How Location-Based Services Foster Stability and Growth

Mario Proietti | LocationSmart

We are transitioning to a digital economy where service and speed of delivery are emphasized and the “Amazon Effect” is continuing to build momentum. This is leading to increasing demands for tighter and more certain delivery windows by consumers and supply chain managers alike. Investments in automation and better visibility have and continue to accelerate this trend in logistics and supply chain optimization.

New technologies are also fueling this transition and disrupting the transportation industry at an increasing pace. There are growing demands for greater visibility, accuracy and security across the supply chain. To answer these demands, Location Based Services (LBS) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are being heavily embraced and the deployment of autonomous trucks is on the horizon.

To accommodate this new environment and its demands, many companies in the supply chain are taking steps to move away from manual or legacy processes and stand-alone systems. This transition can be daunting, time-consuming and expensive.

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Internet-connected, cloud-based LBS solutions are enabling stakeholders across the supply chain to bridge the technological gap in more efficient ways by streamlining the transition process and optimizing workflows from shipment to delivery. These solutions are also facilitating the adoption of new technologies like automation and IoT that are revolutionizing the transportation industry even further. Location-based insights can help companies achieve the increased service levels required to meet the new demands of our digital economy. Additionally, instant access to location data can facilitate better overall communication and visibility among shippers, 3PLs, trucking companies and other stakeholders in the supply chain. This drives greater productivity, predictability and improved operating efficiencies.

Cloud-Based LBS Help Streamline Integration

Cloud-based LBS solutions can locate nearly any connected device via web services location APIs that allow for easy integration into existing processes, apps, transportation management systems (TMS) and more. For transportation businesses, these elements address two of the primary concerns when seeking to implement new technologies or services: cost and time to deployment.

There are multiple LBS technologies utilized in logistics management; however, there is one specific LBS technology that is uniquely ubiquitous, secure and cost-effective. It is called mobile carrier location. This technology doesn’t require in-vehicle tracking equipment or deployment and maintenance of a mobile app. It works with almost any mobile phone using cellular network location capabilities. A driver’s whereabouts can be determined using secure network location information from their mobile device. This also applies to independent drivers as their phones can be used (with consent) to verify location status and ETAs. Accessing this information is achieved through web service APIs and provides coverage indoors and outdoors with little to no battery drain or mobile data plan usage. After securing driver consent to be located, businesses can access mobile carrier location across entire fleets to actively monitor load status in real-time throughout the transit lifecycle.

For tracking loads or assets, location-enabled devices and sensors may be affixed to pallets, shipping containers, boxes and more. The cost of these devices and sensors is trending downward and their capabilities are increasing as a result of the advances being made in IoT technologies. Transportation businesses can seamlessly integrate visibility from these devices with cloud-based location APIs into existing systems, apps, etc. This enables access to a wide variety of location sources for tracking including IP, Wi-Fi, RFID, Cell ID, Bluetooth/BLE, GPS and Assisted-GPS (AGPS).

GPS is a widely used method, but it is not a fit for every scenario. Its high accuracy can come at the expense of battery drain and its signal is not always available when the devices or sensors are inside containers, inside a package indoors or stacked. In many cases, Wi-Fi location could be better for indoors, and cell tower location may be sufficient when a shipment is out on the open road and the accuracy of GPS is not needed or battery life is a concern. There are times when several different location technologies are required for more accurate or reliable data. In fact, the best logistics automation strategies utilize multiple location technologies for improved efficiency and greater, real-time visibility. Some cloud-based location solutions can provide more diversity with device or sensor selection and deployment, and greater access to different location sources.

Access to real-time location allows dispatchers to re-route drivers in transit during weather events or heavy traffic and this can be critical during peak seasons or high demand. LBS also eliminate the need for check calls with drivers in transit and this provides tremendous cost/time benefits for dispatchers and drivers as well as greater safety

LBS Help Attain Greater Efficiencies

Real-time monitoring of mobile device, load or asset location can help streamline compliance activities and enhance load assignment procedures.

Use of LBS assists with following and enforcing compliance rules for drivers and their employers as a whole. Active monitoring of driver location facilitates better oversight for driver behavior, tracking hours logged, administration of overtime, mitigation of fraud and more. Using LBS provides management with assurance that their drivers are where they are expected to be along with an elevated level of safety and security.

In addition to compliance, LBS can optimize dispatch operations so transportation businesses are more efficient, better prepared for disruptions and can accommodate new business opportunities.

Location data can be used as a qualifier for driver assignments, load finding and routing decisions. With real-time location, a dispatcher can select drivers who are closer to specific loads or drop off points to increase job throughput. Access to real-time location allows dispatchers to re-route drivers in transit during weather events or heavy traffic and this can be critical during peak seasons or high demand. LBS also eliminate the need for check calls with drivers in transit and this provides tremendous cost/time benefits for dispatchers and drivers as well as greater safety.

