Years ago when I worked at Accenture, I participated in an innovation contest sponsored by the United States Postal Service (USPS) account that I was on. The goal was to cultivate innovative ideas that USPS could leverage (or Accenture could use to sell additional work).
Looking back at that competition and thinking about my idea, it is still pretty valid. With the advancements in wireless, mobile and IoT, I would like to revisit and update my pitch.
A Bit About My Background
After graduating from Morehouse College, I started a transportation company. It would be considered a Mom & Pop operation. The data at the time had some eye-popping numbers.
In Transportation & Logistics:
- 90%+ of trucking companies are 30 trucks or less (Mom & Pop)
- There are approximately 500k+ Mom & Pop companies
- Most of the technology that supports that industry is expensive and usually is targeted towards larger enterprises. E.g. J.B. Hunt, Schneider, Landstar System, etc.
- At that time there was a lot of copying, faxing and using excel spreadsheets to provide analytics
USPS runs one, if not the, largest logistics operation in the world. Why not leverage the best practices and technical systems created for the USPS and offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) product to the 500k+ smaller logistic companies?
e.g. Think what Amazon did with Amazon Web Services (AWS) but for the logistics industry.
USPS could influence the logistics market from the bottom up to offer:
- Bid on USPS Loads
- Ship via USPS
- Driver Information
- Maintenance and Expense Tracking
- Routing Software
- Legal (IFTA, Driver Logs, etc)
- Host the marketplace for technology resellers e.g. in cab TVs, mobile phones, tablets, IoT, wearables, etc.
All of these things are done on a daily basis by logistic companies, but how much would this be worth? My pitch at the time would be 10% of the addressable market at $500 a month (or $6,000 a year). For USPS it would be potentially $25m a month in new revenue. (My next blog post might be announcing the launch of this actual product…lol.)
Whether or not this idea was possible, it sure sounded good and it was enough for me to share top honors with Blake Byrnes’ pitch for free first class mail driven by advertisement.
2015 2018 Pitch and Advancements
Every so often I spend some time on Google to see if anyone has filled this lane for the smaller logistic companies. There are a few companies out there that have some solid offerings, but I really feel like a big fish should tackle this problem. USPS, FedEx, DHL, UPS or Walmart Labs could all benefit from a meaningful offering that empowers the smaller mom & pop logistic companies. Also for those companies still using mainframes, it’s a reason to migrate off and into the 21st century of computing.
So, the core of my pitch remains the same but now we have advancements in technology that we can leverage.
No More Paper (mobile, mobile, mobile)
Let’s get rid of the paper altogether, except for maybe post-it notes. Book the load, dispatch to the driver, proof of delivery, driver logs, fuel receipts all happen on a device.
Now we can leverage a few things thanks to the advancement in wireless networks and device computing power:
- GPS: Dispatch can know exactly where a driver is. As a driver, I can leverage FREE mapping solutions for directions. Although, one would probably want to leverage a mapping solution that provides routes for large over the road trucks.
- Calendar/Notifications: Dispatched loads can be placed directly on a driver’s calendar with alerts for delivery times. It would not be hard to provide notifications based on weather and/or traffic data automatically.
- Proof of Delivery: Drivers can now take pictures of the trailer being sealed, the breaking of the seal and unloading of the truck. Also, the driver can capture the signature of delivery directly on their mobile device. This means that we can invoice before the driver pulls out of the docks. Save time and money by not requiring the driver to return to the yard to drop off paperwork.
- Payment: With SDKs from Paypal, Stripe and Elevon I want my money now, not 30-45 days later. Sending an automatic email when the payment has occurred would allow us to better track accounts receivables.
Internet of Transportation – IoT
- On a daily basis, millions of trucks are on our roads providing the necessary transport of goods for our economy to survive. There are numerous opportunities for trucks to capture data about its surroundings that can be processed, mined and monetized. Very similar to the autonomous car programs at companies like Uber, Waymo, and Apple, trucking companies could leverage the fleet of trucks to provide a wealth of untapped data. With the advancement of 4G networks and the coming onslaught of 5G, I would not be surprised if this is already underway. A few potential use cases could be:
- Camera Analytics
- With a dash camera or a suite of cameras (think Tesla AutoPilot hardware v2) trucks would be armed with the tools necessary to provide data for a host of solutions. For example, harvesting camera analytics could provide information on traffic, road & infrastructure conditions, weather and visual confirmation of the location of sensitive freight.
- This data could also be used to provide a general market for companies looking to develop autonomous features. Reducing the need to acquire 100s of vehicles spread out across the country being paid to simply drive.
- Trucking companies could leverage this data to have greater asset visibility. For example, camera analytics could reduce the need for having GPS tracking on each individual trailer.
- Weather + Environmental Sensors
- Truck fleets could become rolling laboratories providing information on the weather and collecting environmental samples.
- Data Platform for freight companies to leverage
- As companies start to implement technologies such as smart packaging, freight companies could leverage the internet bandwidth pipe that a connected truck could provide. This would reduce the complexity of some smart packaging solutions and could be an additional value, also a differentiator for trucking companies.
- Camera Analytics
My initial feeling still remains, a large enterprise with a focus in logistics needs to throw its’ weight and budget around. I believe providing a feature-rich offering to the industry could be an effective way to save time, paper, fuel and road wear. Who knows, a big name player could already be working on this. In the meantime, I will continue to revisit this idea and wait to pitch it to the right company.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2015. It has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.