How
Connectivity
Is Driving the
Future
of Commerce

How Connectivity
Is Driving the Future
of Commerce

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Imagine this scenario: In the San Francisco Bay area one weekday morning in the near future, a long-haul trucker wakes up and gets ready for the day’s shift. She’s made incredible time recently, covering two to three times the distance she used to be able to cover in the same time span. As she pours her coffee and settles in at the control center, she reminisces about when she had to physically be in the truck to drive it.

Now, it’s cruising down the highway a thousand miles away, along with three others on different routes that she’s responsible for. She watches her monitors as streams of data come in on location, fuel consumption, the state of the transported goods and local weather. She’s ready to take control of one of the rigs if a situation arises or for the last mile, when she’ll carefully guide the vehicle into the loading dock by remote control.

No longer just a pipe dream of logistics managers and futurists, remote-controlled, connected and autonomous trucks are now in development.

Among the companies developing the technology behind them is Starsky Robotics, based in San Francisco. The company’s chief executive officer, Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, believes autonomous trucking could benefit much more than just the trucking industry. “This, single-handedly, could [power most] U.S. economic growth for a year or two," he says.

Along with other innovations like tech-enabled factories and connected retail that blends the digital and physical worlds, autonomous trucking is changing the way businesses produce, distribute and sell goods. Empowered by new technologies that seamlessly provide business leaders with the right data at the right time, these new advances can allow companies to keep up with shifting customer expectations and capitalize on new opportunities.

Connected Trucks

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Seltz-Axmacher believes autonomous trucking will have a ripple effect across businesses and the economy. Truckers can go home at night even as control centers like his keep the rigs rolling 24 hours a day. The increased efficiency and productivity per worker helps with labor costs and shortages and can lead to lower-cost shipping.

In addition to the better use of personnel, the increased data available can lead to fewer problems during the trip, both in terms of the truck and the goods it’s carrying. In many ways, innovators such as Seltz-Axmacher see autonomous and remote-control trucking as the logical extension of the truck cargo and truck performance monitoring technologies that are already on the market.

This, single-handedly, could [power most] U.S. economic growth for a year or two.

- Stefan Seltz-Axmacher,
CEO, Starsky Robotics

John Krachenfels, director of IoT Vertical Markets for AT&T, explains that an AT&T tracking and monitoring device the size of a bar of soap “transmits its location through our wireless network to a server, where it's stored in the cloud.” Sensors on the device detect light, vibration, humidity and other factors that might affect the condition of cargo in transit. From there, it’s as simple as logging on to a secure website to track and monitor cargo.

AT&T Internet of Things solutions can also monitor the operational status of vehicles such as trucks, including those outfitted with remote-driving capabilities. This allows trucking companies to predict when maintenance is needed based on real-time data, such as engine diagnostic codes, rather than having to wait until a breakdown to find out that something’s wrong.

All of these innovations help create increased transparency and efficiency through mobile networking and data, empowering business leaders and reassuring customers.

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AT&T Internet of Things solutions can also monitor the operational status of vehicles such as trucks, including those outfitted with remote-driving capabilities. This allows trucking companies to predict when maintenance is needed based on real-time data, such as engine diagnostic codes, rather than having to wait until a breakdown to find out that something’s wrong.

All of these innovations help create increased transparency and efficiency through mobile networking and data, empowering business leaders and reassuring customers.

Connected Factories

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In the near future, delivery systems such as self-driving trucks will function as part of a connected commercial ecosystem. That connected system will include factories said Gary La Point, professor of supply-chain management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.

A clothing manufacturer, for example, will connect through the cloud with suppliers and retailers. Data streaming from sensors in factory machines will help suppliers predict when the next shipment of raw materials is needed. The materials will then be delivered just in time to meet demand from the factory, which in turn can adapt and respond to demand from connected retailers and customers.

All of these improvements can help keep inventory costs low, keeping prices down for everyone.

La Point explains that in addition to automated data gathering, algorithms can help sort through the data to inform order size and timing. “The factory will talk to other factories in this new cyberspace,” said La Point. “The whole planning process will be taken over by artificial intelligence.”

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In the near future, delivery systems such as self-driving trucks will function as part of a connected commercial ecosystem. That connected system will include factories said Gary La Point, professor of supply-chain management at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management.

A clothing manufacturer, for example, will connect through the cloud with suppliers and retailers. Data streaming from sensors in factory machines will help suppliers predict when the next shipment of raw materials is needed. The materials will then be delivered just in time to meet demand from the factory, which in turn can adapt and respond to demand from connected retailers and customers.

All of these improvements can help keep inventory costs low, keeping prices down for everyone.

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La Point explains that in addition to automated data gathering, algorithms will help sort through the data to inform order size and timing. “The factory will talk to other factories in this new cyberspace,” said La Point. “The whole planning process will be taken over by artificial intelligence.”

Connected Retailers

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Customers, too, are already benefiting from the connected commercial ecosystem. For businesses, a happy customer is a customer more likely to come back.

Stephan Schambach, CEO of mobile retail solutions provider NewStore and author of Makeover: How Mobile Flipped the Shopping Cart, said that the difference between stores that merely survive and those that thrive is a positive customer experience. And that difference can be provided through cloud and mobile technologies. “Modern technology both on the front end and back end is crucial,” says Schambach. “Technology is the answer to the future of loyalty and engagement.”

The retail experience of the near future will seamlessly connect the online experience of customers and their interactions with salespeople in brick and mortar stores. Once at the store, a salesperson can pick up the shopping cart that the customer started filling out online and suggest complementary items based on their shopping history.

Just as importantly, the in-store shopping experience should include checkout on the floor rather than at the counter, says Schambach. “In a busy world, waiting in line is a hassle and an imposition. But with mobile, it can happen on the sales floor in an instant.”

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The retail experience of the near future will seamlessly connect the online experience of customers and their interactions with salespeople in brick and mortar stores. Once at the store, a salesperson can pick up the shopping cart that the customer started filling out online and suggest complementary items based on their shopping history.

Just as importantly, the in-store shopping experience should include checkout on the floor rather than at the counter, says Schambach. “In a busy world, waiting in line is a hassle and an imposition. But with mobile, it can happen on the sales floor in an instant.”

In a busy world, waiting in line is a hassle and an imposition. But with mobile, it can happen on the sales floor in an instant.

- Stephan Schambach,
author and CEO, NewStore

Manufacturers, shippers and retailers entering the new era of connected commerce are now reaping the benefits not only for themselves but also for their customers, says La Point. “There's much more variety and options in the market for customers now,” said Krachenfels. That can only be a good thing for everyone involved, including those future remote-control big rig truckers.