Years of political wrangling are coming to a head as the UK prepares, finally, to end its transition period and exit the European Union. But what does this mean for the IoT? And – a related point – what might the IoT mean for Brexit?
We know that the current UK government has been keen to position Brexit as a huge opportunity for the UK and its businesses – a new era of global collaboration and trade, innovation and expansion. Whatever your own political affiliations, there are elements of inspiration to be found in this rhetoric.
But, as we also know, rhetoric means little without substance underneath. And when it comes to making success of a post-Brexit Britain, that substance means, perhaps above all else, agility and flexibility across global supply chains. Across multiple different sectors, one of the biggest factors in success after December 31st will be the ability to smoothly replicate the frictionless trade and smooth supply chains that the EU has enabled.
A huge amount of work has gone into preparing the UK’s ports and borders for Brexit, anticipating and alleviating the risks of long queues and delays. In turn, such delays could be hugely damaging for sectors which rely on getting time-sensitive goods through customs and onto their destinations as quickly as possible. Food, medicines and other perishable items are perhaps the most obvious examples, but many manufacturing business also depend on strict and high-speed timescales.
Here are some ways in which the IoT could play a vital role;
- Identity and origin: Being able to quickly and accurately affirm the identity and origin of a particular delivery is critical to getting it through customs and onto its destination efficiently. IoT tags attached to containers, plus GPS tracking technology, could confirm that those contains are tracked and attached to the right vehicle. IoT tags could also be attached to individual goods within containers, confirming not just provenance but also key factors such as compliance with certain standards, or customs codes.
- Environmental conditions: Discussions of the various Covid-19 vaccines in development have focused attention on the issue of refrigerated transport, and the difficulties – and risks – associated with keeping valuable loads at precisely the right temperature. Connected thermostats are simple way of monitoring and controlling the conditions in a container throughout transit. Other devices can monitor, for example, CO2 levels.
- Safety and security: A crucial part of the transit through borders is scanning vehicles and containers for contraband and disease, particularly as containers are moved between trucks and shops. IoT-enabled equipment could help this scanning to take place with greater speed and mobility.
All this requires both substantial investment in the right connected devices or ‘things’, and matched investment in the wireless connectivity required to enable them. The recent Spending Review has announced £100 billion capital spending in 2021, plus a £4 billion Levelling Up Fund – the role of this investment in IoT infrastructure will be interesting to watch unfold.
As we come to the end of a particularly strange 2020, many individuals and organisations alike are looking to 2021 with a sense of optimism and opportunity. Covid-19 vaccines are shortly to be rolled out, and a post-pandemic world is in sight. This will also be the year in which the promises, challenges and opportunities of Brexit truly come to light – and the IoT will surely play a central role.