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The Future of Fully Automated and Robot-Driven Transportation and Supply Chain Management

Today, we are in a way naturally connected to automation and robotics. In the industrial revolution, people realized that many tasks could be performed better and more efficiently by a machine. The rise of our dependence on technology has greatly risen since then, and thanks to scientific and technological advancements, we are on the breach of a new era. Experts are working on creating robot-driven and full automated transportation for enhancing supply chain management and public transportation. Let’s see what kind of future awaits us.

Public Transportation and IoT

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? To put it simply, it is a huge network of connected ‘things’, including things-things, people-things, and people-people relationships. The concept revolves around the possibility of connecting any device—smartphones, computers, headphones, washing machines, coffee makers, and other - to the Internet. People are today connected to the Internet more often than ever before.

However, public transportation (trains, buses, and cars) still represents a notable dead spot in this concept. The Internet of Things is looking to change things such as lapses in coverage on the subway or through underground tunnels. The IoT is there to ensure constant connectivity to the Internet.

This will also make transportation much more efficient. The main players in this ‘game’ are Greyhound, Amtrak, JetBlue, and Delta, who’ve understood the importance of IoT connectivity. For example, maintenance workers in airplanes can make sure that the plane complies with FAA guidelines and secure the aircraft more easily thanks to sensors built inside the planes. Also, many bus, train, and plane companies have started equipping their vehicles with Wi-Fi connection, with the aim of enhancing the customer experience. Thanks to the IoT, many smart cars and connected cars have gained in popularity.

Dangers of Cyberattacks to Transport System

Due to the increased risk of cyber attacks, GCC governments are urging for improvement in the security of critical national infrastructures. IBM has predicted 30 billion autonomously connected ‘things’ by the year 2020, regarding the field of operational technology.

However, what is also on the rise is the sophistication, scale, and the number of cyber attacks aimed at IoT systems. Cyber criminals can, for example, shut down automated transportation systems, direct construction teams to damage utilities intentionally, create false emergencies, and even shut down street lights by sending fake data to sensors. Omnix International, a company dedicated to finding software solutions to public and private organizations across the energy, hospitality, AEC, and government sectors, are developing new cybersecurity solutions because of the growing organizational demand.

Supply Chain meets AI, IoT and Robotics

We learn things by doing them, tending to improve the processes. But when it comes to building a supply chain system, every time we begin from the ground up—repeating up to 40% of the same activities and going through same calculation steps each time. The future of mainstream supply chain activities sees the embedment of Artificial Intelligence coming its way. The problem is that we can’t access algorithms that learn and retain experience and knowledge of the past.

How can AI then be implemented and used in supply chain management? Well, robotics and machine vision are already in use, mostly in warehouses and in facial recognitions systems used by law enforcement. Machine/computer vision systems can be used, for example, by designers who use peripherals such as mice, keyboards, and drawing boards for interacting with 3D models. By employing gesture recognition apparatus, these systems can bypass all inefficient mechanisms.

AI can aid in the development of predictive technologies that can make operating the supply chain more efficient. Also, creating fully-autonomous vehicles can improve not only road but warehouse transportation as well.

The Internet of Things technologies are already being used in fleet management, and these tools can assist with everything from vehicle maintenance, tracking driver behavior, and fuel monitoring to ecommerce logistics—the applications are limitless.

As for robotics, companies have already started automating certain warehouse systems to reduce headcount and human labor costs, with reducing mistakes and improving efficiency. For example, Amazon has spent about $775 million for purchasing and implementing Kiva systems across their warehouses. The system includes robots moving individual boxes or stacks without the need for human control.

From cranes on large construction sites to helicopters that can fly over urban areas, these projects are at risk of being canceled or damaged if there were to be accidents within the initial period of their implementation. However, the possibilities of autonomous, inexpensive, and quick deliveries still remain as a question experts and tech developers seek to find an answer to. Companies large like Amazon could benefit from the opportunity of getting anything under 5 pounds delivered to the end user’s front door in a matter of minutes.

Advanced technologies and systems, such as robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of things will clearly have a huge impact on supply chains and transportation across the next decade. However, profits they create and public perception will impact the process of their adoption, but if their core purpose (improved efficiency and safety, as well as a decrease in human errors) is actualized, they might get into mainstream use sooner than we think.

By Nate Vickery, Consultant

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