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IoT becomes weapon to fight supply chain complexity

The Internet of Things is refining the capabilities of the supply chain to reduce theft, increase visibility and transform legacy complexity

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In January 2019, the MSC Zoe lost more than 375 cargo containers in the North Sea, some of which contained organic peroxides, hazardous materials with explosive capability. The cost of locating and retrieving the cargo, some of which had sunk to the depths of the ocean, was borne by MSC. The hunt was costly and time-consuming. 

In February 2019, the Safety and Shipping Review released a report that revealed the cost of around 230,000 insurance industry claims over the past five years had almost reached $10-billion. 

The international shipping industry is just one part of the complex supply chain whole with fraud, theft, human error and loss peppering statistics across country and industry.  The truth is that cargo theft has been around since the days of swashbuckling pirates and horseback bandits but today the supply chain has one weapon that can potentially save the cargo and costs – the Internet of Things (IoT).

This technology has the potential to provide organisations with critical insight into cargo movement throughout the supply chain by capturing data across every point of the cargo’s journey. The sensors used by IoT have not only become far more cost-effective, but they are equally adaptive and capable of handling variable conditions as they track containers across land, air, and sea. These sensors provide a level of visibility into the supply chain that has previously been only imagined and, with the evolution of the Sigfox network, the data provided by these sensors is about to become even more relevant.

“The Sigfox network allows for billions of devices to connect to the internet in real time, across vast distances,” says Chetan Goshalia, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at SqwidNet. “Developed by SigFox, this global network overcomes some of the biggest barriers to IoT adoption within the supply chain – cost, global scalability, and energy consumption. This low-power network is capable of collating and sending data in short bursts to any location in the world, in real-time. This means that the data provided by the sensors within the supply chain can be analysed and tracked in real-time from almost any location.”

Access to a network of this capability can fundamentally shift the baseline of supply chain efficiency. In the past, data and insight were sporadic or reliant on connectivity provided by other systems or solutions. With the Sigfox network, there is an added layer of security in that the devices send their insights directly to the relevant source, but don’t receive data. The latter can be implemented in specific use cases but ultimately, the data delivered by the sensors within a tightly configured Sigfox network allows for operations to assess the status of any given shipment at any given time. The low power demands allow for consistent monitoring of cargo across vast distances and timelines, plus the constant network allows for regular, real-time insight into cargo status.

“The value in being able to determine a fault, loss or an error before it becomes a costly mistake or theft, is inordinate,” says Goshalia. “Consider the savings for organisations within the supply chain as well as the insurance companies that carry the cost of these losses within the supply chain?”

The ability to track temperature, location, speed, and geographical location, among many other data points, also allows for the organisation to micro-manage complex shipments and routes. Some of the world’s largest retail outlets juggle suppliers across variable distances and their own chains from global locations, so visibility into every step along the way can significantly reduce the ongoing complexities that pepper the process. Instead of a broken refrigeration unit discovered partway along the route, too late to salvage the contents, it can be caught early and the loss can potentially be mitigated. The same applies for lost cargo at sea – while IoT sensors can’t stop the weather, they can locate the cargo containers. The network can also be used to track particularly hazardous materials within a shipment of standard items to ensure that they are handled carefully and prioritised in a track and trace.

“Along with minimising the bottom-line costs for the business, the blend of IoT technology and the Sigfox network can fundamentally transform how the supply chain engages with its data,” says Goshalia. “The information gleaned across multiple shipments can locate bottlenecks, isolate areas of concern, improve yard efficiencies and so much more. It can also play a more than important role in ensuring that stores have stock and reputations remain intact.”

The harsh market reality is that the customer won’t care if the supply chain was attacked by a flurry of tornadoes or lost at sea. They want their products and they want them yesterday. While IoT isn’t the magic wand that can remove the impact of weather and unexpected loss, it can help the supply chain gain an incredibly detailed level of control over its products and services. This control can be used to streamline, transform and redefine efficiencies.

“SqwidNet is a long-standing partner of Sigfox and has brought low-cost access to innovative IoT solutions to the South African supply chain organisations for many years,” says Goshalia. “Sigfox is the provider of the world’s first Sigfox network that now covers more than one billion people, is the first to achieve full European coverage, and is built on open-source capabilities. This allows us to develop robust solutions that are relevant to the South African supply chain industry in capability, reach, and in cost.”

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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