Devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) are deployed across modern supply chains. They streamline core tasks like managing inventory and tracking fleet vehicles. Experts expect the number of IoT devices currently deployed, about 10 billion, to top 25 billion by 2030. But until now, IoT device applications have been limited by their power supply.
Wired and conventional/disposable battery-powered devices make device deployment impractical in many applications where they would be useful, including intermodal tracking. As a result, businesses have little to no visibility into product location between manufacturing sites and distribution centers. But wireless power changes that.
The Problem with Wired Power and Conventional Batteries
Wired outlets and/or rechargeable batteries power most of the IoT devices in the supply chain today. Workers have to recharge batteries using electrical cords and/or plugged-in charging pads, which limits where the devices can be deployed. There are also labor costs involved in placing rechargeable batteries on charging pads, and it isn’t practical for products in transit.
Devices powered by disposable batteries are more mobile. But using disposable batteries at scale is expensive. They have to be replaced, so the batteries are a recurring cost for companies, and there are labor costs to replace them, further limiting deployment possibilities. Also, when not responsibly recycled, disposable batteries can harm the environment.
That said, even with these serious limitations, supply chain professionals have streamlined how they keep track of goods, manage inventory and monitor the cold chain using IoT devices. But wired power and conventional battery limitations are dramatically undercutting the IoT’s potential, especially in the intermodal transit space. Real wireless power will overcome these limitations.
Real Wireless Power Is Already Here
The wirelessly powered future is already here. A Cota Real Wireless Power pilot program at a large distribution center showed how wireless power can solve a persistent problem: tracking the precise location of truck trailers in busy yards. The pilot showed that wirelessly powered trailer trackers can potentially save operators millions per year.
A busy distribution center can occupy several square miles and receive hundreds of trucks daily. When loading bays are full, trailers are unhitched in the trailer yard, and it’s easy to lose track of a trailer’s whereabouts in a sea of similar trailers. It’s also easy for drivers to misidentify trailers and accidentally hitch the wrong one to a vehicle, which necessitates re-parking the trailer, often in a tight space.
In both instances, employee safety is at risk in a yard with moving vehicles, and employees’ time is wasted. Tracking devices can eliminate the problem, but frequent GPS pings quickly drain device batteries. Wired power and conventional batteries make it difficult to keep trailer trackers charged up and ready to go using conventional power sources.
The pilot program debuted a charging enclosure at the truck gate that wirelessly powers asset trackers. Workers place the magnetic trackers on incoming truck trailers when the driver checks in. When trailers leave, the tracker is removed from the trailer and placed in the charging enclosure. There’s no need to precisely place the devices on a pad or use multiple charging cords.
For yards where trailers are parked for longer periods of time, devices with an accelerometer that “wakes” to start tracking is ideal to conserve energy. In lots where trailers move frequently, devices can be set to ping at pre-set intervals (rather than constantly) to avoid battery drain. A standalone or yard management system-integrated dashboard displays the real-time location of each trailer.
Value Added, Costs Subtracted
Real Wireless Power performed flawlessly in the pilot program, allowing the distribution center to track trailers in its busy yard with 100% accuracy. The company projected a minimum savings of 1,400 hours of labor annually at a single distribution center by eliminating the need to send employees out in the yard to locate trailers. It also made center operations more productive and efficient overall.
Trailer trackers in distribution center yards can save retail and logistics companies millions every year, but that’s just one application. Asset trackers on pallets can give precise product location data during transit. Sensors equipped with accelerometers can alert supply chain managers to potential product damage from falls. Temperature sensors can monitor perishable goods to ensure quality and safety.
The pandemic demonstrated the value of having real-time information on product location, and the Cota Real Wireless Power pilot program showed how precise location data can cut costs. That’s how Real Wireless Power will transform the supply chain — by adding value and subtracting costs.
Jen Grenz is the Chief Revenue Officer at Ossia. She has been a successful marketer in the mobile application and consumer electronics space for over a decade. Beginning her career at P&G, she went on to be a key executive of several successful mobile start-ups. Jen has also spent time in the corporate space leading Global Products and Marketing for Symbian Foundation / Nokia. Bringing her passion for technology and helping early-stage startups through the years of funding, product launch, growth and exit.