C.H. Robinson, one of the country's largest logistics providers, has signed a deal with Microsoft as part of its pledge to spend $1 billion on new technology over the next five years.
Eden Prairie-based C.H. Robinson will leverage Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform to bring more real-time information to supply shipments.
Land O'Lakes, the Arden Hills-based agricultural cooperative, also signed a deal this week to use the platform to improve the supply chain in the agriculture industry and bring broadband connectivity to rural communities.
None of the companies released the value of the contracts.
C.H. Robinson is the country's largest third-party logistics firm, and its $1 billion in spending will add both new services and improve the company's infrastructure.
Partnerships with Microsoft are nothing new for the company, said Mike Neill, C.H. Robinson's chief technology officer.
The two companies collaborated on developing Navisphere Vision for Microsoft and other clients with the largest and most complex supply chains.
Navisphere Vision gives users more real-time data on where shipments and orders are and which of those orders might be disrupted or delayed due to weather or other predictable events, Neill said.
The new alliance adds sensors using Microsoft's internet-of-things technology. The sensors will allow companies to more accurately trace factors such as humidity, light, tilt and temperature.
That will give customers information not only on where the orders are but what condition the items might be in.
Navisphere Vision then uses predictive analytics to tell which shipments might be at risk for not meeting delivery requirements and helps customers make adjustments to mitigate delivery problems.
"Azure IoT has the ability to take all of these different signals from different devices, store them in the cloud securely, reliably, with massive scalability, and then do important things," Neill said.
Neill noted that in 2018, C.H. Robinson had 650 million digital signals from freight moving across all its customers; in 2020 he expects well over a billion data signals, with those signals growing exponentially.
Land O'Lakes will unify its tracking-technology tools from across its divisions under the Microsoft Azure platform under the new alliance. This will allow the companies to work together to develop more targeted tools to use information from the farm such as weather, feed management and animal health.
"Land O'Lakes is one of the most important food suppliers in the U.S., and our nation's farmers and consumers rely on its ability to rapidly adapt to changing market forces through innovation," said Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella in a release.
The alliance also will help with Land O'Lakes' pledge to expand rural broadband access by connecting Microsoft's efforts in the area to the agricultural co-op's owner network.
"The data-based, precision agriculture tools that we are building with Microsoft will provide the edge they need, but unreliable or nonexistent high-speed internet in rural areas keeps these tools out of reach for many," said Land O'Lakes CEO Beth Ford in a news release. "Through this alliance, we will work to address this need and help farmers remain profitable and sustainable."