Additionally, dispatchers can review historical location data to influence other major changes to operations. This historical data enables dispatchers to seek out new routes and establish new starting, midway or endpoints based on factors like miles traveled, new traffic patterns and other key data points.

LBS Help Embrace Automation and IoT

Transportation businesses looking to embrace automation and IoT are forced to complete two complex tasks simultaneously. They must keep track of their devices or sensors and drivers throughout the transit lifecycle and decipher the glut of data this generates. Through automation, LBS data can be processed to find exceptions and events requiring attention and help organize it into a human-intelligible form that can be distilled into actionable insights.

By automating location determination and analytics, businesses can minimize driver check calls, receive real-time status updates and exception alerts and streamline scheduling and billing procedures and other activities.

Check calls are time-consuming, bothersome and potentially costly because they can cause unnecessary delays to shipments in transit and often do not provide real-time visibility. Using automated location determination, there is no need for a driver to pull over or to be distracted to answer calls and potentially risk breaking hands-free driving laws. Brokers, shippers and other stakeholders can receive on-demand, real-time access to shipment location, allowing them to focus on securing new business and permitting drivers to concentrate on meeting deadlines and keeping their attention on the road.

When using location-enabled IoT devices or sensors, businesses can location-tag each status event to know when and where different events occurred. For a simple example, a status event can occur when an IoT device is detected at a new warehouse and this can trigger an automated arrival notification for the supplier or another member of the supply chain. Since these technologies are quickly evolving, location-tagged status updates via IoT devices are also becoming useful for automation in scenario-based contingency planning and risk assessments. To demonstrate, we can examine a forward-looking example involving a refrigerated shipment.

An IoT device in a refrigerated truck detects an equipment malfunction and sends a notification to a load monitoring system. The system accesses location data showing the shipment is several hours from its destination. It identifies that the shipment will go bad before reaching its destination if action is not taken. The system simultaneously detects that an empty refrigeration truck is minutes away traveling in the opposite direction. Both drivers are notified of the event and receive audible alerts to check for an urgent assignment change. In this example, real-time location data provides situational context and is used in conjunction with other analytics to determine possible next steps or act on them. The potential actions could be based on current status, historical location data, input from nearby warehouses and other data. As a result, the shipment could be automatically redirected to the nearest warehouse if a replacement truck is not nearby. This can all occur without waiting for human intervention and can be conducted as a background task.

LBS Help Elevate Service Levels for New Demands

The “Amazon Effect” and new technologies have played pivotal roles in creating demand for greater visibility and predictability from the transportation industry. Faster deliveries and on-demand service commitments are the drivers for purchase decisions. LBS enable system-wide visibility and deliver data-rich location insights that can provide the advantages needed to better address these demands and secure longevity in today’s hypercompetitive ecosystem.

System-wide visibility via LBS results in more accurate ETAs and ETDs so partners throughout the transportation chain are able to make more informed decisions. With real-time knowledge of location, dispatchers and transportation intermediaries attain tighter control over their workflows. They gain increased capacity to accommodate peak demand, additional insight to mitigate risks and expanded flexibility when encountering disruptions. LBS help optimize route decisions, simplify loading and unloading procedures, reduce wait times, facilitate more efficient planning and scheduling and much more. With these items streamlined and optimized, transportation businesses are emboldened to scale up operations and pursue more aggressive load management strategies.

The data-rich location insights gleaned are also critical as they help provide a more comprehensive understanding of operations and future capabilities. This location data is valuable in evaluating performance and effectiveness of drivers/employees, equipment utilization, processes and more. It adds context to fuel consumption analysis, maintenance record-keeping and assessing gaps in the transit lifecycle.

Through system-wide visibility and real-time access to location insights, transportation businesses are poised to adopt, adapt and survive with more confidence.

LBS Help Facilitate Improved Communication

With the speed and technology-focused mindsets permeating across the transportation industry, there are new standards and practices being formed. This will help achieve higher service levels but it can also introduce system incompatibilities, redundancies and risks that can trip up businesses. Location adds critical data points that provide context for information shared among parties involved in the transportation life-cycle.

Using LBS enables businesses to understand where events occurred in real-time, facilitates both load-specific and system-wide data analysis and adds richness to many operational assessments and reports. Cloud-based location solutions allow businesses to easily ingest and share this information across a variety of systems. Lastly, location data can aid in the organization and filtering of large volumes of data generated across information and management systems.

All parties in transportation are bonded by the questions of where and when. LBS help answer these questions efficiently and confidently, letting managers allocate resources to higher level business needs and objectives.

The author, Mario Proietti, is CEO of LocationSmart, a Location-as-a-Service (LaaS) company based in Carlsbad, CA. He may be reached at sales@locationsmart.com.