Empowering drivers: 5 companies disrupting the supply chain ecosystem

 Call it the Internet of Things, the Sharing Economy, a result of the ELD mandate, but with the emergence of blockchain-style applications we are witnessing a digital gold rush when it comes to technologies bent on improving supply chains. (Photo/Shutterstock)

Call it the Internet of Things, the Sharing Economy, a result of the ELD mandate, but with the emergence of blockchain-style applications we are witnessing a digital gold rush when it comes to technologies bent on improving supply chains. (Photo/Shutterstock)

Given the early nature of blockchain technology, corporations and consortia all across the globe are investing in and partnering with startups that are building compelling and multi-faceted solutions. An ecosystem of platforms such as load matching, logistics planning and predictive maintenance will only continue to grow. These five recently caught our attention.

TNX: smart tendering across the map

Founded by Jonah McIntire, with a background in transportation and consulting in Europe and Asia, Josh Bryan, with a University of Chicago PhD in transportation optimization, and Alex Hoffman, the only "industry outsider" with a background in investment banking.

The youngest of our five companies, their software focuses on smart tendering, stitching together continuous jobs for drivers, workflow visibility, real-time alerts, and packages that integrate the software across numerous platforms. The very first version of TNX was released about 18 months ago, and the current generation is about a year old. They have customers using TNX in Europe -- particularly the German, Swiss, Austria and Belgian areas -- although their strongest presence is in New Zealand.

"We are in particular looking at this with the view of a large shipper or 3PL in mind that has a variety of different alternatives on procuring trucking capacity, be it an owned fleet, subcontractors, or the spot market," Hoffman tells FreightWaves. "We aim to tackle a key source of inefficiency in road transport: dispatching. Sometimes the differences are in the small details."

TNX gives drivers real-time leverage. They get to know what to put on a truck and where to send it and how to sequence the drop offs. Rather than making 10 calls to find out what’s available, and not feel like you’re in control, this gives much more control and efficiency.

ShipChain: shipper-carrier real-time pricing

ShipChain uses Ethereum smart contracts to take out the need for freight brokers. Their technology tracks and verifies each stage of the complex shipping and logistics process, essentially acting as a digital broker for carriers around the globe.

One example of a startup working on this is ShipChain, which aims to apply blockchain technology to the logistics space. A partner of BiTA, ShipChain is building a fully integrated supply chain management system that gives insight into each stage of the logistics process. In addition, the company aims to create a decentralized brokerage system — essentially an open marketplace for shippers and carriers. Leveraging the transparency of information on the blockchain, the marketplace will let shippers optimize cost and time for every shipment.

In other words, shippers can track the capacity, cost and estimated delivery times for different routes for a given shipment before making a decision on the marketplace. At the same time, carriers can continually post information about their capacity for shipping vehicles and lanes, thereby dynamically adjusting the fairest pricing based on supply and demand. The transparency and efficiency afforded by the blockchain benefits all parties by allocating resources in the most effective way without artificial markups by rent-seeking brokers.

Fleet Complete: in-app load matching

Another BiTA partner, and this time coming out of Canada, Fleet Complete recently increased its workforce by 10 percent to keep up with demand for the electronic logs developed by BigRoad. It now employs 500 people, and between 130,000 and 140,000 truckers are using its electronic logs.

As a result, the company is now implementing TMS system, Blackberry Radar, to understand temperature inside the freight to help understand the type of freight. "This maximizes the revenue for the driver, the trailer company, the carrier, and even offers discounts for the shippers along the way," said Philip Poulidis, the company’s senior vice president for the Internet of Things and BlackBerry Radar.

The BlackBerry Radar complements the BigRoad app the company has also recently absorbed. BigRoad describes themselves as the first company to launch in-app load matching within an electronic logbook application that suggests loads based on a driver’s GPS coordinates and available hours-of-service. Once registered, drivers are sent notifications recommending loads to them. They can view load details, including the payout, and choose to accept or reject loads from within the app.

FR8Star: flatbed fleets on the asset chain

FR8Star is pursuing the most specialized segment of the freight transportation industry –- flatbed fleets -- a $50 billion revenue market annually, with a ton of regulation often requiring special permits and escort services. From there, they plan to “land and expand” trying to build the right innovations for the emerging needs of the industry.

Jessica Toy, Chief Product Officer at the company, along with Roslynn Tellvik, UX Designer, are two of the women at the company, which has an against-the-grain, 50/50 ratio of women to men on its technology team. Jessica brings her experiences at other disruptive tech companies including YouTube and Airbnb, and Roslynn provides a human experience sensibility with interface design.

"Through our research we learned how to evolve the platform to add value. For example, by offering carriers more context about each load, they can easily estimate how much they'll need to transport it. Which in turn gives more accurate pricing to our shippers. One of the things we also saw is that carriers often rely on their mobile phone to conduct business. So, we prioritized our driver app and mobile responsive versions of key flows on the web," Tellvik told IoT Evolution.

The customers of the FR8Star exchange are now more strategic in planning their loads and business, less reactive and more able to plan their pick-ups, drop-offs and routes in between more efficiently –- and more safely. That's a win for everyone.

Tradeshift: blockchain open-sourcing

Christian Lanng, Mikkel Hippe Brun and Gert Sylvest came from different backgrounds, but they’re all entrepreneurs at heart. Tradeshift’s alignment with decentralization and open-source development dates back to the founders’ relationships prior to founding Tradeshift. In 2005, they built Easy Trade, the world’s first open-source, peer-to-peer trade platform, where they established some of the world’s first standards for digital trade.

“It’s our DNA and good business karma to make things open-source, so they come back to you,” CEO Lanng told TechCrunch.

Tradeshift has now recently announced Tradeshift Frontiers, which allows developers to have access to open-source data with trade volume credibility, and the ability to develop third-party apps on their platform could be transformative for the global supply chain’s conscience and its bottom line.

Analyzing aggregate trade data allows businesses to see where data is being valued and produce greater economic benefit in the chain. A developer could use blockchain to build an app based on this data to extrapolate anyone’s carbon usage, say, pressuring companies to opt in and report their own to strengthen their brand.

Aggregate data could also be used to help companies identify where they are using more resources than necessary, and manage and track them more effectively. It's virtually endless the possibilities, but it all begins by helping drivers maximize their margins and the rest of the interested parties in the chain all find ways to exponentially benefit.

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