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Consumer Technologies Show Promise for Logistics

March 21, 2014
The combination of applications is expected to make supply chain visibility more affordable.

Technologies originally designed for consumer electronics can also be used in many logistics applications, according to a new study conducted by logistics service provider DHL. This reverses past practices in which new technologies like Microsoft's video-game camera Kinect, smart watches and NFC (near-field communications) technology were initially restricted to business, only migrating to private uses later, according to authors of a trend report, "Low-Cost Sensor Technology," from DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

"The success of Smartphones and tablet PCs has created a situation in which employees have better technology for personal use than they do for business needs," says Dr. Markus Kückelhaus, director of trend research at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. "But they expect to have the same standard of technology at work. For this reason, we think companies have to step up and put Smartphone sensors in particular to work in logistics."

Tablet PCs and Smartphones contain a large number of sensors that recognize our surroundings. These technologies can also be put to use for recording the arrival time of shipments in parcel centers as part of tracking and tracing services, pinpointing each shipment’s exact location and updating their status on an online platform.

Two concepts used to measure pallet volume have been developed on the basis of sensor systems also found in Microsoft's Kinect. During testing, measurements made by depth-sensing technology have proven to be 50 percent faster than those performed with past technology. Other potential uses include fill level measurements for containers and trucks as well as the monitoring and documentation of freight damage.

Reasonably priced sensors hold a special appeal to the logistics industry because network-development investments are generally associated with high costs. But the economies of scale produced by the mass production of sensors offset these costs, the report explains. Volume measurement will also make it possible to better utilize means and networks of transport, thereby lowering CO2 emissions as a result of optimal loading, and eventual freight damage may be better documented.

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