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Internet of Things – Q&A

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The IoT means different things to different people. To allmapdata from CACI (formerly Mapmechanics), it means a combination of big data, the cloud, mobile and static devices, logistics fulfilment, real-time decision making and edge node or device side data processing for leaner data transmission. In other words, it’s about better locational and situational awareness.


What benefits can IoT bring businesses?

The IoT allows for the creation of unique datasets for your internal business use. For example, tracking your own trucking fleet’s road speeds can be used to increase the accuracy of your scheduling systems. Through the IoT, you can capture and model the exact behaviours and speeds of your vans and trucks without relying on a generic set of vehicle speeds captured from a range of sources. With this valuable data, you can increase the accuracy and efficiency of your scheduling whilst creating an insight that’s all your own.

The paradigm of real-time decision making also becomes a reality with the IoT. When vehicles are able to form a continuous loop of feedback with their respective headquarters, a series of centralised decisions can be made that were previously impossible. For example, if a mobile asset experiences a technical difficulty or its cargo spoils or is compromised, this can be registered and solved centrally and quickly. Engineers following a previously set route can be redirected in light of severe weather changes, traffic accidents, emergency last minute call outs or cancellations. Deliveries can be deferred or cancelled based on unforeseen circumstances.

Ultimately IoT allows for new opportunities to adapt to unusual or unforeseen circumstances on the road, and can break down the lengthy back-and-forth correspondence between driver and headquarters in favour of an instant GPS route alteration or notification.


What are the challenges associated with IoT, such as the associated costs or changes to business processes?

Businesses can be held back by a few different factors whilst trying to launch IoT initiatives. For example, when vehicle telematics are outsourced, often service providers are not equipped to allow client access to the data held within their databases for onward use.

Institutional friction can also prove to be a difficulty, and driving change from the top down or the bottom up are age old problems. It is often awkward to secure both the permissions and funds to deploy a trial solution. To illustrate this point: a team within a big UK retailer wanted to start capturing the footfall and dwell time of its customers within their store with assistance from a telecommunications company. However, both the bureaucracy and cost involved with installing a femto box in a large supermarket meant that the project was never able to get past the starting line.

For the process to move forward, arrangements had to be made to secure permission from the estates department; an electric engineer had to be booked for a fitting; and provisions needed to be made for an Ethernet link to be installed. In contrast, if a store fridge or freezer were to become faulty, service engineers would be called and the unit would be fixed or replaced quickly and with minimal fuss. Indeed, the individual driving the footfall project was so exasperated that they even considered trying to power the femto box from a mobile petrol generator outside of the store’s front door in order to capture data and prove the business benefit of the initiative outside of the company’s bureaucracy.


How much elasticity in supply chain performance is possible when it comes to handling IoT data driven intelligence?

IT services can be disparate and are often ill-equipped for the challenges required by their clients who, for example, may need access to data held within their databases for onward use. Many clients are in five minute GPS locations, unless vehicle functions trigger additional GPS points. Moving to one second data would therefore be a step change for a retailer. Moreover, data is often only collected and transmitted when each vehicle re-enters the company Wi-Fi zone back at the base; this is because a single vehicle on a 3-hour shift would constitute 10,800 GPS points needing to be batch reverse geocoded and stored.


But what is the business case and where is the return on investment?

Below are three examples where bringing IoT to the retail environment can yield a clear return on investment:

– Example #1: Digital Marketing

Growing connectivity between customers and retail branches can be hugely beneficial for both the profiling of new and existing customers, and for driving a greater volume of converted sales. The use of apps and situationally-sensitive websites has proven effective in discovering how customers engage with ads and promotions; identifying locational pockets of brand interest; and in clarifying the spending power and age of a company’s customer base.

When online resources such as branded apps and location-aware websites are complimented with detailed demographic and boundary data, these resources can yield unparalleled consumer insight whilst appealing to the millennial affinity for connectivity and smart devices, and should be a key part of any large retailer’s marketing approach moving forward.

