Telematics technology — which can refer to any piece of tech that combines telecommunications and information technology — is used across the business world, but it’s particularly valuable for logistics professionals, who face the challenge of managing an increasingly complex network of goods and delivery vehicle fleets.
With the right piece of technology, entrepreneurs can easily GPS track and condition monitor every shipment their business manages. Certain devices can offer near-real-time data on location and product status, allowing them to make better decisions and inform stakeholders.
Soon, new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) telematics technology may even enable companies to fully automate certain links in the supply chain.
Here’s why telematics is important to the global supply chain right now — and how soon-to-come developments may transform the industry.
Transparency and traceability with new solutions
Two of the most significant benefits of telematics technology are product transparency and traceability. With telematics technology and the right shipping practices, it’s possible to continuously have a view of where a given shipment, product or shipping vehicle is.
For all businesses, this data can be extremely valuable. When organized well, telematics data means better information about the location of goods, finished products and fleet vehicles that companies can pass on to stakeholders or customers or use to inform business decision-making.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, when logistics professionals were dealing with disruptions at every level of the supply chain, fleet telematics technology improved business organization and helped companies manage vast shipping fleets.
The technology also helped companies cope with frequently changing border regulations, route availabilities and detention delays.
Specific applications of supply chain telematics
For some sectors, the technology can be even more valuable. In the food and beverage industry, for example, traceability initiatives have become extremely important over the past few years. Telematics technology makes it even easier to record and organize information about where a product is coming from and how it was transported.
Knowing exactly how long ago a piece of fruit or vegetable was harvested can also help improve produce life span. With information on when a piece of produce was harvested and what conditions it’s faced in transport, transport professionals can often better comply with regulations and avoid food spoilage.
New offerings are also making it easier for logistics companies to apply the technology to their operations.
For example, logistics tech companies like Rand McNally are developing new truck-specific tablets that provide GPS navigation assistance and tracking for logistics companies and drivers. These devices even include features such as enhanced interfaces with 3D cities and landmarks for easier navigation.
Some American rail freight companies also plan to more aggressively adopt telematics technology over the new decade to improve business traceability and stay competitive with other transportation options.
How IIoT technology is changing the role of telematics
As technology improves, telematics solutions for the supply chain have become more powerful and flexible. For example, the rise of Industry 4.0 has pushed supply chain companies to adopt new smart industrial technology like IIoT sensors and devices.
These sensors — which use the internet to communicate with business systems and between themselves — can make telematics solutions even more effective.
In the field, applied IIoT technology — often in the form of a fleet of sensors — can make fleet telematics even more powerful. With an IIoT sensor attached to a truck or cargo container, a supply chain company can receive near-real-time updates on the location of a shipment or set of goods.
The sensors are also useful for condition monitoring. If a business owner needs to transport a certain shipment at a specific temperature or humidity, for example, the right IoT monitoring device can similarly provide real-time updates on conditions within each shipping container.
By using this information, companies can provide better updates to stakeholders and create more realistic estimates of when products will arrive. This can potentially help a company plan around delays or manage unusual shipping activity as quickly as possible.
Future developments in telematics technology
Over the next few years, telematics will likely become even more central to logistics, in part due to the increasing sophistication of available technology.
Further adoption of existing technology may also help make the global supply chain both more transparent and easier to manage.
More advanced telematics technology may offer even more information. For example, some new tools will also track data on vehicle health and fleet diagnostics, allowing companies to optimize maintenance schedules and keep shipments moving.
Captured fleet telematics data may also be useful after the fact. New AI and big data analysis solutions may help companies turn information from previous shipments into insights on supply chain inefficiencies.