Demo block 1: the rise of hardware and data agnosticism

 McLeod Software demonstrates FlowLogix's smart contracts capabilities at Transparency18. ( Photo: FreightWaves )

McLeod Software demonstrates FlowLogix's smart contracts capabilities at Transparency18. (Photo: FreightWaves)

‘Agnostic’ was a word that kept coming up during the first round of technology product demonstrations at Transparency18 in Atlanta. Envio 360’s drayage optimization platform is “TMS agnostic” and open platform; Konexial’s GoLoad technology is agnostic with regard to telematics and TMS systems; FullBay’s cloud-based diesel truck maintenance solution is agnostic to repair shop and fleet software.

It was clear that after more than a decade of piecemeal, uneven technological progress in transportation and logistics that saw fleets developing proprietary ‘solutions’ and a crowded market of hundreds of telematics devices, momentum is shifting toward data and systems integration. The most impressive digital solutions to logistics pain points are engineered to work with whatever system, hardware, or format a shipper, 3PL, or carrier already uses, in order to aggregate and make sense of vast amounts of data that has become fragmented and siloed. 

The leading edge in transportation technology products is no longer simply building a device that generates data, but in building digital solutions—whether they’re on a blockchain or other storage layer—that can bring different kinds of data together, integrate it seamlessly, and use predictive analytics to help companies make better business decisions. 

project44 showed how users can call data from their API network and upload it into a blockchain. project44 emphasized that blockchain won’t replace APIs because the two technologies do different things: API is a communication layer that allows disparate systems and applications to communicate with each other in real time, while blockchain is a storage layer that creates a shared version of the truth that can’t be changed. The blockchain, though, is only as valuable as the quality of the data that’s being fed into it, and project44 thinks their API network is an ideal way to populate blockchains.

The team from Envio 360 led by Brian Widell, the company’s founder and CEO, presented the company’s artificial intelligence-powered drayage optimization platform. Envio 360 is also designed to feed information into a cryptographically secured blockchain, which is particularly advantageous for drayage companies dealing with import/export shipments.

“We all recognize the potential power of blockchain in transportation and international shipments spanning borders, currencies, and compliance issues,” said Widell. “Every container shipment begins and ends with drayage, and it’s one of the least transparent and automated segment of transportation. Drayage is traditionally known as the black hole of freight visibility, but the complex logistic requirements of intermodal have made optimization and dispatch automation difficult,” Widell continued.

Widell explained how Envio 360 automates drayage dispatching using data analytics to match the most suitable drivers with the best loads, taking into account everything from safety scores, hours of service remaining, and tracks the progress and efficiency of each move.

Salesforce demonstrated their Einstein service, which uses predictive analytics to help shippers and carriers anticipate their customers’ reactions to problems like damaged cargo and late delivery. Einstein can prompt a company to offer a credit or discount on a problematic shipment, or send a technician or claims adjuster to meet a delivery at its destination if IoT devices report some kind of compromise or damage to the load. Salesforce’s Einstein product was typical of the cloud-computing giant in that it leveraged data to help improve and automate customer relationships, because customers are ultimately partners “you want to do business with over and over.”

Dave Halsema, EVP of FreightRover, and Doug Waterfield, the company’s chief technology officer, demonstrated their customizable automated load board, called Freight xChange. The product differentiates itself from traditional load boards because each individual shipper ‘owns’ their own: they can post and find loads for free, select loads with one click, it includes automated tracking, connects easily to a TMS, and allows private posting. 

Learning Machine unveiled a self-sovereign Universal Driver ID based on the BlockCerts open standards for issuing and verifying documents and official records on the blockchain. Natalie Smolenski from Learning Machine pointed out that 10% of all fictitious pickups in the American freight industry involve identity theft, which is only becoming more common. Those fictitious pickups average $140K in value. 

“If you’re a carrier and you’re hiring a new driver, and are presented a BlockCert, verifying it is just as easy—you can do it with one click, or by scanning a QR code, or by pasting a link into our universal verifier,” said Smolenski. Learning Machine wants to use cryptographically secured identity documents to eliminate identity fraud, double brokering, and issues with lost paperwork that introduce new costs and inefficiencies in logistics processes.

Ken Evans from Konexial is laser-focused on filling the 20% of all truckload miles in the United States—50 billion miles every year—that run empty. Konexial’s GoLoad platform is an open ecosystem to help carriers make their assets visible and available to shippers and 3PLs. This information can be taken from an ELD and populated to the cloud and is structured by a smart hierarchy of data so that shippers can find the best driver for their load, starting from the truck’s location and moving down through criteria like the driver’s remaining hours of service and destination preferences. Evans described GoLoad as “the world’s first dynamic load matching engine.”

Jacob Findlay, the CEO and founder at Fullbay, presented his company’s cloud-based diesel truck maintenance software. Findlay began his presentation with some data: “I’m going to start with two very interesting pieces of data: whenever a truck is pulled off for an inspection, a certain percentage results in an out of service violation. 21% is national average, and there’s an extremely strong correlation between out of service rate and the fatality rate. The second metric is that there is a strong correlation between the out of service rate and the size of the fleet. Larger fleets have lower out of service rates and smaller rates have higher, because larger fleets have dedicated teams to track and predict maintenance,” Findlay said.

It follows that smaller fleets have higher fatality rates, and the answer might lie in an accessible, inexpensive cloud-based predictive maintenance tool that bridges the safety gap between the smaller and larger fleets. That’s what Fullbay does. “We will launch a universal health record for heavy duty trucks,” said Findlay, referencing his previous experience in the electronic medical record software industry.  “Fullbay is a blockchain solution with two way communication, agnostic to repair shop software or fleet software. This solution will make truck and preventative maintenance easier and take friction out of the entire process.”

Ken Craig from McLeod Software ended the first demo block by showing the audience FlowLogix, a new extension to McLeod’s TMS architecture. FlowLogix allows users to automate business processes with visual tools, building logic chains and testing them before implementation. The user enters simple logical commands into a visualized decision tree, and FlowLogix automatically writes the code necessary. FlowLogix’s interoperability with the blockchain was demonstrated using a tokenized rates on volume per time smart contract. 

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