– Example #2: Home Delivery

Home delivery services are also gaining popularity, with companies such as HelloFresh increasing their fleets of delivery vehicles substantially due to growing demand. Advances in demographic and boundary data have meant that delivery scheduling and telematics are now more efficient and accurate, respectively. This in turn has caused consumers to respond positively to the narrower windows for home delivery and the improved service feedback.

– Example #3: Click & Collect

In addition to delivery services, Click & Collect stations are also projected to benefit heavily from IoT systems. Through apps and situationally-sensitive websites, customers can indicate their proximity to a given collection point as a means for collection preparation. When a hub is made aware of a given customer’s proximity, demand at the branch’s checkout can be managed, and packages can be located and organised in order to decrease transactional friction and ensure that the load is presented swiftly and with minimal confusion.


How can allmapdata from CACI help to deliver this?

The allmapdata team have worked in the M2M space since the mid-1990s, enjoying thirty years of geospatial and logistics experience. We write our own off-the-shelf and bespoke routing and scheduling and optimisation software for various scenarios deployed on premise, SaaS and for Private Cloud. These can be used in manual, semi-autonomous or autonomous use (known as “black box mode”).

Allmapdata from CACI has worked with a wide range of international retailers on site location, catchment modelling, home delivery and click & collect scenarios since the mid-2000s. We create and author our own data, as well as creating custom data mash-ups and hybrids. We are specialised in global mapping and our data portfolio is specifically built to answer location-based and hyper location-based questions. Looking to the future, allmapdata will continue to build industry based or problem based geographic solutions. We have been monetising our byproducts since 2005 and will continue to build on this expertise within the IoT and Smart Cities space. At the same time, we understand the limitations of cloud services, and with a strong understanding of human geography, our mantra has always been to “use geography profitably”.


What are the benefits of allmapdata systems over more readily available platforms?

Our technology is notably faster and more sophisticated than services such as Google Maps, and is pre-processed for faster answers that require less network storage.


Why is what you do important and how so for retail and logistics specifically?

The allmapdata team can customise existing solutions to yield huge incremental gains. For example, we switched our clients’ drivers’ Sat navs to premise level positional accuracy to provide them with more precise delivery locations. Parked cars and a lack of visual reference points can make finding a property hard, particularly during morning and afternoon deliveries in winter or evening deliveries at any time of the year. Our solution effectively solves this. Indeed, even if we only save a driver 30 seconds per delivery across a shift of 30 deliveries, that’s an entire 15 minutes saved. Multiply this figure by a fleet of 4,200 and that’s 1,050 hours man-hours saved in one shift. This translates into more possible trips and a greater volumes delivered in a more efficient way.

In addition to providing our clients with greater positional accuracy, our system can also take a variety of factors into account when structuring your drivers’ schedule. Your vehicles’ width, weight, height & legal restrictions is considered, whilst also offering doorstep profiling, identifying delivery locations as rest flats, high or low rise, terraced, semi-detached or terraced properties.

We are also very proud of our production of crucial bespoke Olympic Road networks for the logistics industry in the run up to the 2012 Olympics, in order to handle road restrictions and prevent diverted traffic from being forced onto secondary major roads. We were responsible for mapping the Olympic Lanes, which were a system of dedicated roads linking venues and other key sites, enabling athletes, officials and emergency vehicles to get to events punctually.


Why are you different and what are some use cases of specific benefits your customers have received?

Again, we are all about “using geography profitably”; we understand human geography in its widest sense and are effective in applying this to the commercial world. Having worked with logistics and retail companies from the company’s beginning, the allmapdata team at CACI has a great depth of insight and knowledge on these sectors and can bring this to bear in different ways. We understand that data used within different optimisation engines requires careful set-up, and we can calibrate these in different ways to get the best results for you. More specifically, we can customise networks for different scenarios, including day-to-day, tendering and routing with avoidance. Finally, we are able to facilitate the forward migration of local edits on new data releases to make this process as straightforward as possible.

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