2 weeks ago, the UK Government announced a new plan for freeports to “turbo-charge post Brexit trade”. A key feature of freezones is that goods enter them – either by rail, sea or air – and are re-exported, the oversight of which requires a stack of technology that includes GPS, RFID, NFC and low power / wide area networks.
This article won’t go into the details of freezones – the UK government webpage has some interesting summaries; or how-to specifically implement a GPS tracking & industrial IOT solution with them – however here below I will provide a basic overview of key themes that come up when discussing GPS container tracking,
What Are The Benefits?
As the price comes down in purchasing and operating container tracking systems, and the functionality of the technology improves, user groups are extracting 3 benefits implementing these solutions:
The main benefits are:
1. Security of container doors. The ability have immediate alerts of unauthorized door opening sent to the manager of the container movement operation. This information can also be stored on the device itself for analysis later if a realtime data channel isn’t available.
2. Tracking. Customer can use the realtime location information to generate a wealth of management information.
3. Container Monitoring. Container tracking devices can include a number of telemetry sensors that can detect light entering into the container useful if the container is being sabotaged; temperature monitoring is useful for reefer type containers, and also an accelerometer to report if the container has been dropped.
Who Are The Stakeholders in Connected Logistics, Connected Ports & Freezones?
Customers cover the full range of stakeholders in the global logistics business, the 3 types of customer are:
1. Governments. These are increasingly concerned with eliminating dumpage from containers so as to ensure they collect the full taxation due on cargo. In particular, governments of countries who are handling containers in transit are keen to ensure they collect necessary custom and tax duties. Another key driver is security. Governments are worried about the movement of illegal / dangerous materials / items inside intermodal containers. Lastly, governments are trending to single window type operations whereby all data relevant to the movement of cargo is contained within a single platform, this includes for example, integrating manifest information with xray scans and location data.
2. Logistics Service Providers. These range from niche providers who specialize in the movement of certain types of goods, to large scale shippers of manufactured goods. LSPs are concerned with security of shipments as well as providing added value customer service.
3. Beneficial Cargo Owners. Increasingly the recipient or owner of the goods is turning to container tracking service providers to provide simple technology to monitor and locate their container loads. This could involve monitoring the container whilst in transit or whilst it is at a container port terminal.
What Do Stakeholders Require In Their Container Tracking Tech Stack?
A quick google search reveals many service providers who offer different kinds of equipment for container tracking, though not all offerings are a match for all customers as they have differing needs.
Two brief examples of how different type of users and use cases require different flavour of technology are as follows:
Example 1: Governments – these customers mainly use the most integrated systems. These include RFID networks at port terminals combined with container mounted tracking devices and sensors. They will integrate at the backend with additional data streams such as vehicle number plate recognition and video.
Example 2: Logistic Service Providers and their customers, beneficial cargo owners want a self contained, easy on, easy off devices that can be fixed to the container. Some of these customers do not want to open the container door after they have been sealed, so require devices that are fitted only to the outside of the container.
What Are The Pricing and Purchase Models?
1.Public – Private Partnership. Governments partner with the private sector who can supply all the equipment on a build, operate, transfer basis whereby the purchase is financed in return for a concession agreement to operate the system. A share of the revenue is returned to the Government.
2. Outright Purchase. For customers who wish to make a capital purchase on equipment with additional support and maintenance agreements to ensure the equipment can reach its maximum operational lifespan.
3. Lease Rental aka “Tracking As A Service”. Increasingly popular over long term for industrial IOT solutions, whereby a customer can rent the system on an as needed basis. The price is calculated on a demand metric usually this based on numbers of containers and length of transit. This offer is very attractive to beneficial cargo owners and logistics service providers.
The Human Factor is the Critical Success Factor
Most companies and organisations running container tracking and security operations want to get maximum benefits with minimal effort. The basic question then is what kind of capabilities (organizational and technical) should a customer of the service have access to? What kind of effort do they have to make to make the service ‘work’ for them?
Whilst the technology integrated into a GPS container tracking system is mature and reliable, the key element of the system is the human factor. It is important that customers should establish an implementation plan and operating procedure to ensure that the sensors, devices and other equipment is attached and activated correctly, and when the cargo arrives, that there is someone reliable who can ensure the hardware is returned to the start of the logistics chain so as to repeat the process.