Last mile logistics is not solely the literal last mile; it could be the last 10 miles or 1,000 miles, or in fact any distance. It does, however, cover the period between when the product arrives at the distribution center to when it reaches the end user. Thus, it represents the final step in the logistics chain.
It’s fast becoming one of the most crucial steps for logistics companies to succeed in, and for good reason. With e-commerce having experienced exponential growth over the last few years, more retail stores are shutting by the day, and there is an ever-increasing need for faster and more efficient deliveries. From food shops delivered within two-hour windows, and outfits ordered and worn within the day, consumers expectations are rising – and companies need to act quickly to meet this demand. The answer? Invest in innovation.
Packaging supplier Rajapack investigated how technology is transforming last mile logistics. With insights from Glen Walker (COO of online marketplace Trouva) and Bertand Nicoli (Director of Operations at Mindful Chef), here’s how innovations in last mile logistics are allowing companies to speed up the system and capitalise on its clear profitability.
Tracking and traceability
These days, the likes of live-tracking and GPS mean that the last mile in logistics can be monitored more effectively. It’s important for customer trust, because it allows them to know where their order is, and when it will arrive. People have come to expect this level of service: “Just because the logistics chain is complicated for the retailer doesn’t mean it has to be for the customer,” says Trouva’s Walker.
Tracking is vital for the company’s visibility too, and provides a chance to improve their last mile. Bertand Nicoli of Mindful Chef says: “We believe that the customer has a better delivery experience when we are able to be involved closely with the last mile. Because of this, we have full visibility when it comes to routing, courier loads, ETAs etc. and this allows us to pre-empt any problems and deal with customer queries much more efficiently.”
Delivery by drones
It’s said that 79% of deliveries will be done by drones in the future. They’ll be capable of carrying up to 15kg as well as take the most direct route to the item’s final destination. Their appeal to companies trying to get ahead of the curve are limitless: they cut costs of labour (often the highest cost in the delivery process), as well as offering constant availability, able to work 24 hours per day with speedier service.
Granted, there are some things yet to be sorted out, including drone regulations and how drone traffic control would work. Plus, Mindful Chef’s Bertand doesn’t think they will take over in cities “due to density” but suggests it “could be an effective way to carry out deliveries at low cost to more remote locations.”
Autonomous Ground Vehicles (AGVs)
Another autonomous courier of deliveries is AGVs. With seven companies already speeding to get theirs on the streets, it’s now a matter of when, not if. These will be mobile parcel lockers monitored from a control point, that follow a set route along the road. Customers will be notified of the time the vehicle will reach them and then be expected to collect their items from a specific locker. Companies like Amazon are pouring money into this technology, with the goal of controlling the entire shopping process from click-to-buy to delivery. Though this is an expensive investment, McKinsey predicts it can reduce retailers’ shipping costs by 40%.
Finally, technology has the potential to transform the way that packaging is put together in a way that can improve the final step of the process. One of the ways this is being done is through robotics such as arms that sort small items into boxes; an increasingly popular choice among both manufacturers and retailers.
Packaging innovations are something that Nicoli of Mindful Chef is passionate about, particularly for the food and beverages sector: “I think packaging innovations will be important in keeping food fresh and goods in the condition in which they are meant to be received. The e-commerce industry is so huge that innovation in packaging will be richly rewarded by consumers and so should have brainpower and capital diverted to it.”
The above is a taster of how technology is transforming the last mile of logistics, at a time when this final part of the process is becoming more and more profitable for retailers – and more and more important for consumers. And it’s not all drones and self-driving delivery vehicles. Companies that are early adopters of accessible technologies like live tracking, real-time data and efficient packaging processes can capitalise on the speed and efficiency this creates – and make a real difference to their business profitability in the process.
AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
By Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn
We’ve all heard the old saying “money talks.” Well when it comes to customer loyalty and retention, good customer experience talks much louder, with 30% of customers leaving a brand and never returning due to a bad experience.
The truth is, there are a lot of companies with similar products and services, but that doesn’t mean that differentiation is impossible. So, what’s the solution? For financial services, large and small, customer experience is becoming the key competitive differentiator and the best way to deliver an impactful experience is to empower customer-facing employees to do their best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling these employees to create remarkably better customer experiences, resulting in customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall growth.
For financial institutions that have been considering new strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of their customer experience, here are a few ways AI can enable them to deliver the “human factor” that good customer experience demands whilst ensuring customer facing employees can provide a more positive experience for customers.
Increase employee productivity
How much of employees’ time is spent searching for answers to questions? Do they ever have to put customers on hold or even step away to get additional help? AI helps provide front-line employees real-time guidance so they can spend less time looking for information and more time solving problems. An AI-powered chatbot, for example, can be listening in the background of a conversation helping point employees to the right data, solutions, and processes to resolve customer issues faster than ever before.
Deliver a consistent customer experience
When banking customers engage with their financial institutions, they measure the speed and accuracy of the service through two criteria. First, how quickly can the system access their account and deliver the correct information? Is it faster than a human could type it in and share it? And second, if they eventually do need to be connected to a live customer support agent, is their information captured and passed along accurately? AI technology takes those general queries off the customer support team’s plate, providing a quick, accurate, and effective response. If a query needs a more in-depth response, AI can hand it off to support staff to address.
Not only this but leveraging a centralised, AI-powered knowledge solution ensures every employee has access to the same, updated information, so no matter who the customer speaks to, they can be assured that employee responses are both consistent and accurate across the board.
