Connectivity & IoT Create Greater Supply Chain Data Collection Options


Image courtesy: Amazon

The Internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room. — Eric Schmidt, Google chairman in 2015

In the world today, everything is connected and everything is becoming smart. We have smart homes, smart cities, a smart grid and even smart transportation. Soon, a lot of our daily interactions will be with tools that have intelligence, including potentially refrigerators, bottles, food containers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and more.

Soon, our refrigerators will be smart enough to order and get milk and other essentials delivered right to our door, before we realize we’ve run out. Our cookers will have food cooked and ready for us when we come home from work. And will be able to program and operate all these smart things from our mobile device.  In fact, in a sense it’s already happening in a small way with the Amazon Dash button.

Obviously, it is not going to be very long before these capabilities come to the supply chain. There are some really obvious benefits if it did. For example, pallets with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips, can notify arrival based on global positioning system (GPS) coordinates published from the GPS sensors.  Even though advanced shipping notices (ASNs) are available today that tell a receiver when a shipment is arriving, that information is not real time. RFID chips on pallets can be done in real time to let the receivers know immediately that the shipment is at their dock. Workers can be at the ready.

The impact of a supply chain that features ubiquitous connectivity and internet of things (IoT) is huge. At the same time, data collections strategies will have to evolve to really leverage all the potential data from a variety of sources, both in-house and external, in order to optimize monitoring and control.

Basically, data collection is changing big time in this new supply chain that. Data is not  only captured through bar-code scanning devices, but is also available in multiple forms, both for collection and consumption. This is getting even more complex in the connected world full of IoT components. Consider all the potential collection resources:

  1. Cameras delivering pictures
  2. Sensors such a temperature gauges, truck tire sensors, GPS sensors, machinery condition sensors, etc.
  3. Sensors embedded in mobile devices such as accelerometers, pedometers, temperature sensors, etc.
  4. Bar-code scanners

1.Data from pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words. We are learning that in freight claim situation, pictures often seal the deal. Pictures help accomplish two major things: faster resolution of issues ownership in a claim situation (since there’s no waiting for an inspector to arrive) and a higher claim recovery higher (since it’s easier to clearly establish fault).

2.Data from sensors & RFID

IoT helps the supply chain a lot, especially in time and temperature sensitive situations. If a product is damaged by heat, for example, the logistics provider may be liable for the damage. Being able to closely monitor the condition of the goods being transported is valuable. 

3.Data from devices in the supply chain processes

Today, mobile devices have all kinds of sensors, making it is possible to gather data on the number of steps walked by an operator. An abnormal amount of movement lets managers know that process needs to be optimized. Also, ergonomics can be monitored using the accelerometers.

4.Data from barcode scanning

Bar-codes are already deeply embedded in supply chain process. Some scanners offer advanced-scanning capabilities but we’re still waiting for the game-changing idea for this space.

So how has data collection changed in your supply chain? What successes and challenges have you had? Let us know in the comments section below.

Puga Sankara
Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at
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