Sensor technologies that were originally developed for consumer electronics such as wearables, smartphones, and even gaming consoles enable exciting new applications within the logistics industry. These low-cost sensor solutions can digitally enhance cumbersome manual logistics activities. Dimensioning, quality control, and visualization are some examples of applications bringing new levels of intelligence, safety, and efficiency to logistics operations.

Key Developments & Implications

The global smartphone population is nearing 3 billion devices and, with an average of 14 sensors per device, this has created a mass market for low-cost sensors as performance increases with each new smartphone release.8 Consumer electronics sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes, temperature, humidity, etc.) will expand significantly in the future, enabling new consumer-to-industrial applications. Sensors for depth sensing and imaging (e.g., Intel RealSense, Microsoft Kinect) are already in use with automated volume-measurement applications. Further, smartphones and wearables are bringing efficient and cost-effective computing capabilities to more areas of logistics operation. Sensors that can detect environmental quality and even odors should be available within the next 5-10 years, unlocking further areas for innovation.

  • Dimensioning with the use of 3D camera technologies and sophisticated software algorithms is being used in a variety of applications for the fast and efficient measurement of freight. Such systems will further automate supply chain processes such as dynamic load capacity optimization and volume-based pricing. Consumers themselves will use similar technology with mobile apps allowing self-preparation of shipments (e.g., measuring parcel dimensions at home).

  • Assisted visual inspections with advanced computer vision will further open opportunities to improve accuracy and quality in operations. With 3D vision and deep learning, operations can automate inspection of outbound or returned goods far beyond human capabilities; up to 100 quality parameters can be accurately assessed in a few seconds. The combination of advance computer vision and deep learning could also be used for cycle counting individual items on a shelf.

  • Worker wearables are increasingly being adopted in the logistics industry to improve health and safety practices and to enable real-time operational analytics with proactive correction capabilities. Successful pilots have tested a range of use cases from smart watches monitoring worker heart rates and location to smart necklaces to monitor driver drowsiness.

Low-cost Sensor Technology

Explore the current trend of devices being used in the consumer electronic industry entering the business world and also the logistics industry. Download this trend report to understand the implications and potential use cases.

Talk to an Expert

Ben Gesing

Senior Innovation Manager, Trend Research
DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation

Ben Gesing is a global innovation leader with 7+ years of experience developing technical solutions in the logistics, telecommunications, and consumer electronics industry. Today he leads the Trend Research activities at the DHL Innovation Center near Bonn, Germany. He and his team are responsible for shaping the overall innovation agenda at Deutsche Post DHL Group through producing industry trend reports and piloting cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics in live logistics operations together with startups. 

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