Tracking and traceability, beyond the issue of delivery
The figures for 2017 (from a study by Talan Consulting) showed the full extent of the problem: the use of manual operations for the tracking or traceability of goods and their transport was still widespread in the business world. Certainly the debates on the rapid progress of certain identification and geo-location techniques are occupying forums and specialised publications, but the reality is quite different: there remains enormous work in changing habits and standards to be put in place.
To begin without doubt by the diversity of the techniques employed; it can be seen that “indoor” tracing, using RFID or beacons, is totally different to “outdoor” tracking of products or means of transport, implying more and more the IoT and 4G and 5G networks, as well as low frequency networks like Sigfox or LoRa. In this context, ensuring a permanent and fluid follow-up in all situations is an issue that leads to the harmonisation of, or a global mastery of, all the technologies used.
Tracking and tracing is different across countries and industries
The situation also varies according to the countries and the sectors of activity. The world’s main producer, China, mainly uses bar codes for tracing manufactured products. This requires the printing of these barcodes, their placement on packages or packaging, and readers being available at every point in the supply chain. The transition to RFID has not yet been achieved in 2018, and we understand that “smart packaging” is not for the immediate future.
What about the pharmaceutical sector?
In the pharmaceutical sector, the damage caused by counterfeiting is enormous and if it is relatively easy to fake printed packaging, it will be much more difficult to deceive RFID tracers. For example, according to a US study, Pfizer has seen 60 counterfeit drugs (2014 figures). The global market for counterfeit drugs is estimated to be between $75 and $220 billion, and for Africa and Asia almost 50% of their medical drug consumption is counterfeit! There is a lot at stake.
We can see that although the end customer has become extremely demanding regarding the traceability of their order, they are not necessarily very informed about the traceability of the product before its delivery. Numerous “scandals” have revealed doubtful provenance or questionable raw materials, or even very unethical manufacturing conditions used by some brands.
Will consumers ever have access to all the information and complete transparency? Will advances in technology and information networks be readily available?
Obviously, the stakes are not only limited to the quality of information, nor to the security of products, in their phase of production as well as in their transport throughout the world. It remains essential to ensure total security of the information itself, whether it is embedded in the product via an RFID chip (for example) or transmitted by an intelligent object to a server or a third party receiver. Tracing and tracking objects and their means of transport is a fast-growing and ever-changing market. Numerous business opportunities are waiting for us to imagine them.
Read aslo : LoRa and Sigfox take on the world!