The Internet of Things – Is It the Game-Changer It’s Made Out to Be?

hamburg port authority

I revisited recently last year’s “Internet of Things in Logistics” Trend report published by DHL and Cisco Consulting Services. It’s a fascinating read and makes some pretty bold claims:

There will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020 compared to 15 billion today.

For any organization with a supply chain or logistics operations, the Internet of Things (IoT) will have game-changing consequences, from creating more ‘last mile’ delivery options for customers, to more efficient warehousing operations and freight transportation.

According to Cisco IOT will deliver a $1.9 trillion boost to the supply chain and logistics sector.

Personally I don’t doubt any of the above claims, IOT is a major disrupter in logistics and will continue to be so for quite a while as the early adopters scramble to gain competitive advantage. However I must admit that my eyes start to glaze over as I come across another grand sweeping claim for how IOT is going to change the very nature of logistics.

So in order to discover if the Internet of Things really is the game-changer that it’s made out to be  I decided to do some digging and find some real world examples of IOT implementation and value creation in action.

Hamburg Port Authority

Fleet management is crucial at the port of Hamburg as it is located in the heart of the city with no room for expansion. The only way to increase throughput is to somehow speed up loading and unloading times. By taking an IOT based approach coordinating all aspects of the harbor operations the Hamburg port authority has successfully saved five minutes waiting time per truck driver, which translates into 5000 hours less truck time each day.


Amsterdam Schipol Airport

The airport is utilizing Undagrid technology to track and trace non-motorized objects or those not connected to the power grid. What this means in practice is that baggage carts and aircraft stairs can be easily located at all times. This optimal use of assets means that less are required significantly reducing expenses.

UPS and Telematics Technology

UPS have deployed 200 sensors and GPS tracking on each of their delivery vehicles. Some of the 200 data points collected are speed, RPM, oil pressure, seatbelt use, the number of times the truck has been placed in reverse, and idling time.

According to UPS Telematics helped avoid 5.3 million miles of driving in 2011. It also helped cut 98 million minutes of idling time saving more 653,000 gallons of fuel.

Norfolk Southern and GE Movement Planner

GE Movement Planner is a software solution that could change the rail industry by increasing the average network speed of trains by 10-20 percent or two-to-four miles-per-hour. One mile per hour in velocity improvement has the potential to save approximately $200 million in capital and expense annually.



David Chauncey of Vnomics and Brian Balius of Saia LTL Freight discuss how the Vnomics platform, powered by Intel technology, is bringing intelligence to Saia freight trucks, making drivers safer and more efficient, while reducing fuel consumption. Enabled by IOT, the Vnomics comprehensive vehicle analysis technology uses hundreds of sensors throughout the trucks to generate real-time vehicle diagnostics that improve driver performance, safety, vehicle maintenance, and fuel efficiency.


Five shining examples of how IOT is delivering significant operational efficiencies through intelligent asset management, which in turn deliver considerable cost savings. I also know for a fact that RFID technology is being used to track containers and is also being deployed on pallets for specific product tracking, and of course we mustn’t the KIVA robots automating Amazons warehouses.

So yes, the Internet of Things is a game changer, but we’re only at the start of a very long game. The big league players with their huge wallets are currently jostling for position and will only be joined by the smaller enterprises as the price of the technology drops. And the procrastinators sat in the audience will wonder what the heck had just happened when the game finally draws to an end!

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