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Forget the ChatGPT newcomer — AI is already helping to power global supply chains

Adam Warren Profile picture for user Adam Warren May 31, 2023
ChatGPT may be the hot topic but AI has been embedded in enterprise technology for much longer. Samsara's Adam Warren digs into the value of AI in the logistics industry.

Ai tech for futurist automatic transportation logistics Cargo Shipping, business virtual graphic Global Internet line connect Chat with AI. hi technology in Ship port © GreenOak - Shutterstock
(© GreenOak - Shutterstock)

Italy’s banned it. Consumer groups are calling for it to be investigated. And Elon Musk along with a host of other tech leaders have called for a six-month moratorium citing potential risks to society.

ChatGPT’s grand entrance onto the world stage has been nothing short of show-stopping. But it is not without its critics.

Regardless of your point of view, ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have turned geeky algorithms into approachable people-friendly tech. And it’s done more to catapult AI into the global consciousness than anything before.

In part, it’s down to ChatGPT’s ability to understand and generate natural language at a ‘near human’ level. But as impressive as that is, AI is more than just a chatbot.

AI encompasses computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence —  such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation. It allows machines to learn from data and improve their performance over time without explicit programming.

The role AI can play in the logistics industry

So, what role can AI play in the future of logistics and fleets that is so important to global supply chains? Clearly, there is only one go-to source qualified to answer this.

In the future, AI-powered systems will enable logistics companies to optimize their operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs,” said ChatGPT in response to the question. “AI will provide real-time visibility into the supply chain, allowing logistics companies to track shipments, monitor inventory levels, and predict potential disruptions.

It will also transform the way fleets operate by analyzing data on driver behavior, vehicle performance, and fuel efficiency. AI-powered predictive maintenance systems will identify potential issues before they become major problems, minimizing downtime and reducing maintenance costs.

It’s right, of course. Except for one thing.

These AI-powered solutions and business benefits aren’t something that will happen sometime in the future. AI is being used — today — to optimize supply chains, improve efficiency, and enhance road safety.

AI and predictive maintenance

For example, onboard diagnostic (OBD) systems that flash up warning lights on a vehicle's dashboard can be linked directly to the cloud, so that this information is visible to fleet managers remotely and in seconds.

But instead of waiting for a vehicle to be taken off the road for a mechanic to assess the importance of any potential fault, AI and machine learning algorithms are now being used to analyze the data from sensors and equipment to flag up any problems and predict what maintenance is needed and when.

AI-powered software is also being used to identify potential issues with a vehicle's brakes or tires before they become problematic. What’s more, lifetime vehicle monitoring — which assesses the health of a vehicle in terms of age, mileage, and wear and tear — is already pinpointing exactly when a vehicle starts to become a less productive asset and needs to be replaced.

Although it’s up to management teams to take the final decision, that process is being supported using business critical insights based on live data analyzed by AI and ML.

AI and safety management systems

One of the other traits of AI is its ability to engage in “visual perception” to improve road safety. AI-augmented dash cams have already been trained to look for specific unsafe driving behaviors such as people using their phone while behind the wheel, distracted driving, speeding, lane drifting and drowsiness.

And because it’s in real-time, these systems are able to ‘nudge’ or alert drivers to correct their behavior before it leads to anything more serious.

That’s the difference between an AI dashcam and a simple camera. One simply records events. The other uses AI and ML to act as a smart, always-on safety device that spots things that might lead to an accident.

A recent story by the Wall Street Journalreported how US carrier, Werner Enterprises Inc — the US’ seventh-largest truckload carrier by revenue — signed up to Samsara’s AI-enabled dashboard cameras to perform object detection and live analysis in its fleet of 8,500 trucks.

The shift to AI is part of Werner’s plan to use cloud computing to become a $5 billion company in the next few years, Chief Information Officer Daragh Mahon told the WSJ.

AI is part of a fleet of new safety-focused technologies

And Werner is not alone. Since most road accidents are caused by human error, fleets are increasingly turning to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that use IoT connectivity, cloud computing, and AI to generate, process, and analyze data to make roads safer.

So the question isn’t about what AI can do to help fleets and the logistics industry in the future…because AI and ML are already embedded in technology and enterprise software. The challenge is to convince those firms that have yet to embrace digital transformation about the benefits of modern technology.

For those yet to take those first steps it could be something as simple as upgrading route optimization software to one that uses AI. Instead of just mapping the route from A to B, AI algorithms analyze data on traffic patterns, weather, and other factors to figure out the most efficient routes for drivers even while they’re on the move.

Not only could investing in such technology improve fleet efficiency, but it could also go some way to demystify some of the misconceptions about AI and ML.

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