Event-Based Visibility vs. Sensor-Based Visibility

Written by Randy Gould
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6 minute read



This week we feature guest author Randy Gould, Global Director for Cargo Signal. Cargo Signal offers global control and oversight of the location and condition of the products moving through your supply chain. Through active, real-time monitoring using advanced cargo sensors, Cargo Signal’s team of security and logistics professionals will keep an eye on your shipments and take steps to respond based on your priorities. Cargo Signal is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Expeditors International of Washington, Inc.

Confession: I still doubt the backup camera in my car. It's not a high-end self-driving vehicle, it's just a standard-issue mid-range backup camera that turns a small line red when close. Despite this innovation, I still trust my flawed depth perception while turned around looking through the rear window more than this technology designed to improve my visibility.

As of May 2018, NHTSA requires rearview video systems (RVS) on all new vehicles, indicating the technology is being more widely adopted. In contrast, when it comes to blind spot detection (BSD) systems, which warn drivers with an audio or visual warning if there are vehicles in adjacent lanes, the same governing body "has not set performance specifications for this feature, but NHTSA recognizes BSD as a promising technology," signaling the technology has not yet reached a maturity level to be incorporated into safety standards.


Supply chain professionals are faced with similar issues today when considering which visibility technology to integrate into their operations. The potential gains are greater resiliency and efficiency, but the risks, as is the case with most new technology adoptions, can be failed projects and overspending.


Visibility when managing a supply chain is just as critical as it is when driving a vehicle. Traditional supply chain visibility uses event milestones like “confirmed on board,” “customs cleared,” or “estimated time of arrival,” that are ubiquitous and reliable when coming from a trusted source. A more recent advent in visibility comes from sensors that use the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide updates in real-time.


Let us go back to our analogy and compare rearview mirrors versus backup cameras when car buyers are considering technology options:


Rearview Mirrors Rearview Video Systems
Only point of failure is the impact No blind spots

Better contrast, color, and resolution

Low light visibility
Zero-latency Rear automatic braking


Similarly, when supply chain professionals consider new technology, comparing event-based and sensor-based visibility is not as simple as "Which is better," but rather which is more effective when evaluating comparative strengths. Here is an example list comparing event milestones and sensor data in the supply chain:


Event-Based Visbility  Sensor-Based Visibility
Human-generated updates can include context Machine-generated updates not subject to human error
Flexibility to capture an activity such as customs declaration Flexibility to provide visibility regardless of cargo handler
Disparate systems can be integrated for lower latency Control of data without IT
integration costs


The current state of sensor-based and event-based visibility in supply chains is much like that of visibility options in vehicles today. Using both together yields the most accurate, efficient, and safe results because each brings their strengths as well as mitigate the risks of the other method.


Consider now the blind spots that might exist in your current supply chain if your logistics provider does not provide a high level of data integrity or you're not taking advantage of sensor technology available today. In the meantime, I'll continue on my journey to trust vehicle sensors, but I’ll still be checking my rearview mirror.

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Blog was originally posted on September 10, 2020 8 AM
Randy Gould

Written by Randy Gould

Randy Gould has more than 15 years of experience implementing technology within complex supply chains spanning a broad range of subjects, including supply chain visibility, data analytics, advanced cargo sensors, and trade compliance. Through various leadership roles, he has built successful teams across multiple disciplines, including data science, graphic design, sales, account management, military, insurance, and security. Randy’s deep operational knowledge has allowed him to design strategic solutions with Fortune 500 companies. Prior to his current role, he managed a customer retention program that included thousands of companies across multiple geographies. Randy is a licensed U.S. Customs broker.

6 minute read