future-crystal-ballAbout this time last year, I predicted the hottest topics in the supply chain world for 2014 would be Big Data, robots, drones, same-day delivery, and M2M. Not bad, I’d say! Now, if I could only do as well with my stock market plays, football bets, and the lottery I’d be in much better financial shape.


Those were pretty easy pickings, in retrospect. The topics were all clearly visible on Gartner’s hype cycle by the end of 2013 and there weren’t many negatives out there to impact them.

The only real question was whether Amazon’s push into drone delivery was a marketing ploy. However, throughout 2014 there was an explosion in the application of drones for myriad purposes, so even if your Christmas parcels aren’t dropped on your doorstep by a drone, chances are drones were involved in weather, farming, law enforcement, and many other processes that affect you. The economics related to same-day delivery are still in question, but the market tests and articles kept coming through the year. Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) were all over the news, and the use of robots in supply chains and many other situations continued to be newsworthy. 

 

Did I miss anything in 2014? Well, a couple developments that caught our attention were wearable tech and driverless vehicles. Will either have supply chain or ecommerce application? It wouldn’t surprise me, especially since fulfillment centers and other supply chain areas have been automating processes using hand-held devices for quite awhile and logistics is an area that always is looking to reduce costs. Both wearable tech and driverless vehicles will be closely watched in the upcoming year. 3D printing, which has been around a bit longer than you’d think, was also in the news as costs dropped and successes become more prevalent. This technology, which could have significant impact on supply chains, bears watching in the new year.

So, what I see in my crystal ball for 2015 looks like this: lots of articles on cloud technology, omnichannel retail, robots and driverless cars and drones (oh, my!), 3D printing, and supply chain risk as the world becomes more interconnected and dangerous. But the big news will be in the worlds of Big Data and the Internet of Things.

There isn’t a day that goes by without a story published about how Big Data will save healthcare, weather forecasting, inventory control, food production, or (plug in your own favorite here). That won’t change and, in fact, as tools come on line and projects are implemented we’ll see actual results that will fuel continued growth. With IoT, we glimpsed the fire slowly building on the consumer side of the technology with the introduction of a number of smartphone controlled home systems.

 

The industrial side of IoT, which I’ve written about in the past (read the latest HERE) is moving ahead and holds great promise for supply chains everywhere. We’ll continue to see concerns over security, standards, and integration moving forward, but once those are nailed the sky’s the limit! There’s no doubt in my mind that the Internet of Things and Big Data will be the topics that will have the most impact on supply chains everywhere in 2015.

We hope everyone has a happy Holiday season and a prosperous and healthy New Year!

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