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Connectivity – A look at future technologies

What are LPWAN, NB-IoT, and LTE-M actually about? And what benefits do these future technologies offer specifically for logistics? 

Connectivity is the key to tomorrow’s logistics

Besides facilitating the exchange of data, connectivity is also about generating more data from within the supply chain. Various lab teams from the DACHSER Enterprise Lab are working on ways to leverage the possibilities of the "Internet of Things" (IoT) in practice. This includes the use of smartphones and apps as well as innovative sensors that can provide location and other status data for shipments and assets such as swap bodies and packing aids.

Low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) are one of the technology that underpins the Internet of Things (IoT). These newly available radio frequencies and protocols allow the transmission of small amounts of data over a long range. This makes LPWANs ideal for using sensors in logistics. The best-known LPWAN solutions include LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M, and NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT).

Arrival times can be calculated with greater precision based on real-time

NB-IoT and LTE-M are new mobile communications standards within the LTE network (4G) and are currently being rolled out in many countries worldwide. In Germany, for example, NB-IoT is expected to be available nationwide by the end of 2019, while in the Netherlands the rollout was already completed last year. Low energy consumption, high security standards, and substantially lower investment and operating costs make the use of this new technology very attractive in particular for asset and consignment location tracking. Geopositioning makes it possible to calculate with greater precision the arrival times of vehicles, containers, shipments, and much more based on real-time data. Among other benefits, this makes for even better capacity planning for subsequent processes, such as the unloading of a truck.

A further advantage of LTE-M and NB-IoT is that the radio frequencies are future-ready. Both standards are to be incorporated into the planned 5G sub-network for massive machine-type communications (mMTC). However, it will be a few years yet before work even begins on building 5G mMTC. Another reason that a shift to LTE-M and NB-IoT is inevitable is that today’s 2G and 3G mobile communications networks, which are currently used for positioning sensors worldwide, will be switched off in stages over the next few years. Some countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Switzerland have already begun with deactivation.

Contact Samantha DuToit