Before I begin this month’s column, I just want to provide some background for those readers who have perhaps fortunately missed out on the story here in the UK regarding the EU referendum that took place back in June 2016. The British government took to the electorate and asked us to decide, “Do we want to remain part of Europe (the EU)?”

Wagging fingers at the “leavers”

In a shocking outcome, the British people decided to leave the EU and, as such, we now have a divided populous who want to remain in the EU whilst the majority, albeit minor, wish to leave, hence the definition, “remainers” and “leavers.” The British government and the EU are currently negotiating “Brexit,” which has burdened the British newspapers with “doom and gloom” headlines over the last two or so years regarding a deal or no deal on future trade. It seems, Britain’s divorce from the EU is proving costly.

So, with the ongoing saga of Brexit here in the UK, along with the seemingly impossible stalemate of deal or no deal, I’m sure many of us are rolling our eyes in despair. Well, for me, I’m definitely rolling my eyes at the sensationalized news, since I’m confident that this is nothing more than scaremongering on behalf of the “remainer” advocates who are now furiously wagging their fingers at the “leavers” with a stoically defiant “I told you so”.

There be sharks in the English Channel

In fact, their wagging fingers are becoming more angry and vigorous as the news also speculates on the doomed future of Calais, which will allegedly suffer truck tailbacks of somewhere between 30 to 50km from the border. This speculation only compounds the remainers’ belief that they were right all along, as they incredulously inhale more air to further inflate their already puffed chests, folding their arms whilst giving a haughty nod of their heads, as they say in unison, “Ha, look what you’ve done!”

With the British Prime Minister, Teresa May, firing a resounding statement of “We’re not taking another referendum,” as to whether we stay or go – yet again, there is a clear message from the British government that Brexit will happen irrespective of the naysayers. Yes, believe it or not, there are indeed a pool of sharks waiting to feast on the causalities that’ll be thrown into the English Channel if things don’t work out on a deal that secures the UK’s future trade deal with Europe – and the rest of the world, for that matter.

Enabling the IoT with IP

So, my gaudy rhetoric brings me quite neatly to how the internet of things (IoT) could potentially simplify and ease or even negate the alleged truck tailbacks at the port of Calais. More so, in my experience of gallivanting between Britain and France – usually to purchase senseless amounts of wine from the French at unbelievable prices – I have never witnessed any kind of tailback in the last 20 or so years. Although, I am informed that the occasional tailbacks that do sometimes happen are predominantly due to delays of ferries and associated “technical difficulties.” Anyway, enough of that!

My IoT proposition is utterly simple and quite effective, since it harks back to the original supposition proposed by Kevin Ashton, who initially offered the term that we have come to understand as the IoT. Ashton, whilst at MIT working at the RFID research consortium, suggested that objects or things could be tracked using RFID. Today, we have embraced IP, a fundamental protocol used in delivering the internet, as a technology that may enable the IoT.

What about time-critical and perishable goods?

Here it is: How can we utilize IoT and, in turn, simplify the trucker’s commute between Britain and Europe, ultimately ensuring that perishable produce is not left standing at the port of Calais? If truckers are transporting fruit, vegetables or anything else that may be prone to perish due to incumbent delays, then there is a risk of damaged or unusable goods. This is where we read that there will be a food shortage across the UK and that stockpiling is necessary so that Britain doesn’t starve.

Moreover, it’s touted that the reason for tailbacks and whatnot at Calais is the alleged increase in thorough and detailed searches of trucks at the port. As such, there’s an inevitable manpower increase of border control and ancillary staff but, I dare say, someone has deliberately overthought this – damn those remainers!

A modern day flagship harnessing tech

Okay, back to my proposition. (And I’m sure someone may have already thought of this.) So, let’s create a registration process where goods, trucks and even the drivers are registered with truck driver’s license, hours passed, truck type, type of goods to be transported and so on. All items are tagged and tracked throughout their journey, that is, from source to destination (and vice versa) and any deviances that may have occurred. Goods that are in transit are all tagged and can be tracked and easily identified with any electronic-capable equipment – this not only helps with identifying the goods in transit and their quantity, it can also be used to ensure that any trucker isn’t necessarily the light-fingered kind. Likewise, knowing the trucks’ weight and any differences measured at the port would alert authorities that there are discrepancies, which may also allude to persons hijacking a ride.

In particular, I’m confident that we already have these new modern day IoT-ized trucks with cellular and GPS, NFC and other technologies that firmly places them onto the geographical map. For me, it utterly highlights the sensationalized and typically exaggerated news topics that continue to plague our televisions and newspapers, or perhaps that should be smartphones and tablets?

Until next time …

When I drive to Dover (and Calais for that matter) the only thing I need to present is my passport – vehicle number plate recognition has already identified me, so I don’t need to present a boarding pass. With this in mind, why can’t we extend this to trucks (which I’m sure is already the case)? I’m now deliberately shaking the leaves of my tree to really show it for what it is. I was always asked to read between the lines in news stories because there’s always more to that headline and with Calais becoming bottlenecked because of Brexit, this is one of those stories where you have to ask yourself, “Really?” It’s utter nonsense and hyperbole.

An effective and efficient implementation of an IoT strategy can, without a doubt, banish these alleged queues and hold-ups at our ports. Basically, I’m saying, let’s not over think this, as we can easily resolve all these issues with technology and the naysayers can respectively “jog on” because, in my experience, there’s always a solution when we actively choose to seek and focus upon it!

Ultimately, with the assistance of digital transformation and an embracing of IoT within the supply chain, the general population who simply cross the Channel to explore Europe or to harvest the vast quantities of wine at unbelievable supermarket prices (did I say that already?) can continue to do so uninterrupted.

So, this is where an “I always have an answer for everything” Dr. G, signs off.