By Nathan To (Davra Networks Intern)
The vast majority of global trade and commerce revolves around physical objects instead of virtual objects such as bonds and securities. Physical objects that are bought and sold still need to be shipped from the seller to the buyer, typically via a third party shipping company. Besides a tracking number that gives periodic updates about a shipment’s location, buyers and sellers are typically in the dark when the shipment is in transit which can lead to anxiety. However, sensors leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) technology can reduce this anxiety by enabling packages and shipments to be more easily and more reliably tracked1 while increasing security of the shipment2.
Reliable Tracking: Shipments ranging from small packages to large shipping containers are still typically tracked with barcodes that are scanned by a machine or manually by hand. Although this method has been in use for quite some time, there is room for human error as a person may accidently fail to scan the barcode and occasionally a scanning machine may also fail to scan the barcode as the package or container is passing through. RFID sensors or low power Bluetooth beacons can be embedded in these packages and containers to help eliminate these errors as it is much harder for a machine to miss an electronic signal or signature from the sensor3. As the packages or shipments reach a beacon reception point along a shipping route, the beacon will automatically register the package or shipment’s presence.
Increased Security: Security is a massive concern when it comes to shipping as buyers and sellers are usually not able to watch their package step by step. As a result, theft and package or shipment tampering can occur. However, sensors leveraging IoT technology can act as a deterrent to theft and shipment tampering4. For example, sensors that are able to detect changes in ambient lighting can be inserted into packages. If the sensor detects a major change in ambient lighting conditions during transit, the buyer and seller can then be notified about the potential tampering of the shipment. In the event a thief decides to steal an entire package, a sensor with internet connectivity inside the package will make it significantly easier to track the package.
Conclusion: The vast majority of global trade will continue to rely on physical objects as certain items such as food can never be virtualized. As a result, buyers and sellers will want the ability to easily and reliably track their shipments. At the same time, buyers and sellers will always be concerned about the security of their shipment. Sensors leveraging IoT technology will enable shipment tracking to reach new levels of reliability while at the same time make shipments more secure.
1. Sterling, Bruce. “Spime Watch: Shipping Containers and the Future Internet of Things.”
Wired. September. 10, 2010.
2. Sterling, Bruce.
3. Dorf, David. “How The Internet of Things Will Shake Up Retail In 2015.” Forbes.
January. 9, 2015.
4. Tolentino, Melissa. “Internet of Things already in use for more than half of global business.”
Silicon Angle. November. 20, 2014.
About The Author:
Nathan To is currently an Intern at Davra Networks. He will be a sophomore at the University of California Riverside in the fall where he is majoring in Business. In the past, Nathan was one of the leaders of his High School’s student iPad repair group. He has also moderated a panel on Student Experiences with Educational Technology at the annual Educational Learning Technology Consortium (ETLC) in Atherton CA.