How augmented reality will revolutionise logistics

Digital technology is constantly changing the way we handle logistics. Over the last two decades, the introduction of GPS, Wi-Fi, smartphones and tablets have had a major impact on how we move containers around the world.

The next big revolution in the transport industry might come from Augmented Reality (AR). AR has developed at an unbelievable pace over the last few years and it could become a common tool in logistics, sooner than we think.

So, how exactly does augmented reality work? With AR, you can basically link valuable information to every object that you see. AR adds layers of computer-generated information – like text, graphics or video – to the real environment that you see in front of you, using a smartphone, a headset or even smart glasses and lenses.

Extra data for drivers

The possibilities that AR technology can offer the transportation sector are numerous. AR can provide useful information, based on your precise location or specific situation on the road, and show it right in front of your eyes. That information could be the distance to a nearby petrol station, current weather conditions or your navigation instructions blended into the road.

But that’s just the beginning. AR is capable of providing detailed technical assistance when you’re having car troubles and don’t know what to do. Volkswagen has developed a mobile app with AR technology, that recognises car parts via object recognition and describes a step-by-step solution to your specific problem.

Shaping the future of logistics

The world of logistics has always welcomed technological innovation, but with AR it may be facing the biggest revolution to date. Just imagine what AR helmets or glasses could mean for work efficiency in warehouses. Today, warehouse management systems (WMS) are already making warehouse managers’ jobs a lot easier, offering real-time object recognition, barcode reading and indoor navigation right on their screen. A detailed picking list appears in their field of vision, showing all the data they need.

But the AR revolution doesn’t stop there. The entire transportation process, from order picking to retailer or home delivery, could benefit from the integration of augmented reality.


More effective pick-ups and transportation

What if you could check a load for completeness with one quick glance, instead of counting manually? Forget about time-consuming barcode scanning: a wearable AR device could do it all for you in the blink of an eye, using scanners and 3D depth sensors. The device could determine the number of pallets and their exact volume, using measurement tools.

One of the challenges that transportation companies are facing today, is the increasing complexity that comes with international trade. Different trade regulations around the world can turn international logistics into an administrative nightmare. AR can avoid all this by making sure the shipment complies with the import and export regulations of the countries involved and checking whether trade documentation is complete. An AR device can scan trade documents or goods for keywords and automatically propose changes or corrections to save time. After shipment, the same AR technology can translate international trade documents in real-time to reduce port and storage delays.

Navigation 2.0

An AR driver assistance system, using glasses or a windshield display, could be the next step in driver navigation. It could show real-time traffic data, weather predictions or status updates on the vehicle and cargo, directly in the driver ́s field of vision so that he doesn’t have to take his eyes off the road. Systems like this would lead to optimise routing and more road safety.

It’s clear that AR already has the potential to drastically change the world of container logistics – and this is just the beginning. More innovation will follow inevitably, creating more win-win situations for transport companies and their customers.