08 May 2019

TouchStar Technology Trends series  

Technology Trends: Next generation wireless  

Next generation wireless technology is just around the corner, with major 5G network deployments expected to be rolled out by 2020 promising faster and more reliable connections. 5G technology will dramatically enhance connectivity across networks, and also have a significant impact on the subject of one of our earlier Technology Trends: The Internet of Things (IoT).  

The number of IoT devices is rising rapidly, along with the amount of data generated. Next generation wireless will enable much faster transfer of this data, around 10 times faster than 4G in fact. As a result, 5G creates a massive opportunity for many industries to improve their services, especially those that deal with lots of data like bulk logistics.   A recent report from Swedish networking and telecommunication company Ericsson projects that there will be 4.1 billion IoT cellular connections using 5G worldwide by 2024. From supply chain management, transportation and logistics to retail and many more applications, 5G is poised to disrupt a plethora of the world’s biggest industries and global marketplaces.  

So what other advantages can we expect? And how do we put potential benefits into real-life practice?  

Faster, better, stronger

The headline improvements with next generation 5G technology will be dominated by speed, but it’s perhaps other areas that will make the most telling difference. New mobile technology will bring additional improvements such as reduced energy consumption, but most importantly for bulk logistics it will usher in increased real-time access to rapidly changing data.

Capacity will be greater meaning more devices are supported and increased data traffic flows can be handled. It all boils down to have accurate data available in real-time and being able to act on insights gained from that data quickly. That can make all the difference in the delivery stage of bulk logistics where there is often a lot of data to crunch and making quick, well-informed decisions is vital to success.  

It’s true that previous advances in wireless technology have tended to benefit consumers first, with businesses then implementing consumer-driven technology into processes that help them. But with 5G, the main beneficiary is likely to be industry.  

In technologically mature markets, next-generation wireless capabilities will bring richer content, decreased latency, better real-time processing and management of applications in the cloud. Expectations of the delivery stage are high in bulk logistics.To stay competitive logistics providers will have to embrace new technology to meet customer demand.

The growth of e-commerce has powered an increase in customer expectations, so solutions that offer speed, transparency, affordability and convenience will become the norm. The good news is that mobile devices for delivery drivers have already developed to the stage where they can make a huge difference when it comes to job scheduling, delivery mapping, digital proof of delivery and much, much more. These devices linked to back office systems offer the visibility that managers and decision makers need to keep their service as effective and as efficient as it can be. These systems will continue to evolve and improve with 5G. But whether a business has already embraced mobile technology to this degree or not, 5G will add a new level of sophistication that can help logistics businesses continue to match customer expectation. For example, reduced latency means almost instant updates between drivers, customers and back office staff to ensure a smooth delivery process that can handle unexpected situations with ease.  

Key opportunities come with challenges  

5G IoT solutions will be able to handle the data generated by millions of interconnected objects. This will be essential to maintaining everything from smart city streetlights to automated production lines. IoT and big data analytics will take bulk logistics supply chains to the next level. Next generation wireless will enable close to 100% internet access and full end-to-end connectivity. IoT devices will continue to advance and improve asset tracking and monitoring. Meanwhile, seamless indoor and outdoor connectivity will strengthen visibility of the delivery process.

Progress towards this brave new future in logistics is not without challenges however. Deployment of 5G and next generation technology is not yet foreseeable on large scale and it will take time and money to develop essential new low-power wide area networks. However, it’s expected that the cost of 5G-enabled IoT sensors will be low, and the availability so high that the benefits for bulk logistics delivery will greatly outweigh the challenges.

The low power consumption of IoT devices also enables a long lifetime without the need for regular replacements. When everything is labelled, tracked and recorded automatically, the days of losing items, misplaced deliveries and losses due to manual inefficiency and labour will be over.  Next generation connections and sensors will allow for much better monitoring of deliveries. Stakeholders in the supply chain will be able to check on items, from location to temperature and much more, at any given time. Recording and sharing data automatically with all parties involved without the need for manual checkpoints will give peace of mind to both businesses and customers alike. It will help to streamline complex logistical processes, replace more manual actions to improve efficiency and help cut costs drastically.

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