Technologies originally designed for consumer electronics can be increasingly used in the goods industry, says a latest study by DHL, the world’s leading logistics services provider.
This marks a complete reversal of past practices in which new technologies were initially applied in business and migrated to private uses only later, according to the Trend Research team at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. The trend report “Low-Cost Sensor Technology” shows how technologies like Microsoft’s video-game camera Kinect, smart watches and NFC (near-field communications) technology can be incorporated into logistics.
“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. For some time now, it has been possible to measure acceleration, position or light with these devices. The technologies contained in them can also be put to use in logistics.
These applications can include recording the arrival time of shipments in parcel centers as part of tracking and tracing services, pinpointing the shipment’s exact location and updating their status on an online platform.
DHL has also successfully tested two other application areas. 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 per cent 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.
Above all, customers will profit from this new approach: Volume measurement will make it possible to better utilize means and networks of transport. Furthermore, CO2 emissions could be lowered as a result of optimal loading, and eventual freight damage can be better documented.