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Just like telecommunications, where connectivity has become a lifeline, the transport and logistics industry has also found itself at the heart of a basic human need as the impediment to mobility meant that access to Commodities (basic to luxury) were limited.

Again, as with telecommunications, this has led to high consumer expectations of the transportation and logistics industry as we look to meet shorter lead times, more accurate forecasts, and greater great transparency on the status of the goods transported.

Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure was crucial to meeting this need, but its success has set a new bar for consumer expectations that the transport and logistics industry will need to not only meet but exceed.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has identified five ways in which reduced latency, faster speeds and increased 5G network capacity will unlock significant opportunities for the transportation and logistics industry. 5G will enable the industry to be more efficient and sustainable, and ensure it is well placed to unlock this potential with new innovations and technologies that will improve the consumer experience while paving the way for a more connected future. .

1. Automated vehicles

Backed by the unparalleled low latency of 5G, automated vehicles, including cars, trucks, trains and drones, will make the transportation of goods and passengers safer and more efficient. 5G will also improve the reliability of last-mile travel – the final leg of a product or passenger’s journey – and so-called “vehicle-to-everything communication,” including communication between vehicles. and the circulation system, through commercial and public systems. .

In Australia, Qube is already installing 5G communications to link automated freight vehicles at Moorebank Logistics Park (MLP) to the fleet management and security system, with the low latency and high reliability of 5G used to create safe operations. and reliable.

HMI Technologies Australia is also testing 5G technology to help operate Automated Shuttle Vehicles (ASVs) to provide increased mobility for disabled and elderly passengers for first and last mile journeys – the missing link in transport ecosystems current audiences.

2. Virtual reality and augmented reality support

The faster speed and large capacity of 5G will improve the integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications in transportation and logistics companies.

Virtual reality and augmented reality powered by 5G will be used to train employees, providing immersive and ultra-realistic experiences without impacting day-to-day operations. Thanks to 5G, AR applications such as “visual picking” – which involves displaying order information to warehouse staff via head-mounted displays – will be enhanced.

Machinery and vehicle maintenance will also become more efficient, with offsite technicians able to assist workers using AR headsets to monitor the status of their fleet in real-time and in first person. With the instant connectivity and low latency that 5G brings to virtual reality and augmented reality, the transportation and logistics industry will become more efficient and productive, while supply chains will become more efficient at as transportation and logistics interact more seamlessly and with less need for convenient traffic. of data.

There are already advanced types of AR and VR technology in development, such as Microsoft Mesh, which could be leveraged by industry in the future. However, while highly advanced technologies enabled by AR and VR now exist, in a 5G enabled world they will become much more common as the availability of network connections makes these technologies more accessible and directly utilitarian.

3. Connected robots

Taking advantage of the fast connectivity, increased capacity and more reliable broadband of 5G, connected robots and collaborative robots – or “cobots” – will dramatically change the way tasks are performed throughout the supply chain. ‘supply. They will aid workers in warehouse operations and improve safety by reducing the need for people to physically perform risky or difficult tasks, such as repetitive lifting.

UTS and Nokia Australia have worked together to explore ways to harness 5G technology and Edge Computing to make robots better colleagues. The “5G Connected Cobot” project aims to build the next generation of robots that will be able to better navigate a changing environment and interact with people.

Ericsson also recently turned to 5G to extend the range of Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” four-legged mobile robot, to enable it to patrol the perimeter of Hans Christian Andersen Airport in Denmark, presenting the opportunity for autonomous robots.

4. Smart factories and warehouses

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value to be gained through greater automation in smart factories and warehouses. The high capacity of 5G will allow multiple assembly lines, machines and assets to connect through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) so that operations can be monitored and optimized.

With 5G-powered AI, workers will also be able to implement predictive scheduling, which will increase the efficiency of assembly lines and warehouse inventory management, including just-in-time (JIT) delivery. , so that businesses can receive parts and goods as close as possible. possible when they are really needed.

In Germany, DHL tested a system in its warehouses that uses IoT technologies connected via 5G to help them create an accurate, real-time map of activities to optimize operations. Ericsson has also established smart factories in Sweden, Estonia and China that use 5G and IIoT systems to connect almost all factory assets to improve inventory traceability, dispatch services and maintenance in accordingly, and ultimately improve end-to-end efficiency.

5. Goods tracking

Tracking technologies are not new with short range technologies including radio frequency identification (RFID) and optical codes being used for years. However, the billions of connections that will be supported by 5G mean that 5G-connected trackers will make a difference in improving real-time location and status tracking of goods in all aspects of a supply chain, making delivery more efficient and resilient. .

This will enable transportation and logistics companies to provide accurate, real-time updates on delivery progress at all times, not just at a few key checkpoints, and also mitigate issues such as delivery delays. delivery or cold storage defects.

In Australia, Peloris Global Sourcing is already using IoT technology to monitor the location and temperature of milk exported to China to ensure compliance and fast border clearance. Thanks to 5G, this technology could be more easily used throughout the industry.

With the continued rollout of 5G across the country and the world, the transportation and logistics industry will rapidly change over the next decade. It will not only become more efficient and reliable, but it also has the potential to become more cost effective, with less human error, mismanagement, and inefficiencies.

A short video showcasing the 5 ways 5G will change transportation and logistics is available here.

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