Supply chain operators may have to get up to speed on a new range of cutting-edge technologies to keep up with the currents of change, according to a recent industry analysis. The report by market research firm Gartner Inc. finds that disruption and new business models in 2019 will be driven by 10 powerful technology trends, including some familiar concepts like autonomous vehicles and blockchain, as well as some more esoteric concepts such as augmented analytics and quantum computing.
While most shippers, brokers, carriers, vendors, and warehouse operators will agree that the logistics industry is awash in emerging technologies, Gartner said its study focuses only on those trends that have substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and could reach a tipping point over the next five years.
Viewed through that prism, Gartner says the ten strategic technology trends that organizations need to explore in 2019 are:
While Gartner identified these trends as general, industry-wide themes, each one could apply specifically to logistics in a range of ways, the firm said.
In one example, robotic applications could soon evolve far beyond their current use in discrete tasks, and begin to cooperate within a broader network. "As autonomous things proliferate, we expect a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a swarm of collaborative intelligent things, with multiple devices working together, either independently of people or with human input," David Cearley, a vice president and Gartner Fellow, said in a release.
"For example, if a drone examined a large field and found that it was ready for harvesting, it could dispatch an 'autonomous harvester'," Cearley said. "Or in the delivery market, the most effective solution may be to use an autonomous vehicle to move packages to the target area. Robots and drones on board the vehicle could then ensure final delivery of the package."
Despite this great potential for change, some of the strategic technologies flagged for 2019—such as blockchain—still require significant development before they can perform reliably in a business environment, Gartner said.
"Current blockchain technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood, and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations. This is particularly so with the complex elements that support more sophisticated scenarios," Cearley said. "Despite the challenges, the significant potential for disruption means CIOs and IT leaders should begin evaluating blockchain, even if they don't aggressively adopt the technologies in the next few years."