The Rise of the High Fidelity, Accessible API in Freight & Transportation Visibility

On this episode of the Full of Ship Podcast, Kestrel Insights (KI) Co-Founder and CEO Lucas Schorer sat down with Vizion Co-Founder and CEO Kyle Henderson to discuss among other things the value of leveraging high-quality data via an API to gain precise location and visibility of freight. When two technology platforms work together in the world of freight and transportation visibility, they add value to the users for the new functionality. In this case, KI’s automated polygon geofencing ingested via API by VIZION gives VIZION’s customers the ability to know the location data is precise and high quality and makes it easy for them to implement polygon geofencing automatically versus drawing manually.

Schorer, a mechanical engineer by trade, has vast experience in a “variety of industries” but readily admits that the supply chain and transportation logistics world was somewhat new to him. But bringing his methodical mindset and a background in data to the table allowed Schorer and his co-founders to see “how better and better data sets” could bolster products and “continue to pull value out of all corners of them”.    

Kestrel Insights offers an improved solution for the transportation and logistics visibility industry, using polygon-shaped geofencing and the ability to link up with other technology platforms. To start, Schorer and his co-founders at KI saw a lack “in quality data sets” and realized how they “could bring value to big existing players from [their] little niche.”

Those data sets are helping change the world of geofencing, a feature in a software program that uses GPS or RFID to define geographical boundaries. Circular geofences are wildly inaccurate, and manually drawing polygons is expensive for a business. Kestrel Insights automates the delivery of precise polygon geofences and “that’s when geofences really, really start to show their true value,”  Schorer says.

The Cornerstones of Polygonal Geofencing

With the information from the three critical timestamps in transportation — arrival time, departure time, and detention, or time spent on-site at a facility — KI can utilize polygon geofencing to show how being in the right place can make a significant difference in time and money. Polygon geofencing can help to remove the complication of communication with the driver. By knowing a strikingly more precise location, no one has to pick up a phone and check whether the driver has arrived and how long the driver was there

It can also benefit the driver. It can tell the driver exactly where to arrive, as in the specific entrance to go through, rather than a broader “the destination is here” that comes with circular geofencing. For instance, no more waiting 10 feet outside a gate that isn’t used while the entrance is on the other side of the property.

“Our typical customers are those [with] logistics tools, those software platforms, who are building tools that leverage geofences, and we can bring them a higher quality data set to build those same tools on,” Schorer says. “You need a really, really precise geofence to make sure that automation [is working] and those steps in a driver’s day happen at the right times. Because if they happen a mile out, the driver is going to be [thinking] ‘what is this? I don’t need my check-in information yet. I’m still looking at my directions.’ They’re going to swipe it away or cancel it. And then, when they truly do arrive at the gate, now they don’t have the paperwork that they needed at that moment. So I think that’s how automation is really helping or is really making waves in this space.”  

In addition to providing a more pinpoint location, KI’s automation has a versatility that allows the information to be communicated in multiple ways. While some companies can simply log in and get a flat file with all the polygons needed, others can “tie into our API and ingest them that way.” API can also be a building block for developing new interactions with other applications.

The Quest to Establish Data Standards

Unfortunately, one thing in geofencing that is hard to pinpoint is a common standard. A Walmart distribution center, for example, could have a hundred different carriers going there. “Half of them could be using a circle; another 30 could be drawing their own polygons; another percentage is doing a mixture of the two,” Schorer says. “So there’s just no common ground to build from, whether it’s looking into problems around detention or arrival times or how to optimize that driver shows up, get unloaded, and leave.”

To really start making these inroads, you need a data standard. “That’s one of the biggest things that helps build trust,” Schorer says. “We’re going to work together to get to this standard, which is why it’s going to benefit everyone involved.”

Being open about that mission and how we get there is the No. 1 concern about the future of geofencing, Schorer says. “You need to have a data set that really is open to cross-platform implementation in every sense of the word.”

How APIs Build Trust in an Ever-Changing Landscape

APIs could also likely change the landscape of the tech industry and who will be grabbing a more significant share of the pie: monoliths or ecosystem services. The revolution of APIs has helped smaller players band together, compete, and bring value.

“Teams are much more open when they look at buy versus build or [maybe] not so much buy but partner or collaborate. That whole idea, I think, is occurring more because [of] APIs and with just how easy it is to share data nowadays,” Schorer says. “I’ve never come into contact with a platform that [says], ‘building geofences is a core competency of ours, and we’re going to keep this in-house.’ Usually, they [say], ‘Thank God, this is great. Let’s get this; let’s hand this over to a team that this is all they do.”

With the mindset of doing all they can do for a customer, KI’s main focus in the future will remain on doing what they do best — providing geofencing through API automation — while looking at other possibilities to expand the company. That world could be changing greatly in the not too distant future, but KI is taking a much more measured approach with its future. Schorer says in the podcast that KI doesn’t want to get “too far over our skis [by] trying to do all these different nuances. We need to really establish a quality foundational data set and trust with our customers of ‘hey, these geofences are solid, and Kestrel is good at doing this, and … they’ve really proven it.” He adds that Kestrel is “definitely looking at ways we can bring value” while continuing “to improve on just the data life cycle that we’ve built.”

Schorer says Kestrel is open to customer queries about taking geofencing and the API solution to another level. His customers are curious about different applications of  what is possible. Providing engineering support to tie in, accepting data, submitting requests, and ensuring the onboarding is as smooth as possible is crucial. But Schorer says KI also provides “support in terms of how we can show how our technology and our database can play into and support some of these other problems or ideas that some of our customers have.”

The key group where feedback should be coming from is the on-site team at the locations. “So whether it’s at a distribution center, at a port, at a railroad terminal, giving them a way to provide feedback of  ‘hey, we live and breathe on site. Yes, this is the apparent boundary for this facility, but you may not know that this dirt lot offsite is actually a big staging area for us,’ “ Schorer said. “And giving teams that live and breathe at these locations the ability to be a part of that standard setting will be really important.”

Kestrel Can Change the Shape of Things to Come for You

Polygon geofencing and logistics API accessibility are changing the freight and transportation visibility world. This new automation can help companies improve accuracy and precision while saving time and money. With the integration and expertise that Kestrel Insights brings, your business can move to a better (and more precise) place. To get your geofence efficiency score, visit our website today.

To listen to the full episode of this podcast, click here.

Find more Full of Ship Podcasts to learn more about how VIZION API works with industry leaders to demystify the chaotic, often turbulent world of ocean freight.