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Preparing for Wearables: IoT in the Supply Chain

The Internet of Things is quickly becoming a reality. Increasingly, greater numbers of products now include Internet-connected technology, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips to help facility tracking of inventory, for example. Tying the Internet of Things (IoT) to a strategy for mobile devices – wearables, tablets, smartphones – is not only forward-thinking, but gets to the heart of what good supply chain management is all about.

The benefits of a mobile supply chain strategy are numerous. Companies can see better inventory tracking, shipment, and shipment confirmation. Improved, more accurate inventory information can be at everyone's fingertips. Automating supply chain processes in a mobile environment can improve efficiency and productivity.

Since customers themselves use mobile devices for e-commerce, supply chain managers have found they are increasing the number of items they keep in inventory. It's only logical to manage the supply chain with the same kind of technology used in making the purchases.

This move to mobile disrupts established processes, to be sure. However, new technology disrupters like wearables (and even eventually virtual or augmented reality devices) are ushering in a whole new way of working. Organizations must have the appropriate architecture in place to quickly deploy these disruptive innovations – to have wearables and the Internet of Things connected to inventory management and the back office. 

Employing disruptive mobile technologies to maximize efficiency and create entirely new customer experiences is imperative to remain competitive in today's Internet connected supply chain. Ryder Trucks is doing that right now in the field management of its truck fleet. 

Source: Ryder

Source: Ryder

The world-leader in commercial truck rentals, Ryder took the initiative to create a range of Android mobile apps critical to optimizing the customer rental experience.

Specifically, Ryder has seen a 50% reduction in rental transaction times. The company's Rental Guarantee – that a customer will be in and out in 20 minutes or less with a clean, well-operating vehicle – is met more than 99% of the time. Almost every part of the rental cycle is now automated with mobile capability, from inventory and quality inspection to rental, to insurance and accident claims, even breakdown analysis.

So you can see how a mobile device strategy is essential for any supply chain professional. But what drives that strategy? You can't just design applications for the flavor of the moment; new mobile and wearable devices are continually introduced. You have to stay ahead of technology, to future proof your applications to work seamlessly and instantly with whatever new disruptive technology may be thrown your way.

Cloud technology is enabling that level of future-proofing, with a concept known in the industry as Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS). The logic for any of your mobile applications is stored in the cloud, and functions can be built directly from that repository. That way, the mobile device itself is irrelevant; it simply becomes a conduit through which users access services.

This is the service-oriented approach to systems architecture, and you've already seen it at work in modern web services applications interfaces. This strategy will ensure that your business won't get bogged down by developing for any one specific platform. Instead any of your users, no matter what the device, will be able to have all the same functionality.

When following an MBaaS strategy, your users can access and share enterprise data across platforms, and put that data to work remotely to complete forms and other business critical processes for the entire supply chain cycle.

Remember, as your customers increasingly use mobile, wearable and other remote computing devices to make purchases, the demands on your supply chain are similarly increasing. Stay ahead of those demands by making your backend systems ready for today's – and tomorrow's – new mobile devices.

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