INTERNET OF THINGS AND BIG DATA UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT AT TOC ASIA
By TOC Asia
Can the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data analytics revolutionise the way supply chain stakeholders operate and collaborate?
Container supply chains are just setting out on the road to the IoT and Big Data. The 20th TOC Asia Conference & Exhibition, to be held on 20 – 21 April 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore, will provide a major platform for container logistics stakeholders to discover and debate the implications of this impending revolution in data analytics.
Far from being just the latest IT buzzwords, these twin developments could both disrupt and reshape supply chain collaboration as we currently understand it.
The most important issue to grasp about IoT is that its real value is not in the ‘things’ themselves but in the data they generate.
Similarly, Big Data is not the same as ‘lots of data’. By blending data sets from multiple sources, it is possible to create a rich perspective on how a business actually performs. It then becomes possible to see patterns and relationships that would not otherwise be obvious. In many ways, IoT and Big Data are mutually reinforcing. As more devices generate more data, analysing the data enables industries to improve systems and boost efficiency, which lead to higher productivity and, in turn, lower unit costs for customers.
The ‘things’ in IoT include small devices – sensors, smart phones, tablets, etc – but the term also applies to big things – containers, quay and yard cranes, trucks, and so on.
Harnessing and understanding these data are at the heart of the process. Wireless technology is not new in the port industry. Many ports and terminals have installed such networks to allow operators to communicate over long distances. However, these have generally been configured as ‘closed systems’. IoT requires migration to communication with devices outside the immediate network.
This poses some challenges. Lots of containers moving around a terminal are perfect for disrupting radio signals, for example. But with careful design, a network can be configured to overcome these obstacles. The real question is what are the benefits to the terminal, and wider port and logistics operations?
Although modern container supply chains comprise of vast amounts of data from numerous sources, much of this remains in individual silos, with communications between these silos patchy, to say the least. IoT and Big Data can push real efficiencies in this respect by connecting vessel and quayside activity with stakeholders far beyond the dock gates.
Starting by giving port workers a far more accurate indication of when ships are expected to dock, IoT can provide for more effective gang deployment. Likewise, truck drivers could know better when their particular cargo is expected to be offloaded, reducing congestion at the gate/yard interface.
Capturing data from equipment sensors and visual inspections could help to design a predictive model for each type of handling equipment, for example, cranes, RTGs/RMGs, straddle carriers and other box handlers. This could lead to cost savings in reduced downtime thereby maximising the efficiency of port equipment.
In an interview last year, a Maersk Line executive stated the carrier transmits around 30 terra-bytes of data via satellite links every month through its fleet. There are currently around 5,000 data tags equipped onto a modern vessel.
Opportunities are there for carriers to use this data to reduce operational expenses as well as transmit more accurate and actionable data that may require immediate execution on reaching port. A good example would be monitoring the transport of perishable food items refrigerated containers. Collecting and analysing real-time data on the atmospheric conditions inside a reefer can generate automatic alerts if the temperature falls or rises outside the required range, allowing logistics managers based remotely to take mitigating action.
Adverse weather impacts could also be minimised by using a Big Data solution to analyse GPS-type information so as to determine quickly the costs of alternative sea routes as opposed to not diverting the vessel.
Outside the gate
A 3PL might get a message from his GPS about a highway being closed, so instead of having the truck idling in traffic burning fuel and time; the driver could be re-routed.
In fact, IoT and Big Data look set to make advanced supply chain management truly possible. Using Big Data could enable shippers to get replacement inventory moving before existing stock is exhausted, but without tying up unnecessarily large amounts of capital in idle inventories.
TOC Asia will address these and other the key issues facing global container trade stakeholders, with specific reference to the dynamics of Asia’s logistics landscape.
On Day 2 of TOC Asia’s Container Supply Chain conference, consecutive sessions will be devoted to assessing the opportunities afforded by IoT and Big Data in global logistics operations. Confirmed speakers already included Tim Greisinger, Managing Director, Singapore, for IBM, and Dr Thomas Vitsounis, Leader – Ports, Shipping and Freight Supply Chains, Data61.
Event format maximises networking opportunities
TOC Asia comprises two concurrent debating forums – the Container Supply Chain (CSC) Conference and the TECH TOC Conference – supported by a trade exhibition where industry peers can meet suppliers, swap notes and debate the high level discussion points presented in the conference sessions.
The Container Supply Chain (CSC) element is an executive-level discussion forum focused on international trade, container shipping, port development and logistics, bringing together shippers, shipping lines, 3PLs, port authorities, terminal operators, government and other key supply chain members.
This is complemented by TECH TOC, designed to engage operational executives in the practicalities of port and terminal performance, with in-depth debates on facility design, automation, operations, equipment and technology from berth to gate.
“Rapidly evolving business and technology impacts are set to transform Asia’s port, shipping and logistics space,” commented Paul Holloway, Event Director at TOC Events. “TOC Asia will see major industry stakeholders debate and discuss how to make sense of these complex drivers and their implications for all concerned.”