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New sensors help reduce supply chain risks

Maria Korolov | April 14, 2016
Sensors help companies react faster and reduce risk.

The data can also be used to reduce damage to shipments. For example, if a shipment at a particular border crossing often overheats, that could be a sign that something is wrong there.

"So, from now you might say, 'Don't go to that border during busy times, so you're less likely to sit in traffic and less likely to have high temperature readings,'" Hayden said.

If damage has occurred, say, from a sudden shock to sensitive electronic equipment, the sensor data can identify exactly when it happened -- and which shipping company was responsible.

"Shock is important in a lot of industries," he said. "The damage can be up to millions of dollars, and customers usually didn't know when it was happening."

Hayden admitted that the technology can still be on the expensive side.

The high-end sensors, for example, can cost hundreds of dollars each, he said.

"That's a barrier to deployment sometimes," he said. But even the most expensive sensors have their uses, such as in protecting shipments of pharmaceuticals or engineering prototypes.

Despite the high price tag, the costs are falling.

"The way the sensors market is heading right now, the sensors are more powerful, with longer-lasting batteries, and cheaper," he said.

There are also ways to reduce costs, such as using inexpensive RFID sensors to gather information and communicate with a master sensor, which then, in turn, uploads the data to the cloud.

Some warehouses are even using drones, he said, to fly around and collect inventory data from RFID sensors.


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