Supply chain, logistics companies make Time’s Best Inventions

Following the supply chain and logistics space, it should come as no surprise that the industry is finally moving into the modern age.

Each year for the past two decades, Time Magazine has compiled a list of the 100 best, most exciting, and most unique inventions from around the world. Last year’s list featured innovations from some supply chain and logistics companies, such as Nuro’s R2 self-driving delivery robot and Watershed’s Carbon Cutter.

But supply chain and logistics companies have never been the mainstays on the list — until this year.

At Time’s Best Inventions of 2022, unveiled last week, the list doubled to 200 inventions, including solutions developed by a diverse group of supply chain and logistics companies from Aeva to Zipline.

Nominations were solicited from Time editors and correspondents worldwide, as well as through an online application process. Submissions were judged on factors such as originality, efficiency, ambition and impact, with a particular focus on growth areas such as electric vehicles and green energy.

The last 200 innovations were then divided into categories such as accessibility, style and transport. But despite the lack of a supply chain or logistics leg, the industry made its presence felt up and down the list.

Here are 10 of the supply chain and logistics inventions highlighted in this year’s roundup.

Aeva | Aeries II 4D LiDAR

Autonomous vehicles may not have drivers — but they still have eyes. Typically, driverless cars, vans, and trucks rely on light-detection and distance-measuring (LiDAR) to “see” the road ahead. But often these systems have trouble identifying the speeds of various objects that could affect the driver.

For this reason, Aeva has developed Aeries II, an enhanced LiDAR solution that not only maps the position of objects around the vehicle, but also their speed. The system has a 120-degree field of view, so it can spot hazards like vehicles changing lanes, and distance isn’t an issue — the company is currently working with NASA to try to map the moon.

The Aeries II system is also incredibly compact, fitting on the surface of a single silicon chip and integrated with some of the leading autonomous driving software platforms such as Plus.

Ford | F-150 Flash

Demand for electric passenger vehicles is steadily increasing as the nation seeks to reduce transportation emissions. But the freight sector accounts for a significant portion of this waste, and electric trucks are still in their infancy.

Ford, however, wants to lead the charge. The F-150 Lightning is an electric version of the automaker’s best-selling vehicle with a range of 250 miles on a single charge. The truck can also tow up to 10,000 pounds and automatically calculates its remaining range based on the payload.

Ford’s F-150 Lightning is tested in Alaska. (Photo: Ford)

The F-150 Lightning even has an integrated generator, exterior lighting and access to a network of charging stations. It was first opened to the public in April.

Gatik | Driverless vans

As a regular attendee at FreightWaves events, Gatik is now gaining some exposure outside of the freight industry. The company’s focus is on the middle mile, orchestrating short-distance, fixed-route deliveries for retailers.

Gatik driverless vans are among the largest autonomous vehicles on the market and have been on the road for Walmart for over two years now. The company’s fleet of light and medium-duty trucks operates 12 hours a day, seven days a week and relies on fixed pickup and drop-off locations.

Last November, Gatik took a big step by removing drivers from its trucks that delivered between a Walmart warehouse and a grocery store. Gatik trucks are currently operating in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Ontario, Canada.

Nextbase | iQ Smart Dash Cam

One criticism of the freight industry has been the lack of technological solutions for drivers. Much emphasis has been placed on systems for carriers and shippers, but the people who actually make the deliveries have too often taken a back seat.

However, Nextbase makes driver safety a priority. The company’s iQ smart dash cam combines a 4K camera with AI and cloud-connected technology to provide always-on, real-time access to dashcam feeds.

It even has a feature called Witness Mode, a hands-free, voice-activated feature that saves dashcam footage to the cloud and can notify an emergency contact if needed. The system can also switch to SOS mode in the event of an accident and immediately alert the emergency services.

OX returns | OX ecosystem

Based in Rwanda, OX Delivers’ mission is to build an accessible logistics ecosystem focused on clean transportation. OX takes on the challenge from every angle, building not only vehicles but also the infrastructure needed for their success.

The company’s OX ecosystem is billed as an on-demand logistics platform that allows farmers in rural Rwanda to book cargo space across a network of electric vehicles. The idea is to give them access to distant markets while still paying the same rate they would pay for the bike load.

An OX electric truck navigates through rural Rwanda. (Photo: OX Supplies)

OX launched its first electric vehicle in Rwanda earlier this year, with more to come by 2024. Operated by local drivers, the fleet will soon include an electric truck designed for navigating the country’s country roads.

phantom car | Remote Operating Platform

Previously, the list included driverless trucks and driverless cars. But what about a driverless forklift? This is exactly what Phantom Auto is building with its Remote Operation Platform for Logistics.

The platform looks almost like the video game Mario Kart – a forklift driver sits at a computer and uses a miniature steering wheel and pedals to control the machine remotely. Workers have a real-time, 360-degree view of their surroundings and can communicate with ground workers via two-way audio.

An operator drives a Phantom Auto forklift from a remote control room. (Photo: Phantom Car)

Another important feature is the ability for drivers to switch between vehicles, even if they are in different facilities. That could be a boon for warehouse managers struggling with labor shortages — in theory, they could have employees working from anywhere.

Rabin | Check app

In freight transport, adding a vehicle to your fleet is only half the battle – you also need to inspect and maintain it. Ravin recognizes this problem and uses AI to simplify vehicle monitoring for fleet operators.

The company’s Inspect app uses surveillance cameras, smartphone cameras, and AI to autonomously detect flaws like scratches and dents. The app even creates a vehicle condition report with estimates of damage severity and repair costs.

Ravin’s software was built using billions of scans of 360-degree images, which the system uses to learn about maintenance issues.

source map | Duty of care in forced labor

The supply chain is big – really big. As a result, it can be difficult for companies to understand exactly where and how they source products – and avoid the use of forced labour. Sourcemap was developed to create supplier transparency independent of the product.

Sourcemap conducts due diligence on over 10,000 different suppliers and flags them for waste, fraud or abuse. The company’s new Forced Labor Due Diligence solution goes one step further, helping clients comply with labor laws around the world, such as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law in China.

The solution maps customers’ supply chains and compares them to an archive of companies blocked under such laws, helping them avoid legal problems or inefficiencies. Around 5,000 companies are currently using the software.

Watch: Can you ever have too much technology?

watershed | Watershed Supply Chain

In one of the few repeat appearances on the list, Watershed made it onto the Best Inventions of 2022 list after showing up with its Carbon Cutter platform last year. Now it has another solution aimed at decarbonizing supply chains.

Watershed Supply Chain measures and reports carbon emissions throughout a company’s supply chain, uses the data to create a carbon footprint map and helps companies identify areas where they can reduce their impact.

The platform connects directly to companies’ business processes to collect emissions data and collate it in a dashboard that shows them how much carbon is being emitted, where and how. Watershed works with companies like Stripe, Walmart and Airbnb to find and eliminate the top inefficiencies in their supply chains.

Zipline | Home delivery by drone

The fate of the drone delivery industry is still up in the air, so to speak, and some observers predict it will remain a niche. Try saying the zipline. The company works with healthcare providers around the world to deliver essential supplies like vaccines, blood samples and more.
Last year, Zipline began working with Walmart to deliver small packages right to customers’ doors. The company, which operates from a distribution center in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, delivers within a 50 mile radius in 15 minutes or less.

A zipline drone parachutes a shipment of medical supplies. (Photo: Zipline)

Unlike most delivery drones, which use a winch and tether to lower packages to the ground, Zipline uses an airdrop system instead. Packages are attached to parachutes that allow the drone to hover high above the ground during delivery, helping them alleviate security and privacy concerns.

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