Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion around the supply chain. And as crisis concerns grow with no immediate solution in sight, companies around the world are looking for a serious enabler to optimize the supply chain.

Supply vs. Demand Chain

Through the management of logistics, operations, marketing and sales, and services, an organization creates a supply chain to deliver goods or services to a consumer. By anticipating the needs of the consumer, an organization can balance its expenditure of resources to meet market demand.

In the demand chain, the consumer initiates the flow of goods. By managing and better understanding relationships between consumers and suppliers, organizations can use information obtained through their demand chain to create greater operational efficiencies and minimize costs.

“The supply chain originates at the sources of supply and flows toward the customer, whereas the demand chain flows backward from the customer and ends up with the enterprise,” said Hokey Min, author of The Essentials of Supply Chain Management: New Business Concepts and Applications.

In a situation where supply chains around the world are in crisis, how can technology be used to optimize demand chain efficiencies?

How Bluetooth Technology Can Help

Advancements in Bluetooth® technology have paved the way for the development of battery-free tags which are becoming a crucial, low-cost solution for demand-chain optimization.

One company offering a battery-free solution to help enhance an organization’s demand chain is Wiliot. Wiliot is bringing its energy-harvesting, stamp-sized Bluetooth tags to a wide range of industries. This tag does not need a battery and has multiple sensors for everything from movement to fill levels to temperature to humidity to tamper detection. The tags can track a wide range of assets, from pallets in a warehouse to individual items in a store. Without batteries, they are a low-cost solution that is easy to deploy in mass. “For a truly efficient supply chain…we need to capture demand signals from customers as they are using products at work or at home,” said Steve Statler, Wiliot SVP of marketing. “The ubiquitous presence of Bluetooth technology is unique in facilitating that.”

Wiliot Bluetooth tags are already being used in grocery stores, clothing outlets, and to track medical supplies. “When the pandemic started, we integrated Bluetooth® IoT Pixels into vaccine vials to measure temperature over time and whether the vaccine was correctly diluted before administration to improve safety,” said Statler.

Bluetooth Tags in Grocery Stores

In grocery chains, Wiliot Bluetooth tags are attached to crates, allowing them to help reduce food waste, extend shelf life, and improve quality by measuring the FIFO (first in, first out) flow of the produce that travels from farm to store. By measuring the temperature of fruit and vegetables over time and spotting instances where crates start to get out of sequence, they can avoid leaving food to age at the back of storage spaces or at the wrong temperature.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, food systems consume about 30 percent of available global energy, 38 percent of which goes into producing food that is either lost or wasted. “Traceability and continuous tracking of where assets are is the key to addressing this and managing food safety and recall issues,” said Statler. “Not only can this make administering recalls safer and more efficient, but reducing food waste and the methane that results from rotting food can play a major part in the fight against climate change.”

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Bluetooth Tags in Clothing Outlets

Wiliot Bluetooth® tags can help retailers transition to a more efficient store model – forecasting demand and optimizing inventory levels, understanding customer behavior, and preventing theft and loss. By tagging clothing items with Bluetooth tags broadcasting advertising packets, stores could measure item-level replenishment to avoid out-of-stock products. This enables a smaller store footprint and better service with fewer staff. The conversion rate of items brought into the changing rooms and then purchased or not could also be measured, allowing stores to forecast returns and help predict customer satisfaction.

Using Bluetooth enabled tags, retailers can:

  • Achieve item-level product intelligence and a continuous view of how inventory flows from manufacturer to the customer
  • Automate their supply chain and inventory to satisfy demand forecasts quicker and with greater cost effectiveness
  • Satisfy consumers and generate revenue by increasing on-shelf availability, improving merchandising, and reducing the quantity of overstock and out-of-stock items

“Demand signals – such as an out-of-stock notice from a smart shelf in a remote store or even a customer picking up a product in a store, trying it on, or using it at home – can provide the information necessary to run a much leaner supply chain and avoid problems of product hoarding and surpluses,” said Statler.

A New Generation of Battery-Free IoT

Avery Dennison, a strategic investor in Wiliot, will integrate Wiliot sensing services (SaaS) with its connected product cloud, enabling tag sensing information to be added to the end-to-end item-level data of a connected product. Both companies share a vision for the future of the IoT where almost everything is connected to the internet.

The partnership will help scale the manufacturing capacity of Wiliot tags significantly and will enable the company to deliver on big projects to some of the world’s largest retail, food & beverage, and pharmaceutical brands. “Wiliot’s passive Bluetooth technology offers the ability to work with the existing infrastructure and provides another accelerator to the growth of IoT,” said Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager, Avery Dennison Smartrac. “Combined with sensing capabilities and security features as standard, this expands our portfolio and opens up many new use cases for our customers and partners.” 

A Battery-Free Revolution

Of course Wiliot is not the only company using Bluetooth® technology to create battery-free IoT solutions that will optimize the demand chain.

Recently, Atmosic partnered with Energous to build a development kit for engineers looking to use over-the-air wireless power. The Wirelessly-Charged Sensor Evaluation Kit from Atmosic and Energous features two Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) radio frequency (RF) harvesting sensor modules that transmit real-time temperature, humidity, and acceleration readings to the Energous WattUp Application. Data transmission happens while operating from energy harvested at distances of two meters from the WattUp transmitter, making this solution ideal for industrial IoT, healthcare, and retail applications. “The combination of our Bluetooth LE with power harvesting capabilities and Energous’ FCC-certified 1W transmitter will open up over-the-air wireless power transfer for a variety of our customers’ IoT applications,” said David Su, CEO of Atmosic Technologies.

By leveraging Bluetooth® technology to help better understand the needs of consumers, organizations can establish an energy-efficient, optimized demand chain that creates greater operational efficiencies while minimizing costs.

Learn more about how Bluetooth enabled tags are helping to improve operational efficiencies across a wide range of demanding commercial and industrial spaces.

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