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The decrease in the cost of the technologies that allow internet connection has made it possible to ‘connect’ industrial assets, thus reaching maritime transport containers. NAVLANDIS and WITRAC have developed a solution for container visibility and control for Zbox collapsible containers.

Twenty years ago, connecting to the Internet required a computer, a modem -a device that made a funny sound- and a lot of patience.

Today, almost every thing we have a daily interaction with can connect to the Internet by itself instantly: cell phones -of course-, TVs, house lights, vacuum cleaner, fridge, ecc.

This possibility has been used by the industry to control assets such as cars, rental motorcycles, trucks, pallets… Thus reaching freight transport containers. Given the availability of electricity, the first containers to be equipped were refrigerated containers, although advances in battery technology now allow dry containers to be equipped with connected devices as well.

But, what is a smart container?

According to the report ‘Smart containers’ published by United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT):

“The electronic devices incrementally installed on container fleets empower traditional containers to become smarter. Container monitoring devices and sensors encompass three general components that are increasingly combined to enable advanced monitoring:

  • Identification;
  • Location;

Physical parameter monitoring such as temperature, humidity, vibration, etc.

Location-aware technologies, real-time reporting, handling and tampering control, environmental condition monitoring, hacking attempts recording, and related alarms and quality management functions are widely available. Such devices collect and monitor a variety of physical parameters and store and/or transmit related data safely. These connected devices are used to monitor service and equipment performance, and to remotely diagnose problems related to both the container itself and its contents. The Smart Container data may also include the following more detailed data elements:

  • ETA Update;
  • Actual Executed Transit Time;
  • Empty at Gate-In at Depot;
  • Depot Reconciliation;
  • Trip Tracking;
  • Haulage Container Time and all routing points passed; and
  • Exception Alerts such as Schedule Deviation Alert, Unexpected Door Opening,
  • Unexpected Temperature or Humidity Change, and Overlanded Container.”

The report points out that with the cost of this technology continually decreasing, improvements in the lifespan and autonomy of the devices together with the streamlining of the maintenance processes, the proliferation of smart sensors is enabling a new age of visibility throughout the supply chain.

So, has it become a reality? For what purpose?

Nowadays, big shipping lines (MSC, CMA-CGM, Hapag-Lloyd) already offer tracking services in both reefer and dry containers. And so does Zbox, the collapsible container on the market that is most similar to the standard container.

Together with our technological partner WITRAC, and inside the works of the project #ZboxBlueLogistics, we have developed a a complete visibility and traceability solution for the Zbox foldable container, which facilitates the control of assets and their merchandise. With the implementation of IoT infrastructure and its integration to the platform, data is visualized and processed for monitoring and detection of incidents in real time that enables accurate decision making with:

  • Container location
  • Traceability by dates
  • Folded or unfolded status
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Open or closed door status

The implementation of this solution improves the quality of freight transport, since it connects the container with the entire supply chain, through the combination of technologies such as RFID, Bluetooth, GPS and WIFI that enable communication and connection for its precise location, in order to:

  • Find and locate the container or cargo anytime, anywhere
  • Automate real-time alerts on possible incidents detected for immediate action through artificial intelligence algorithms.
  • Ensure the quality of cargo and merchandise by monitoring their status, which helps reducing damages
  • Reduce loss or theft by detecting unauthorized locate points or diversions
  • Improve logistics performance by displaying KPIs on the platform
  • Eliminate information silos completely
  • Facilitate the process of returnable assets

Now the solution is undergoing its final trials, so Zbox users will soon be able to take advantage of all these benefits.

But the best is yet to come

Obtaining data from the assets is the first step. But apart from knowing the status of the cargo whatever unpredictable situations may happen, these data offer a whole world of possibilities. Data aggregation and treatment allow to study past events and modelize future parameters, materializing the change from reactive asset management to a more predictive and proactive future of logistics.

The report cited above indicates that over the last five years, a significant number of containers have already been equipped with tracking and monitoring devices. The relevant accumulated data demonstrate significant gains in transparency, integrity, efficiency, predictability and effectiveness of cargo shipping. The results also show a tremendous improvement in cargo care, service and maintenance with gains that have a positive impact on safety for seagoing personnel and more environment-friendly container operations overall as we move into a predictive state.

 

Read the cited report here.

Camila Hurtado

Coordinadora de proyectos subvencionados y de marketing en Navlandis.

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