It’s predicted that in just 10 years, more than 100 billion people, devices and systems will be connected to the internet.
Each connected device in this emerging Internet of Everything (IoE) will be equipped with dozens or more sensors collecting data about anything imaginable – location, speed, acceleration, temperature, humidity. It’s safe to say that this could change everything. Speculations about the impact on consumers are plentiful. But one area that often gets overlooked, as it largely happens behind the scenes, is intercompany commerce.
If sensors are embedded everywhere throughout global supply chains – in vehicles, wearables, auto-ID tags, machines, store shelves, cotton fields, warehouses, barcode scanners, clothing fabrics, drones, industrial robots, and shipping containers – we are essentially heading for the "Trillion Sensor Supply Chain".
With a trillion sensors constantly gathering data everywhere, we will inch closer to a situation where managers will be able to know anything they want about their supply chains anytime and anywhere. And with the right systems in place they can share and collaborate around that data with anyone who needs to know in order to gain actionable insights and act on them immediately.
The last three decades were dominated by massive investments in technology and systems that promised perfect transparency and the perfect plan but failed to deliver because the age-old adage: garbage in, garbage out, proved to be remarkably resilient.
What’s different now is that the technology and systems necessary to make the vision of perfect supply chain knowledge a reality have finally matured to the point where widespread adoption is imminent. These systems don’t look like the enterprise software systems of the past, because they are no longer confined to a single enterprise. They reside in the cloud, and are specifically designed for connectivity and sharing across company borders in order to take advantage of the information generated throughout the Trillion Sensor Supply Chain.
Despite these rapid advancements, we are still in the very early stages of the Internet of Things (IoT). And it’s very tempting, during these early stages of disruptive innovation, to fall into an inertia trap and to embrace a wait-and-see strategy. But that’s a dangerous approach because the race to perfect knowledge is already well underway.
Even if you are not, your competitors are already running pilots that can be scaled up and rolled out quickly if successful. Like almost anything these days that requires intercompany collaboration, tapping into IoT data is done through cloud platforms that require no upfront capital investment and enable low-risk, rapid-cycle iteration.
Now is not the time to sit back and watch things unfold. Not only because that’s risky, but also because the next 10 years are going to be the most exciting years in supply chain management yet. Will you risk missing out on that?
☛ Boris Felgendreher is director of marketing EMEA at GT Nexus