IoT is coming to the supply chain: What happens next?

June 19, 2018 - Across the world, experts in multiple industries seem to agree on one core assessment: We are only at the beginning of the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.  

Consider the scale of future impact. Over the next five years, humans will more than triple the number of "things" connected to the Internet, growing them from 15 billion today to 50 billion by 2020. Still, 50 billion represents only a tiny fraction of what could be connected — something on the order of 3% of all connectable things.

The sizzling pace of innovation in recent years — particularly the proliferation of embedded sensor technology, wearables, and apps — has already caused incredible change, and in just a few short years. What will the supply chain world look like when not 1% of things, nor 3% of things, but 30% of things are connected?

A series of recent in-depth studies have concluded that IoT, by itself, could generate several trillion dollars of new worldwide revenues over the next decade.

"As the birthplace of data, IoT devices and the subsequent data supply chains they’re connected to are ground zero for conversations about data ethics," Steven Tiell, a senior principal at Accenture's Technology Vision + Digital Trust practice, told Supply Chain Dive.

This big-sized value will come from five primary drivers:

  • innovation and revenue;
  • asset utilization;
  • supply chain and logistics;
  • employee productivity improvements;
  • and enhanced customer and citizen experience.


Supply chain and logistics alone are estimated by Cisco to provide $1.9 trillion in value, which is a promising indication of the untapped potential and profits to gain from utilizing IoT in this industry.

"The global retail industry is in the midst of what might be best understood as accelerated Darwinian natural selection," Jon Stine, Intel's global director of retail sales, told Supply Chain Dive. "Supply chain innovation — with a focus upon the digitizing of processes, the used of advanced analytics, and the need for speed — will be a key factor in determining whether a brand survives or thrives."

Experts see optimal conditions for IoT to take off in the supply chain industry. 

The rise of mobile computing, consumerization of IT and sensor technologies, 5G networks, and big data analytics are all factors "pushing" IoT adoption.

Logistics providers and their customers are also "pulling" adoption by increasingly demanding IoT-based solutions such as optimization of efficiency and network utilization, detailed shipment tracking, transparency and integrity control.

In the retail industry, this is playing out within the race for omnichannel expertise, according to Stine. "To win shoppers who expect delivery measured in minutes (not days), retailers will not only ship from store, but ship one-unit orders from distribution centers," he said.

Source: Supply Chain Dive