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The Internet of Things (IoT) has potential to connect virtually anything to the internet and accelerate data-driven logistics. Everyday objects can now send, receive, process, and store information, and thus actively participate in self-steering, event-driven logistics processes. IoT promises far-reaching payoffs for logistics providers, generating actionable insights that drive change and new solutions.

Key Developments & Implications

For the past few years, IoT devices and the data they collect became proven drivers of higher efficiency and better service quality for the logistics industry. More use cases for sensors are being identified, regulations have become more accommodating and, with more investment and demand driving down costs, sensors and IoT systems have generally become more attractive to logistics operators than ever before.

Moreover, as costs for existing technologies decrease, so does the size of IoT devices. Smaller sensors as tiny as a millimeter have allowed for an unprecedented ability to gather data through highly creative and non-disruptive placement.

  • Smart shipments are on the rise as IoT overcomes the complexities of logistics networks. Packaged goods may need to cross several borders via different transportation modes; the IoT devices must accompany them to meet diverse legal and physical requirements while also maintaining digital connection and power. In spite of these challenges, there have been technological improvements in all use cases (see Next-Generation Wireless) including location, temperature, shock, acceleration, light, and damage monitoring, to such an extent that shipment sensors are now part of many companies’ supply chains.

  • Connected assets are the most common applications for IoT devices as they have higher value, longer lifespans, and less mobility than packages. Initial use cases focused on larger and more expensive assets, such as vehicles in a fleet management system, but the logistics industry is now expanding sensor use to smaller and sometimes more complex assets, such as consigned products.

    To illustrate, DHL paired up with Alps Electric Europe to develop a bespoke, low-profile sensor to track roller cages throughout and between DHL facilities. Leveraging the Sigfox proprietary low-power wide area network for connectivity, and firmware optimized for minimum power consumption, the sensors can be permanently attached to the roller cages for their entire usable life of up to 15 years.

    A cloud based management portal allows operators to mitigate shrinkage of the roller cage pool and recover units that find their way out of the DHL network. Sensors like these not only prevent losses, but also pave the way for virtual life-like replicas and servitized business models (see Digital Twins & Servitization).

    COVID-19 has refocused attention on the most important assets – people. The IoT industry has reacted quickly to the pandemic, offering a wide array of products to enforce safety protocols like physical distancing, contact tracing, face mask usage monitoring, and more. DHL has swiftly responded by building on top of an existing IoT solution.

  • IoT for facilities help to improve usage of and protection in existing and future properties. Inexpensive sensors detect and monitor the use of utilities like light or heat and can save facility owners substantial amounts by optimizing usage and increasing sustainability. In 2019, DHL Supply Chain partnered with clean-tech startup BeeBryte, leveraging its smart heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit for DHL’s Singapore facility.

    Through automatic, real-time HVAC set-point adjustments based on anticipated weather conditions, building occupancy, and business activity, facility temperatures are maintained within a preferred operating range, and DHL benefits from 40% energy cost savings. Besides utilities, IoT devices can additionally aid in facility security, inventory management, and parking.

IoT in Logistics

A connect pallet can tell its owner the whereabouts and condition of their shipment. A connected truck can intelligently predict its own maintenance needs. A connected street light can sense the presence of cars and send environmental intelligence to drivers. Download this trend report to explore the many intriguing possibilities for IoT in logistics.

Questions answered in this report:

  • What is the Internet of Things, and why is it a big deal?
  • What are some of the leading practices and applications of IoT that are generating value across sectors?
  • What are some of the key use cases for IoT in the logistics industry specifically, and what will be their implications?

Talk to an Expert

Christopher Fuss

Head of SmartSensor IoT
DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation

Christopher heads the IoT SmartSensor team within DHL, and is in charge of the DHL SmartSensor solution, which is offered to all customers and Business Units of DHL. He joined DHL in 2018 and since then is driving and leveraging further IoT applications within DHL together with his team.

Previously he worked as a management consultant for network industries like energy, telecommunication and logistics. Here, he was leading multiple projects in the area of Business Model Innovation based on data-driven services. He holds a Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Mannheim.

Alexander Deo

Innovation Manager, SmartSensor IoT
Americas Innovation Center

Alex manages DHL’s SmartSensor business development and champions the topic of IoT for the Americas region. Building on DHL’s existing portfolio of IoT/SmartSensor solutions, Alex identifies innovative new technologies to add value and bolster DHL’s position as the world’s leader in logistics.

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