Tolga Talks Tech: Innovation in Transportation & Logistics

Tolga Talks Tech is a weekly video series in which Onica’s CTO Tolga Tarhan tackles technical topics related to AWS and cloud computing. This week, Tolga discusses innovation in transportation with Taylor Bird, Onica’s Senior VP of Product and Solutions.

Let’s talk about how companies in the logistics and transportation industry are using cloud computing. Please share examples of how cloud technology is applying to that industry.

I think there are three main elements in this industry that are driving cloud adoption. There is the fact that this industry’s operations are very event driven. So, that lends itself to a lot of the models of the cloud very nicely. There’s an IoT element in the tracking of devices and the status of things that need to be monitored automatically. There’s a huge machine learning aspect to this industry as well.

Regarding the event driven operations, I get that there’s a lot of these things moving around, but how can cloud computing really help a company solve those challenges?

Think about workloads where you’re receiving more data as things happen in the physical world, which is often the case with logistics. These tend to be very bursty. They are not continuous streams of data, more often, it’s a lot of stuff that happens at once. A huge shipment arrives and there’s a bunch of processing to do around that shipment. However, for the next 12 hours, that shipment is not going to go anywhere, it’s going to be sitting in the same spot. So these type of event driven workloads where you can take an action in response to something happening or not happening, lend themselves to the cloud really well especially as we look at serverless technologies, where you can directly wire some code to an event. When this event happens, this code executes. There’s no need to have idle capacity waiting for the event. 

You mentioned shipments, obviously in this industry we have vehicles, crates, and a lot of things moving around. Can you expand on how IoT devices really play into the story?

Tracking the location of things is probably the most requested thing we hear about from this industry. “Where is my shipment, cargo, people, assets?” It’s important to be able to solve that problem in different places and environments, like solving that problem on a boat in the middle of the ocean looks very different than solving that problem on land in North America, or in another part of the world. So IoT is very important, but also very complex for this industry. Different connectivity technologies are needed. There are different battery life requirements which gets really interesting, because if a shipment is going to travel a long distance, or a container is going to be used for multiple years of back and forth shipments, you’re not going to plug your containers into a charger, so there are interesting logistical problems. At the end of the day, getting that IoT data into the cloud, lets customers make quicker decisions. It eliminates human overhead, manual status updates, and big white boards that are tracking the status of things and moves all that into applications and data.

Lastly, you mentioned machine learning. What are the problems that machine learning and analytics are solving in this industry?

Think about routing. Now routing is a very complicated problem and it’s actually a problem that you can’t solve perfectly. Using modern techniques, we can do things like find approximately the most optimal route to deliver some cargo. Or if you’ve got containers that are consumed at varying capacities – being able to predict when those containers are going to be empty, or close to empty, and then overlaying a sort of service level agreement and then you’re routing on top of that, it allows you to say: “Okay, here’s the most optimized route for my tanker truck to take to fill up these 50 containers or these 50 holding tanks.” And, it’s going to be optimized towards when they will be empty as well as their placement geographically. 

See how Spireon, a vehicle intelligence company, leveraged Onica’s expertise to create and integrate a serverless IoT platform on AWS and incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into their product for secure data processing and valuable insights. Learn more.

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