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Internet of Things – using shipping software as an interpreter

Posted on 25th November 2015 by YmeriHart

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When the Internet of Things features prominently in China’s latest five year plan (published October 2015) and the government there sets aside $24bn for research and development, we know that this is an issue to be taken seriously.

The Chinese – and they are not alone – have identified the Internet of Things, or Internet+, as the best means to more efficiently link infrastructure and manufacturing as well as to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

The term was coined by a British entrepreneur referring to a global network of RFID connected objects – showing that the transport industry has been among the leaders in this field.

At a recent Transport Intelligence (Ti) conference in Singapore, industry observer and China specialist Mark Millar explained that the Internet of Things encompasses “sensors, technology and networking to allow buildings, infrastructures, devices and additional ‘things’ to share information without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”

Some of this is happening already including monitoring the status of assets, parcels and people in real time, and automating business processes to eliminate manual interventions. Other activities are in various stages of development, including measuring how assets are performing and what they will do next, and applying analytics to the entire value chain to identify wider improvement opportunities and best practices.

This is a fast changing environment. Accenture is now focussing on an Industrial Internet of Things which “marries a number of broad trends and shifts: machine learning, big data, Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communication”.

The consultancy explains that the basic idea is to make the machines that power our economy “smarter” by gathering and analysing data, often in real-time, and making appropriate responses on the fly. “Real-world benefits are taking shape in many ways, from equipment that provides a heads-up when service is needed to smart assisted-living homes for seniors that monitor daily activities and alert care providers.”

It would appear that the possibilities are endless. However, as Business Intelligence’s IoT Networks Report points out, without reliable and secure connections, this vast network of interconnected devices will fail to deliver the trillions of dollars in potential value that is predicted.

Research suggests that by 2020 there will be 30 billion or so connected ‘things’ each with a unique IP and the majority of those will be wireless devices – providing, as technology analyst company Gartner describes it “cyber criminals with thousands more vulnerable entry points”.

And security is not the only issue. Interoperability – the ability of all the devices to talk to each other – is equally important if a true network is to be created and the data to be accumulated. But how can that possibly be achieved? With the technology and functionality moving so quickly all over the world, the chances of agreeing a single protocol are almost nil.

It would appear the only real solution is to use software which acts as an ‘interpreter’- taking the data and translating it into all the ‘languages’ which the other devices and big data gatherers need to read it. This may appear an insurmountable challenge but it has been done before.

Multi-carrier management software, for instance, takes all the relevant product and customer data from shippers and presents it in a myriad of different ways, depending on which carrier or Customs authority needs to read it. No one is saying it is easy – in fact, it is hugely complicated – but the results prove it is safe, reliable and cost-effective. Just what the Chinese – and everyone else – is looking for.

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