The logistics of data protection
15 March 2018 | 0
In today’s data-centric world, it may seem that material goods are getting short shrift, but nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that digital technology is already married to material items, and despite the complex logistic and regulatory challenges thrown up, such as by the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR), when data about goods is handled correctly, one can smooth the way for the other.
Delivering goods, in fact, is delivering information. Transport and logistics always begins with an order, and this order is usually made in electronic form. While other industries are beginning to get to grips with this new paradigm, especially in light of the GDPR’s looming implementation this coming May, the marriage of information and items is not news in the world of logistics. People talk about the IoT and the GDPR, but, in a way, both of these things have been there in logistics for 20 years.
Long ago, in 1995 — an aeon ago in technology years — internet pioneer Nicholas Negroponte stressed that bits and atoms needed to be thought about in different ways. He was not wrong, and back then stressing the urgency of digitalisation was key. Nonetheless, we still live in a physical world and the trend today is for a reunion of bits and atoms, driven by big data and the internet of things (IoT). Goods today create a trail of data, some regulatory and some value-added.
Consider maritime: a ship may start in Hong Kong, headed for Hamburg or Rotterdam. All the while it delivers ETA information. The technologies it used in the past are obsolete now, of course, but the idea is the same: collecting and transmitting information about where the ship is and what is in the containers.
Data compliance issues also, have long been key to logistics. When someone creates an order for something, it automatically creates paperwork for customs, for the harbour, the manufacturer, the customer — as many as nine parties, in fact. This information may be sensitive, so, for example, you may want it to tell some parties that the container is full of car parts while others should be given details: say, clutches for Porsches.
“Delivering goods, in fact, is delivering information. Transport and logistics always begins with an order, and this order is usually made in electronic form. While other industries are beginning to get to grips with this new paradigm, the marriage of information and items is not news in the world of logistics”
Additionally, in a specifically Irish context there are questions about what kind of paperwork will be needed for both the intra-Irish border post-Brexit and in relation to goods travelling from continental Europe to Ireland via the UK.
The implementation of the GDPR does cover some areas that were hitherto blank spots, but, for us, the processes have long been in place. Meanwhile, on the technology side, we at Prog-It are the only people in the market using modern techniques, such as HTML 5 on mobile, to deliver software that solves these problems, not only smoothing complex workflows, but also replacing dedicated legacy devices, say a €4,000 industrial handheld from Honeywell running Windows CE, with standard devices—which can, of course, be ruggedised.
The industry has been dealing with these complex scenarios for years, and we, as a company, have as a result been ready for the GDPR for years. For us, it is both mandatory and natural as it effectively applied to us already. It is our daily bread.
Jani Lillberg is managing director of Prog-It