A parcel or container usually changes hands many times during transportation and temporary or permanent storage. This poses a problem of responsibility, ownership and insurance in the supply chain. If the transported object was damaged between point A and point B, where did the damage happen and who is to blame?
For many supply chains, the technology currently being used to track the location of products within the supply chain are QR code scanning or RFID. QR codes are used to track names and prices of products, along with other data like serial numbers, parts number, lots and dates. QR codes can be easily copied.
RFID can be used to track information such as order ID number, product bin location, order status, serial numbers for individual product components, and location logs. RFID, though technically improved, can still be copied or stripped off and reused leading to possible counterfeit products.
Unfortunately, the scan is most typically done at the departure or arrival of the product within the supply chain and only logs time and location. It might also get scanned by someone at a midway point, but never in real time. If a product is damaged, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine where the damage occurred and who is responsible for paying for it.
With the complexity of supply chains and the number of stakeholders involved, it is important to be able to identify in real time where the product is located within the supply chain and who is responsible for it. This requires more advanced technology than QR code scanning or RFID capabilities.
In order to achieve real time tracking and traceability of a product within a supply chain, it must to use 5G technology. This technology provides wireless networks with far greater capability. By installing 5G-enabled IoT sensors on each product, either on the inside or outside of packaging, stakeholders in the supply chain are able track its location easily and transparently. It is important to note that these sensors provide more than just real time location data. They also report moisture, temperature, pressure and other parameters providing feedback in real time about the status and condition of the products.
5G technology is being deployed for IoT because it is expected to serve the communication needs of connected devices in the right trade-offs between speed, latency and cost. According to the IEEE 5G Roadmap Whitepaper, the Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) defines the following requirements that a 5G standard should fulfill:
- Data rates of 10s of Mb per second for tens of thousands of users
- Data rates of 100 Mb per second for metropolitan areas
- 1 Gigabit per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
- Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors
- Significantly enhanced spectral efficiency compared to 4G
- Improved coverage
- Enhanced signaling efficiency, and
- Significantly reduced latency compared to Long Term Evolution (LTE)
While it is critical for supply chains to be able to receive real time feedback, it is also important to be able to record this information securely. In UCOT’s blockchain 5G-enabled IoT solution, the sensors permanently record that information on the unalterable blockchain. It maintains transparent and indelible blockchain records as proof that the product was safely transported or not. This holds the shipper responsible if there has been any tampering, damage, or careless handling of the product during shipment.
In today’s competitive environment, being able to track and monitor products within the supply chain in real time will give them a competitive edge over those who are not able to do so. Only 5G technology can enable this real-time service within a supply chain. By leveraging blockchain, 5G and IoT, supply chains can speed up production, streamline complex logistical processes, reduce costs and maximize profits. This enables the supply chain to significantly improve customer value and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
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