Accelerating employee training and onboarding
Like any industry, employee turnover is inevitable and can be costly. But, not training new employees correctly or in a timely manner could be much more costly. When it comes to financial services there is a lot to learn, whether it is something simple like the process for checking an account balance to all the nuances associated with mortgage loans. AI can support on-the-job training by helping new employees answer questions confidently, correctly, and much quicker than they could before.
Improving employee satisfaction
Today’s banking customer has all kinds of new ideas about their banking experience. “The Amazon Effect” has successfully raised consumer expectations to the extent that a consistent, personal, and relevant experience is the new normal. As a customer, how many times have you been told “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer?” Customers want solutions to their problems and employees want to be able to deliver those solutions as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI assisting in the background helps minimise those negative moments – making employees job easier, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.
Identify knowledge gaps
Do you know all the questions employees are getting asked? Do you know what’s easily answered and what’s not? Real-time insights allow knowledge managers to keep up to date on frequently asked questions and gaps in current resources. This allows them to strategically improve or add content where needed.
Augmenting customer service
Whether talking with an AI chatbot or a personable customer service team member, the modern banking customer has high expectations for convenience, speed, and security. Which means that the technology you choose to deploy and how you deploy it is now just as important as who you hire and how you train them.
Today’s AI solutions won’t replace customer service agents or get in the way of the human factors that drive the customer experience. On the contrary, they augment it, allowing the business to do more without adding human resources. The higher the quality of a AI chatbot solution, the better it will be at taking the routine requests off the plate of customer service agents—giving them more time to provide a personalized and positive experience for customers.
BEFORE THE INK IS DRY: CORRECTING BIOMETRIC SPOOFING MYTHS
Eric Setterberg, System Design Engineer at Fingerprints
Biometric authentication is highly robust, and the latest solutions offer considerably greater security than their authentication predecessors: PINs and passwords.
But as biometrics moves into new areas such as payments and access control, privacy and security concerns are rising. Biometrics has long been subject to scrutiny, with many elaborate examples of people working to trick biometric sensors to crack devices in the media and online.
To ensure the continued adoption of biometrics, it is important to shine a light on the reality of biometric spoofing.
The Evolution of Biometric Solutions…
The first use of fingerprints as forensic evidence was in an Argentinean court case in the late 1800s. With the technology still in its infancy, this was done manually and by eye, comparing latent residual prints lifted from crime scenes to charts of inked fingerprints obtained from the suspects at arrest.
A few decades later, the FBI began collecting fingerprints of criminals and civilians. They also introduced the automated comparison of fingerprints by computers in the 1970s. These “traditional representations” have now been standardized by ISO and ANSI.
… and their Spoofs
The earliest and simplest of these matching devices were easy to spoof. Really, all you needed was a photocopy or a good image of a fingerprint to make a successful spoof.
But as biometrics moved to more advanced technology, the game for biometric ‘spoofers’ has changed and the task of crafting fake fingerprints is considerably more difficult.
The biggest boost for biometric security, however, came with its introduction into mobile phones.
How Mobile Changed the Game
Before the widespread integration of fingerprint sensors in smartphones, the technology underwent significant evolution. No operator wanted to use large biometric sensors in modern phone designs. Sensors had to become much smaller to reach the perfect price and design point for the mobile world, but this meant needing to capture data from a smaller surface area of the finger.
To maintain the security of these smaller sensors, algorithms evolved significantly in order to utilize a greater amount of data per unit area. These mobile-driven hardware and software changes resulted in the optimized image capture of modern touch sensors.
As a result, tricking these systems now requires a considerably higher level of detail to be reproduced correctly for a match to be successful, far beyond rudimentary gummi bear spoofs and photocopies…
Setting the Perfect Spoofing Scenario
Compromising fingerprint authentication via spoofing can still be done, even with all the technological advancements. However, it now requires considerable care, skill, money, and time. And to start, a good latent print…
To retrieve a latent print that’s high quality enough to work, you either need a willing volunteer to lend you their finger, or the commitment to stalk a victim until a viable fingerprint can be retrieved. Even with a decent latent print, modern spoofs then require advanced photoshop skills and/or a lab to successfully convert latent prints into effective moulds.
So – what about those articles boasting how easily they have hacked the latest smartphone device’s fingerprint sensor?
In fact, there are only two instances of fingerprint spoofing seen in the media nowadays: proof of concept and cooperative spoofs. Lay enthusiasts and media go through the effort of setting up a lab to create spoofs with latent fingerprints either from themselves or cooperative volunteers. Even the most successful of these take months of work, a highly skilled team, and the perfect scenario of circumstances.
Put simply, the effort required for spoofing modern fingerprint sensors cannot be applied at any scale. Each biometric spoof needs to go through the same laborious process and clinical conditions. So, if you can bring together a willing group of spoofing enthusiasts, tricking a biometric device could earn you fifteen minutes of fame on the internet, but it is likely to be conducive to a successful criminal business plan…
A “How” Without a “Why”
Spoofing biometrics remains technically possible, and there will always be those up to the challenge of trying to hack the latest technology. But the reality is that modern biometric solutions require more time, skill, and frankly, luck, to successfully spoof than ever before. Not to mention that tireless R&D work is continuously strengthening spoofing resistance. And, as use cases start to combine multiple biometric authenticators, such as combining fingerprints with face or iris to perform an authentication, spoofing will only become more complex.
By comparison, hacking PINs and passwords is considerably simpler and more scalable, making it far more lucrative. And, criminals generally take the path of least resistance.
For the average consumer, greater use of biometric authentication is not only a means of simplifying authentication, but dramatically improving the security of their devices, applications, and personal data. With PINs and passwords still the most common authentication method outside of mobile, it is imperative that the true security and advanced nature of modern biometric authentication solutions are understood.
AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
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