowns. On a more micro level, fleet managers can even track individual behaviors by their drivers like excess speeding, quick stops, and idling. These functions can improve fuel performance while also creating more safe conditions on the roads their truckers travel, and many insurance companies are beginning to offer discounts for companies that utilize this type of technology in their operations.
The Internet of Things
Logistics providers today have a far more nuanced understanding of their warehouses and trucks than ever before. RFID tracking allows for an eminently affordable approach to tracking packages and can reduce human error and the labor that comes from manual tracking to a significant degree. Warehouse workers can know exactly where all of their freight is located, and much less effort has to be put into data entry and sifting through paperwork.
But the internet of things has the potential to offer even more robust control of freight tracking. 3PL companies typically have to work with clients in a wide variety of different industries, and the sort of freight they’re looking to ship often requires specialized oversight. While this would once require logistics businesses to specialize in their client partners, new IoT solutions make the overhead for such specialized shipping far easier. Whether you’re shipping medical supplies that need to be maintained at a certain temperature or reduce the risk of internal vibration when shipping sensitive chemicals, all of this can be handled through sophisticated but inexpensive sensors that then broadcast the information to a central base.
Transportation Management Software
There are a number of general management software apps on the market, and many of them offer an impressive range of features. The advantage of management software is that it unifies all of the platforms a company uses into a singular interface. Users don’t have to know how to define a technology stack, because there’s no need for the sort of complex APIs and integrations that come with cobbling together standalone software. Typically these software platforms will unify a whole range of divergent functions like employee scheduling, accounting, and even customer relationship management into a single package.
But while a general management platform can fill in a lot of gaps for a logistics company, there are many challenges unique to this industry. Fortunately, there’s a healthy variety of specialized management apps catered to the transportation and logistics industry. These take all of the features you’d expect from a more generic management platform and add in a number of others as well. These platforms can draw from internal databases to make more accurate and immediate estimates for prospective clients, implement proof of delivery functionality into your business, and create an interface for automatically handling online booking requests. Many can even provide cargo tracking options for their customers.
Transportation companies can now get everything they need to run their operations in a single and convenient package.
Machine Learning and Cloud Computing
There’s hardly a business today that can’t benefit in some way from recent development in cloud computing and machine learning. These interrelated disciplines rely on internet virtual servers to store and process information, and that allows for the sort of massive results you could previously only get with a dedicated server farm. Given the vast and complex amount of information a logistics company has to process, it’s an industry ripe for this sort of integration.
Cloud computing can be seen in obvious ways due to its practical application in a mobile app technology stack. The cloud is the most commonly used method for relaying trip information from warehouse to driver and back, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how these technologies can be implemented. The biggest advantage that these two technologies offer comes in the form of analytics. Big Data is going to rule the future of the logistics industry because it provides companies with the means to run a leaner and more streamlined business. In immediate terms, administrators can understand the decisions and weaknesses that are causing them money by reading outputs from GPS data and other sources. But machine learning allows for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of larger data patterns. These algorithms can identify trends and patterns that would likely never be recognized by human operators and identify trends and opportunities for the company’s future. The more information available, the more accurate the results, and that’s why it’s important for logistics companies to start incorporating this technology into their operations as soon as possible.
Amazon has already begun introducing flying drones into their shipment process, but the technology isn’t quite ready to be incorporated into logistics in a meaningful way yet. There are a number of practical and safety questions to consider, but the possibility that driverless cars and drones will play a major role in the future of logistics is a likely one. But chances are that these vehicles won’t replace drivers completely, at least not anytime soon. Instead, they’ll provide the sort of assisted driving that can reduce accidents and ensure driver safety. While this tech is still in its infancy, it’s worth looking into for any logistics company that wants to stick around for the long term.
One interesting company for example would be Morpheus.Network, which was built to make logistics easier using blockchain technology. Combining the most brilliant minds in global trade, information security, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, Morpheus.Network aims to fix the inefficiencies that the World Economic Forum has identified in a $15 trillion USD industry.