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ABI Research: Supply Chain Visibility Drives WAN RTA Tracking Market

January 9, 2023

More technology flexibility and greater focus on outcome-focused software and services drives greater adoption across all RTA classes

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. 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.”

“It is exciting to see the market transition from a technology speeds and feeds sale to more of a problem-solving approach”, said Scott Deutsch, President, Ehrhardt + Partner Group (EPG), Americas. “The real promise of IoT for the RTA market starts by having businesses focus on specific use cases and quantitatively measuring ROI and overall business value.”

Deutsch continued, “The food industry really led the technology traceability utilization adoption and has since grown to become the standard. I expect other industries with higher values offerings to also fall-in line for RTA adoption.”

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. In addition, cellular LPWAN 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.

“Supply chain visibility more broadly has been a key focus of the past three years,” notes Taylor. “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.”

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