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Opinion: 3 ways the IoT is transforming parcel shipping


Manish Choudhary, SVP of global SMB products and strategy at Pitney Bowes discusses the value that the internet of things (IoT) can add to fulfilment.
By 2020, Enterprise IoT is predicted to contribute $14.2 trillion to the global economy. Powerful technologies, streamlined processes, skilled people and advanced analytics connect across a global network. Sensors collect huge amounts of data from a diverse range of connected equipment, from aeroplanes to zero-emission cars.

IoT is transforming industries from manufacturing to healthcare, financial services to utilities. The shipping industry, too, is surging ahead with IoT adoption, demonstrating maturity in embracing the enormous potential of IoT. Consumer demand and the march of the ecommerce giants are just two of the reasons for the relatively-early adoption of IoT in shipping. As parcel volume surges, organisations manage this with innovative technologies. Every second, 2300 parcels are shipped in the world’s key global markets. In 2020, global parcel shipping volume is forecast to surpass

100 billion parcels. Ecommerce is a major instigator behind this exponential rise in volume – in fact, 94% of consumers globally are shopping online. Ecommerce firms continually raise consumer expectations, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in shipping. To deliver against these expectations, shipping firms are reinventing technology, creating a virtuous circle of innovation.

IoT is an invaluable part of this cycle: IoT-connected shipping devices generate enormous volumes of data which can be used to extract insight, understand behaviours, trends and patterns.

Mining this data for key insights – and acting on those insights – is transforming businesses, creating new opportunities and optimising operations. Here are three ways IoT has become a game-changer for the shipping industry:

  1. Providing absolute transparency and visibility

Before real-time tracking, businesses had little accurate visibility of their parcel’s journey. Now, senders and recipients alike demand absolute transparency of the entire journey, from sending to delivery and at points in between – ideally in real-time so they are kept fully informed of their delivery’s progress, improving visibility and delivering a better customer experience. I’m sure I can’t be the only person to obsessively tap ‘refresh’ on a tracking app as I’m waiting for a parcel to arrive which is just streets away. This visibility is only possible thanks to data collected by sensors and shared securely across the shipping ecosystem.

Transparency is also required to drive compliance in mailing when clear chain of custody is required. Additionally, IoT offers greater visibility into operational performance – data on usage patterns, downtime, expenditure, frequently used features and unused features is generated. Deep analytics mine the data to create a clear picture on technology’s performance, so businesses can optimise functionality and enhance operations.

  1. Guaranteeing outcomes

With access to in-depth, real-time industrial analytics, organisations can integrate an outcome- based approach to their business models. The ability to forecast results with accuracy allows this. In shipping, it provides a robust platform for businesses to address and manage uncertainty in customer behaviours, in carrier costs and rate changes, in delivery options and cross-border taxes and duties.

Guaranteed outcomes include removing guesswork and assumptions from forecasting, enabling accurate forecasting of trends and behaviours as well as facilitating predictive maintenance, network optimisation and demand forecasting. They also allow optimisation of performance, enabling ecommerce firms to plan for seasonal fluctuations, and boosted service levels, helping to create a truly differentiated customer experience.

  1. Driving Innovation in product design

IoT-connected devices generate data which reveals hidden stories on how technology is used: from usage patterns to user error, favourite features to disruptive downtime. In the same way that mobile companies redesign handsets based on usage data, information from IoT-connected shipping devices influences the design and development processes.

At Pitney Bowes we have 300,000 IoT-connected shipping devices. Analysing the data generated by these devices gives us the opportunity to glean knowledge on trends, timings, apps and solutions – when, how and for what purpose they’re being used.

Our product design teams can make informed decisions on which features and apps to add or remove. We can enhance functionality and improve the user experience. We can simplify complexity and drive value for our clients.

In the future, IoT in enterprise will continue to generate value in terms of how the data is used. Author and Influencer Bernard Marr in a Forbes post predicts that connected devices will start to become voice activated; edge computing will become popular, in which data is processed on the device on which it’s generated, rather than sent to the cloud; artificial intelligence will be incorporated into connected devices, and 5G will result in connectivity between connected devices becoming around twenty times faster. This has huge implications for the shipping industry – it’s an incredibly exciting time for us.

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