Returnable Transport Assets (RTAs) have long been a target for IoT solution providers and adopters alike. Wide-Area Network (WAN) technologies have seen significant shipments into this market over the past two years.
ABI Research forecasts that the WAN RTA tracking market will reach 117.3 connections by 2027. Evolving device hardware and implementation architectures are influential movers. Still, the most important reasons for growth come from an enhanced understanding of the multiplicity of use-cases subsets of RTA tracking, a diverse ecosystem of solution providers, and the role of software in helping enterprises achieve those outcomes.
“WAN technologies only represent a small proportion of total connections in the RTA market,” says Tancred Taylor, IoT markets industry analyst at ABI Research.
“Increasingly, solution providers have moved away from taking a technology-first approach and are letting hardware and implementation architecture choices be dictated by the desired outcomes.” Tancred Taylor
“This has led to greater flexibility in how RTA solutions are implemented and in how adopters can think of returns on their technology investments based on present-day needs and their longer-term digitization strategy,” said Taylor.
The adoption of RTA tracking solutions using WAN technologies is driven by cellular LPWAN because of the increasing demands of customers to have visibility both in open-loop and closed-loop supply chains. Cellular LPWAN also often enables more diverse implementation architectures, such as by acting as gateways or parent devices to Short-Range Wireless (SRW) devices.
While WAN technologies are a holy grail for asset tracking, they remain a long-term proposition for many types of lower-cost RTAs; using flexible implementation architectures allows enterprises to take a serious look at RTA solutions. This includes leveraging IoT technologies and more passive technologies like RFID and barcodes.
Increasingly, solution providers are looking to aggregate data from numerous edge and enterprise sources to feed an RTA tracking solution. Data aggregation allows solution providers to provide richer insights and solve entirely new pain points within an adopter’s supply chain, such as product traceability or cargo monitoring.
As the number of use cases grows to address varying supply chain needs across different enterprise departments, the value of an RTA tracking solution becomes more clearly defined.
According to Taylor supply chain visibility more broadly has been a key focus of the past three years.
He posited that as enterprises look to improve the performance of their supply chains, they are leveraging a wide range of tools to help them reach these new outcomes.
“IoT RTA tracking tools are crucial not only in helping to optimize RTA pool size and speed but also in upgrading visibility into many more supply chain metrics. As companies expand their understanding of what is possible from tracking RTAs, IoT solutions become more complicated and valuable. This creates great market dynamics in which IoT and software innovators can operate,” concluded Taylor.