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.
DISPELLING BIOMETRIC MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
By Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints
Gangsters cutting off enemies’ fingers to access secret locations and spies lifting fingerprints from martini glasses – the imagination of the entertainment world has been running wild ever since biometrics entered the scene.
Couple that with the limitations of some early biometric solutions from fifteen years ago, still anchored in the minds of many consumers, and you have the perfect recipe for an apprehensive and uncertain public.
Thawing lukewarm attitudes with a biometric touch
The biometrics industry has made great strides in the last few years – something particularly true for smartphones. Fingerprint authentication has replaced PINs and passwords as the most popular way to authenticate on mobile, with 70% of shipped smartphones now featuring biometrics.
And it doesn’t end there. Many adjacent markets are now eager to benefit from the secure and convenient authentication solutions that biometrics offer. Take the payments industry, for example, where biometrics payment cards are currently gathering real momentum.
However, some consumers are still uneasy about accepting biometrics. A recent study found that 56% of US and EU consumers are concerned about the switch to biometrics as it’s not enough understood to be trusted.
Although attitudes are shifting for the better, stats like this demonstrate there is still some work to do to disprove common biometric myths and showcase just how smart today’s solutions really are.
Dispel, adopt, repeat
The evolution in consumer biometrics in the last two decades has been phenomenal. And today’s solutions are far more advanced and safe than many may think.
To help bring an end to the myths, let’s expose some of the most common misconceptions around biometrics.
Myth: Biometric data is stored as images in easy-to-hack databases.
A leading myth about biometrics is that when a fingerprint is registered to a device, it is stored as an image of the actual fingerprint. This image can then be stolen and used across applications. In reality, the biometric data is stored as a template in binary code – put simply, encrypted 0s and 1s. Storing a mathematical representation rather than an image makes hacking considerably more challenging. In most consumer applications, this template is also not stored in a cloud-based location, its securely hosted in hardware on the device itself for example in the smartphone, in the payment card. Thus, it stays privately with its owner.
Myth: Fingerprints can be easily replicated to ‘trick’ devices.
The internet is full of articles and videos that claim it is possible to use materials from cello tape to gummy bears to craft fingerprint spoofs and access biometric systems. Although there may have been a time where gummy bear spoofing was the go-to party trick, todays’ consumer biometric authentication solutions have too many technological defences, such as improved image quality and matching algorithms, to simply ‘trick’ devices. Plus, on top this, the criminal needs to have access to the person’s device where this fingerprint is enrolled e.g. smartphone, payment card, before he/she notices and blocks it. This is not scalable nor common, in comparison to gaining access to someone’s PIN code or skimming a contactless card.
Myth: Physical change will prohibit access to my device.
Although our irises don’t change as we age, our fingerprints can and our faces will. Does that mean we have to update our biometric devices every few months to capture these changes? Not quite! Unless there are drastic, sudden changes, the ‘self-learning’ algorithms in modern-day biometric systems are able to keep up with our developing looks.
Who you gonna call? Mythbusters!
These are just some of the common biometric myths and misunderstandings perpetuating in consumer mindsets. Thankfully, though, while we’re working hard to rid the world of the myths, belief in the value of biometrics is only expected to grow. But as solutions expand and diversify, the myth-busting fight will continue.
Fingerprints has been a leader of innovation in biometrics for the last two decades. We’re proud of the expertise and R&D we’ve been able to pour into our biometrics solutions to deliver stronger security and a better user-experience. To learn more about the most common biometric misconceptions and the modern-day technology that allows us to dispel them, download our eBook here.
WHAT EVOLUTIONARY AI MEANS FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES
by Babak Hodjat, VP of Evolutionary AI at Cognizant
Many banks and other financial services institutions (FIs) are beginning to recognise the benefits of AI-driven solutions as a way to get ahead in the market and challenge the competition. Amongst many other benefits, the technology enables organisations to offer hyper-personalised customer experience, dramatically improve internal decision making, and drive operational efficiency. However, many businesses are struggling to move beyond the experimental phase and reach actual AI deployment. It is those organisations that are at risk of being left behind.
The financial world has already been transformed by AI, and this transformation is continuous. A new breed of AI, known as ‘evolutionary AI’ has begun to further accelerate innovation. It is capable of automatically designing itself with little need for explicit programming by humans – innovatively creating complex AI models, and optimising decisions considering multiple scenarios.
This technology is revolutionary for industries across the world, but in particular it is set to transform the financial services sector. Enabling businesses to spot novel strategies that would never have been identified by human data scientists, and, in turn, allowing companies to take full advantage of today’s massive data sets – evolutionary AI will soon be a vital tool in all FIs’ arsenals.
The nuts and bolts of evolutionary AI
Emerging technologies that enable AI algorithms to design themselves are allowing organisations to transcend human limitations. Evolutionary AI operates iteratively. Firstly, it randomly generates a set of potential solutions to form an initial population and assigns a score to each solution based on how well it performs relative to other solutions. In the second round, it retains the solutions that performed best, perhaps only 5% of the total, and recombines their components, sometimes “mutating” them to create a new population. This new population is then tested, and the process begins again. Over multiple generations, the appropriate components of the more successful solutions become increasingly prevalent in the population, and eventually a solution is discovered that yields the best outcomes.
Advantages and use cases
Compared to human design, evolutionary AI can be deployed far more quickly, avoids biases and preconceptions, and typically performs better. Furthermore, the chosen model will evolve and improve over time based on new data.
Evolutionary AI can be applied in a wide variety of areas at FIs. Some examples include designing quantitative trading strategies to maximise returns while minimising risk and loan underwriting. Rather than relying on human analysis, evolutionary AI solutions can quickly analyse all the combinations of relevant variables to create models that more accurately assess the risk of default by a potential borrower.
A recipe for success
In order to reap the benefits of the technology, FIs should focus on the following:
- Responsible AI – Behave in ways that make customers and employees comfortable, i.e. not making decisions that are unethical or exhibit bias. Companies need to monitor them to ensure they continue to act appropriately, as they learn and evolve.
- Viewing AI through a business lens – Having AI projects managed by cross-functional teams with business executives in the lead is a good place to start. Companies also need to look across their organisations to identify opportunities to generate concrete business value from AI — not only in reduced costs but also in boosting revenues by delivering enhanced customer experiences and through improved decision-making.
- Enhance data management – AI applications depend on access to timely and accurate data, which is a challenge for many FIs that have fragmented data architectures with multiple legacy systems. Companies need to identify which types of data are required for each AI project and ensure they can be captured in an appropriate format.
- Approach with speed and caution – AI projects need to be rolled out quickly, while at the same time be rigorously measured, so failures are terminated promptly while successes are moved into production.
The sophistication of AI technology is set to significantly improve over the coming years as it continues to design and test itself. As a result, it will become more critical to the productivity of FIs, and soon businesses will recognise it as a vital tool for consulting on important business decisions. It will not be long before humans and AI are working alongside each other, with robots handling routine tasks, enabling employees to focus on more complex and sensitive activities. Delivering more value together than either could on their own.
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