Propelling the IoT Revolution

Take a look at how the world’s largest package delivery company is tapping into connected devices.

Derek Banta | UPS

Few technology trends have gotten as much publicity over the past few years as the Internet of Things (IoT) – and with good reason. IoT has the potential to transform so many aspects of how customers and businesses interact. But at this point, three things are simultaneously true:

Many customers have resisted adoption of IoT-enabled devices.

Companies have found new uses for IoT that enhance customer value, improve operations and bolster safety.

We are still just scratching the surface of the value of IoT.

Slow adoption

Connected homes, cars and cities powered by IoT are still trying to tap into new value without being invasive. This current state of uncertainty is slowing adoption and delaying the many benefits of the Internet of Things for a good number of practical applications.

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Many people installing connected devices are doing so to be early adopters.

Sure, adoption has started to pick up for select devices like Nest or Ring, but as a recent PWC report detailed, the value just isn’t there yet for many connected devices.

Many people installing connected devices are doing so to be an early adopter, not because they hope to achieve cost savings or because the experiences are so revolutionary.

Additionally, the long replacement cycle for some connected-home devices like major appliances means the adoption curve for many connected items is decades away.

Finding today’s value

But this doesn’t mean all benefits are years away. Many companies have been able to find great use cases for connected devices that either help guide productive behaviors, create a unique customer experience or help save time and money.

Wearables and fitness trackers are among the simplest and most recognizable forms of consumer IoT technology.

Consider Fitbit. If you don’t have one yourself, I guarantee you know someone who wears that little black band on their wrist. I personally joined the Fitbit craze back in December 2013, and by the start of 2017, I had surpassed 5,772 miles – that equals the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia. The step-count challenges created within the Fitbit app are awesome motivators.

Beyond that, I get insights about my heart rate and sleep patterns … all from a simple wrist band. Fitbit utilizes simple sensor functionality and your smartphone for an easy way to think more about your health.

While we as consumers see value in using Fitbit, the company is collecting a massive amount of data related to fitness and exercise.

Disney is another company betting on IoT to improve customer experience and collect invaluable data. So much so that they invested almost $1 billion in creating Disney’s MyMagic+, which launched in 2013. The MyMagic+ ecosystem uses RFID technology and a network of sensors to reduce friction for consumers inside Disney World.

Via a simple wristband and app, Disney can help you plot the most efficient schedule for Disney experiences, simplify the payment process at retail stores and even eliminate the need to rent a car or pick up your bags.

But it’s not just consumer-facing companies that are taking advantage of the Internet of Things. Rolls Royce is taking a step beyond predictive maintenance to provide value-added services to customers. The company already uses engine sensors in its airline engines to provide real time and predictive analytics related to engine maintenance.

By incorporating other data from the IoT, like weather patterns, Rolls Royce can offer additional guidance on route optimization or even recommend a better engine for the planes in your fleet. According to Computer World UK, data analytics and maintenance made up half of the company’s revenue in 2015.

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IoT will fundamentally change inventory management and distribution for any business with a supply chain.

UPS is another example of a company pioneering the use of connected devices to improve operations, safety and customer experience. Many of these technologies have been part of UPS’s day-to-day operations for years, including:

  • Telematics – With telematics, UPS can remotely watch a driver deliver their route. We can see when their seat belt isn’t buckled, if their cargo door (bulkhead door to UPSers) is open or if they back up unnecessarily. Our goal is to deliver all packages the first time without any damage. Our telematics tools give us the ability to track progress. We also have remote diagnostics to get information about the vehicle and avoid problems before they materialize.
  • Package Flow Technology – When a package arrives at a UPS facility, it is scanned into our database. A second label is then applied, called a Pre Load Assist Label (or PAL), which tells the package loader which vehicle to put the item in – as well as the shelf and shelf placement inside the vehicle.
  • UPS Airlines –Everything from the engine to the landing gear is connected so that we have information about mechanical issues before they become an actual problem. With hundreds of flights a day – and weather – to monitor, our command center in Louisville is nothing short of a technological marvel. We ensure that everything gets safely to its destination, regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way.
  • Drop Box Sensors – UPS places a remote device in the chute of a drop box. When the chute is opened, the device powers on and fires a laser. When the package breaks the laser field, a stroke count initiates, and the center is notified that a package is in the drop box. This has the potential to save significant dollars by not picking up an empty drop box.
  • Dash Buttons –Let’s say you have a medical clinic with shipping needs that are time sensitive. The clinic pulls a sample from the patient and puts together a shipment for the lab. When the shipment is ready, they simply push their UPS button, and we are on our way.

Unprecedented interaction

This is really just the start of where UPS is going with IoT. UPS is now piloting additional IoT solutions to drive our business forward.

So imagine you have a delivery coming from Asia, but your meeting was moved from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and you won’t be home to sign for your long-awaited PowerRay Aquatic Drone for that upcoming fishing trip to the Florida Keys. What do you do? Open your UPS app and leave driver instructions through UPS My Choice, which can authorize UPS to securely delivery your aquatic drone to your garage.

IoT isn’t just going to make the delivery process more convenient for our customers or allow us to move packages more seamlessly – it’s also going to fundamentally change inventory management and distribution for any business with a supply chain. As companies look to take advantage of this opportunity, UPS can bring our extensive experience to help businesses reap the potential rewards.

You might also like:

Understanding Analytics in a Connected Universe 

How IoT Will Change Our Society

The IIoT is Where it’s Really At

Derek Banta is the Director of Mobile and Digital Engagement at UPS.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.

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