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Leveraging AWS IoT Core for Shipment Monitoring to optimize the Supply Chain

Figure 1: Solution architecture with AWS IoT core

Critical and high-value assets are always on the move, and this holds across practically every industry vertical relying on supply chain and logistics operations. Naturally, enterprises seek ways to track their assets with the shipment carrier in ways that are most optimal to their requirements. The end goal is often to have greater visibility and control of assets while in transit with the shipment carrier while opening up opportunities to optimize business operations based on insights-driven decisions.

For assets in transit, proactive shipment monitoring results in greater reliability of the shipment's integrity by way of real-time updates about the shipment's location, transit status, and conditions like temperature and humidity (for perishable shipments). All this information helps quick issue identification and remediation by the respective stakeholders. This helps minimize losses and reduced insurance claims, which results in further cost optimization for the enterprise while delivering a delightful purchase experience to their customers.

A solution to address such requirements would need to be an IoT (Internet of Things) solution requiring a combination of tracker devices (hardware), cloud apps (software platform), enterprise systems integrations (with SCM, ERP & similar systems), and professional services & support for field installation & continuous data insights. For most enterprises, this implementation of the Internet of things is complex and non-core. Such an IoT solution requires the investment of capital, time, and expertise to build and deploy such a solution, especially one that's secure and scalable.

In this post, we'll discuss such an IoT solution that is built using AWS IoT Core and can be delivered in an affordable manner such that it's ready to use within a matter of days or weeks. The solution leverages GPS-enabled tracker hardware comprising condition monitoring sensors like temperature, humidity, shock impact, and ambient light. This device can be used to track entire containers or pallets having multiple cartons or even individual item boxes depending on the requirements. The shock impact sensor on the device indicates asset mishandling based on threshold limits, and the light sensor can indicate potentially unauthorized use/asset theft. Such a device requires a cellular connectivity service to communicate sensor data to the cloud per pre-configured rules.

By way of API integrations using AWS SDKs for the Internet of things, the tracker devices are first connected and authenticated. The data they generate is published to a cloud app powered by AWS IoT Core in real-time or at preset time intervals. The data sent to the cloud app is in JSON-format message payloads sent via the MQTT protocol supported by AWS IoT Core; and is presented on the Frontend Dashboard UI in a rich, interactive manner on a map interface with sensor-specific information available within a couple of taps/clicks.

These sensor data messages are further forwarded to other back-end systems like AWS IoT Analytics. The data is usually saved in a time-series data store for analysis and insights later in time. Additionally, API integrations can also be easily built for the cloud app to work with enterprise apps like Transport Management Systems and Warehouse Management Systems to realize autonomous supply chain operations. Business rules define such movement of data- and operations-specific logic and is handled via AWS's Rules Engine service, which also can be used to transform device data before forwarding it to a different application.

However, not every data point a sensor picks up needs to be sent to the cloud app unless such a mandate exists, often due to regulatory compliance requirements in verticals like healthcare and pharmaceuticals. The Dashboard UI on the cloud provides a simple interface to set ranges of minimum and maximum sensor readings acceptable. Any breach of this range is immediately notified as an alert to the team responsible for monitoring the shipment. The team can then contact the shipment carrier to take corrective action. Such ranges can also be separately configured within mere seconds for each shipment per its monitoring requirements.

The secure bidirectional messaging between the tracker device and the cloud app is enabled via AWS IoT Core's Device Gateway, which scales automatically to process millions of messages in either direction while ensuring low latency mission-critical applications.

This makes the purpose-built shipment monitoring solution completely configurable and hence scalable while still being quickly deployable without the hassles of capital expenses and significant resource time spent in custom building such solutions from scratch.

Summary

The intelligent shipment monitoring solution enables enterprises to have greater control over the movement of their assets while having enough data and insights over time to optimize business operations as required.

With AWS IoT Core and AWS IoT Analytics, such a data-driven outcome approach to handle supply chain operations delivers transformational benefits such as reduced losses, greater cost control, and improved customer satisfaction rates that can result in sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Originally posted HERE.

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