Future IoT Trends in Supply Chain Management and Healthcare

In supply chain management and healthcare, IoT is speeding up many processes and analyzing data to help make better business intelligence decisions to improve customer service and patient care.

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Upward trending graphs in front of several chains

The Internet of Things is taking the world by storm. There’s no doubt that the concept of taking all of the “things” in the world and then connecting them to the internet (and, by extension, each other) is a field of technology that is bursting with promise.

Agriculture, transportation, space exploration, home security — IoT is affecting practically everything in our lives. We’re going to take some time here to look specifically at how this cutting-edge tech is impacting two areas that are crucial to life as we know it: healthcare and supply chain management. 

Breaking down the similarities and differences between these two seemingly disconnected fields and their relationship to the Internet of Things is an ideal way to showcase the power of IoT and how it’s poised to continue revolutionizing the way the world operates.

IoT Solutions in Supply Chain Management

We typically obsess over the point of origin and the consumption of a product. However, managing the supply chain that moves a product from producer to the consumer has created an industry of astronomical proportions on its own. While there are many challenges that supply chain management can present, efficiency and organization are two of the primary factors that tend to dictate success or failure. If a company cannot find where a product is within its system quickly, track inventory effectively, maintain equipment properly, create delivery schedules efficiently and so on, they’re likely to suffer. 

Fortunately, efficiency and organization are two areas where IoT excels, and its ever-developing technology is already making a difference. Probably the most obvious example of IoT’s impact (and potential) comes in the form of inventory management. Automating this crucial part of the supply chain allows management to minimize errors and maintain a detailed, up-to-date view of their inventory at all times. This enables companies to make effective predictions for resupply and avoid issues like overstocking or backorders.

In addition to inventory, IoT provides the necessary data to improve customer service by providing detailed information about things like order status. The increasingly nuanced ability to provide real-time knowledge of a product’s availability and where it is in the packaging and shipping process has revolutionized customer service. Increased visibility and asset tracking have also become highly accurate, allowing for the collection of data that can be analyzed to assure that things like delivery vehicles are operating at peak efficiency and maintenance needs are reported when they arise.

IoT also promises to continue to facilitate increased collaboration throughout the supply chain. IBM, for instance, suggests that the copious quantities of data available within an IoT-driven supply chain system be openly provided to “every supply chain stakeholder.” In other words, the data provided by IoT should allow all members involved in a company’s supply chain to remain on the same page. This could minimize errors, reduce waste and improve efficiency for everyone involved. 

IoT solutions in Healthcare

IoT’s impact on supply chain management is already present, with the future offering a chance to refine rather than replace existing practices. Healthcare, on the other hand, hasn’t felt the impact of the IoT quite as much…yet. To date, it’s impact has focused on things like monitoring patients and the creation of electronic health records

However, these are already seeing impressive results. For instance, eldercare has improved through sophisticated monitoring and tracking devices, while the shift to electronic health records — which has been adopted by 94 percent of hospitals — has revolutionized accessibility and shareability of vital patient information. 

As big data and IoT continue to grow in capability and applicability, the healthcare landscape will likely see the further automation of things like predictive modeling, selecting ideal test subjects and diagnoses in general. In fact, the initial rumblings of this information-driven transformation have already been felt. Google’s DeepMind AI, revealed in mid-2018, could reportedly detect over 50 different eye diseases as accurately as a doctor.

Where the Two Paths Cross

Even with two such diverse topics as healthcare and supply chain management, IoT has the potential to bring the two areas together in the spirit of general improvement. 

For example, the healthcare industry has struggled until now to remain on the cutting edge of the technological revolution. Put simply, incredibly high costs and ever-developing tech have made it difficult for healthcare professionals to keep up. However, IoT is slowly transforming the healthcare supply chain itself by allowing the healthcare providers to create a supply chain that efficiently maintains a strong digital backbone to their operations. This allows their technology to remain relevant and up to date. 

The Future of IoT

Whether it’s supply chain management, healthcare or any number of other business sectors, there’s no doubt that the dawning of the age of the Internet of Things is already having an influence on how major industries operate. Things like efficiency, organization and relevance, are improving operations and the quality of services, with nearly unlimited future potential. The only question that remains is what specific, tangible ways this potential will eventually unfold as technology continues to develop at the breakneck speeds we’ve become accustomed to in the modern era.

Written by Ainsley Lawrence