Near-field communication (NFC) is already an everyday technology, in use every time someone makes a contactless payment. But its implications for supply chain management, especially when combined with the internet of things (IoT), could become just as commonplace and perhaps even more disruptive.
Enhanced security and tracking
Fitted with NFC-enabled smart tags and labels, goods can now be identified, located and authenticated all along the supply chain with just the tap of a smart device, protecting them from theft, tampering and counterfeiting.
Important data can also be verified by stakeholders along the chain, including customers themselves, verifying information like batch numbers, production and expiry dates.
Inventory management can also be improved both in stores and warehouses. In shops owners will be able to keep track of what is on the shelves at all times and react quickly to shortages or overstocked products. And in warehouses NFC-enabled tags can allow for real-time warehouse management. It has even been used by the Karl Meyer Group to fully automate disposal logistics by fitting sensors that can identify, weigh, empty and clean rubbish bins.
Quality and customer satisfaction
Perhaps the biggest impact will be on quality assurance. Goods can be tested for important controls like temperature and humidity at every point along the supply chain. This is especially important for food and beverage products where 40% of food transported globally needs refrigeration and 20% of food loss is due to breakdowns in temperature control.
But NFC-enabled smart tags could monitor for a much wider range of quality-affecting phenomena such as shock, tilt, vibration, air quality and even odour. In fact Chinese scientists have developed NFC devices that monitor the levels of chemicals that produce bad odours in meat, signalling that it has gone off.
The great advantage of NFC is that it puts valuable data into the hands not just of stakeholders, but customers themselves — all you need is a smart device. This promises a huge gain in customer satisfaction and positive feedback. With a simple tap of the phone consumers can identify, authenticate and check the handling of products all along the supply chain. Indeed the technology might one day replace barcodes entirely, as it doesn’t require line of sight or phones with scanning technology.
Combination with IoT
Perhaps the strongest case for NFC is the way it will compliment the ever-growing IoT. The simple tap-and-go operation that we see in contactless payments provides an easy way to connect two IoT devices, making it an ideal bridge between other connections like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Plus the short range of NFC makes it secure from hackers. And NFC includes built-in encryption which protects it from eavesdropping and other malicious activities.
With more than 2 billion NFC devices already in existence, and an estimated 38.5 billion IoT-connected devices by 2020, NFC will be an integral part of the connected landscape. It will merge with and enhance the IoT to provide ultimate efficiency, quality and security across the supply chain in a way that is visible to all stakeholders, including — most importantly — the customer.
To leverage the power of NFC and IoT, industry systems need seamless interfaces to support the transfer of large quantities of data in real-time — together with robust data management and data visualisation systems to respond to market conditions. Sciant specialises in the logistics and transportation market helping to transform transport management systems and supply chain technologies by implementing new technology solutions and interfaces.
As big data experts, Sciant will optimise the performance of your data to provide greater transparency of business and product performance to bring greater efficiencies and commercial agility.