M2M and GPS: using data to automate logistics

Maximising mobile technology can enhance processes for transport companies

Logistics companies were among the first to adopt mobile devices as a means to manage and monitor their processes. Initially the hand-held devices that delivery drivers used delivered benefits primarily by simplifying and automating existing paper-based processes.

But with the emergence of lower cost, always connected, location aware devices, the current generation of mobile technology allows logistics companies to move beyond simply making existing processes better, by making it possible to dynamically track both vehicles and the packages they carry.

Real-time insight enabling better customer service

In the first generation of process automation, logistics companies were able to track in-flight deliveries each time they arrived at a key milestone in their journey, the arrival of a parcel at a depot, port, or at the customer's location could all be tracked. The current generation makes it possible to track an individual parcel on a meter-by-meter, second-by-second basis.

Not only does this provide a welcome level of information for the customer, it also makes it possible to monitor the status of in-flight processes and to not only identify issues when they arise, but also to predict problems before they manifest themselves.

Every logistics process is a candidate for improvement

Mobile technology has the power to transform every logistics process, from determining when to pick up goods, how to route them and making the delivery fleet as responsive as it can be.

The ability to change delivery schedules and routes while in-flight makes it possible to offer consumer and business customers a level of flexibility, and logistics companies a level of visibility over their processes that has previously not been possible.

For businesses in particular that are seeking to increase the control of their supply chains, this level of insight creates opportunities for new levels of partnership between logistics provider and customer, and hence increase customer retention.

Passengers services can benefit too

Transport providers, meanwhile, can provide not only real time information updates based on intelligence from the transport network, but also recommendations based on the other factors defining the context of the user.

The most obvious of these is information on the location of the user, gathered through cell site triangulation, GPS or hyper proximity technology such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). However the most effective personalised and targeted services will also take other factors into account, such as time of day or weather.

These contextualised services can help passengers navigate the complexities of multi-modal journeys, and help transport service providers limit the impact of disruptive information aggregators.

Transport service provider as affiliate marketer

New consumer services can also be driven by context aware, proximity marketing. Just as contextual mobility creates the opportunity for a better passenger experience and faster passenger flow, it also creates the opportunity for transport service providers to market additional services.

NFC and BLE are making it possible for retailers to move to an active push model of communication with their customers. This same strategy can and should be used by transport service providers.

Just as contextual information services sent direct to a passengers mobile device will enable them to have a better experience and move more efficiently through a transport system so the same communication channel and application can be used to recommend and promote additional services that may be of interest, whether basic food and beverage services, or more sophisticated affiliate accommodation services and gift retail.

Fundamentally, transport service providers have two hugely valuable assets in today's digital economy with which to play: passenger time and passenger context data. This creates the potential for contextual services that can both improve and differentiate the passenger experience and increase revenue per passenger journey. It is an opportunity that must not be ignored.

  • Gary Barnett is chief analyst of Ovum's software team. This whitepaper was produced in partnership with Samsung - follow the links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.