Integrating IoT with logistics to achieve intelligent transportation

Integrating IoT with logistics to achieve intelligent transportation

As far as transportation goes, cargo shipments and goods are delivered to their rightful destinations via air, land, rail, and sea. Compared to those that remain stationary in a well-guarded warehouse, cargoes in transit are much more difficult to protect as these shipments are highly susceptible to hijackers waiting for the right moment to rob the freight.

According to statistics compiled by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, consumer electronics, food, and clothing are the three most stolen types of cargoes — and cargo thefts occur most often during the weekend.

The statistical study also indicates that the most targeted locations for cargo thefts are truck stops and rest areas followed by modal yards and unsecured locations, such as drop lots and motel and restaurant parking lots. In the U.S., cargo theft is estimated to be at about US$1 billion a month. Now, there is a heightened sense of awareness about the security risks that exist in the transportation process.

Over the past few years, increasing amounts of logistics providers are employing the use of RFID tags and GPS locators on either the cargoes or the mode of transportation to better track delivery progress and keep a closer eye on their shipments. Container shipping is a critical component of global trade — around 90 percent of global trade is transported in cargo containers. A manual seal used in sea and air cargo transportation cannot guarantee shipment integrity. But using a smart container seal made of radio frequency device provides far better protection combining robust mechanical parts with sophisticated sensors. The electronic seal transmits container information as it passes a reader device — fixed at customs or ports, and issues alerts and error conditions if the container has been tampered with or damaged. Specialized RFID monitoring devices promise to revolutionize the shipping and handling of a wide range of perishable products with track-and-trace capabilities.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term coined to describe the communication between machine to machine through Internet connectivity. In fact, IoT solutions are already being adopted in a number of industry-specific business sectors such as healthcare and retail. Utilizing this network infrastructure, logistic processes can also be managed much more efficiently and effectively.

Active sensors on the cargo, most commonly using RFID or NFC technology, provide synchronized information and material flow in real time; hence, operators are able to gather information on specified cargo at any time, instantaneously. As technology advances, smart post boxes, air freight pallets, and wooden pallets can communicate with a variety of networks to report their location, avoid collisions, and even report the surrounding environments. With the help of these sensors, along with real-time locating systems (RTLS), GPS tracking systems, and other information relaying tags, the objects are able to communicate with each other and disperse the information through the Internet in real time. The data generated can then be processed by analytics or the operator for decisions to be made. Most of the time, these decisions can already be made by preconfigured rules.

Intelligent Transportation
Using this technology, dispatchers in the command center are able to assign directions and routes for the drivers, observe driver behavior, monitor the goods in real time, detect when a vehicle has gone off track, or even when a vehicle has been idle for too long.

These containers are equipped with sensors that monitor the temperature and humidity levels. If either of the conditions rises higher or drops lower than the allowed range, an alert will be sent out to the dispatchers, who can then inform the truck driver to address the issue. Electronic seals on the cargo will also send out an alert if anyone attempts to tamper with the cargo.

These intelligent sensor technologies are perfect for large, international logistics companies that deliver goods over long distances, whether by land, air, or sea, so they are able to keep track of their cargo shipments. Intelligent sensors are also important for luxury goods, highly advanced consumer electronics, and pharmaceuticals, so dispatchers will know where the goods are, along with their estimated time of arrivals, and if they have been jeopardized in anyway. For the various sensors to relay information to each other and back to the command center, having a fast and stable Internet connection is crucial. Now that 4G/LTE technology is becoming available across the world, it is improving the communications between shipper and carrier, which enhances the security of the cargoes and goods in transit.

Manned Security for Valuable Cargo
Different cargoes will require different levels of security when in transit. For valuable goods, such as diamonds, precious metals, and fine arts, the security level is escalated. Armored trucks are employed to transport the goods. Depending on how much extra value of the goods, extra layers of security will be enforced. For example, escort vehicles accompanying the truck as well as managerial level staff that will sit in with the driver to monitor the entire journey.

Final Words
Transportation used to be the weakest link when it comes to logistics due to the limited security measures available to ensure the safe delivery of the cargo. By using the concept of IoT, and using sensors to communicate between the shipper and carrier, logistics service providers are able to see and manage their freight and drivers on a much larger scale, whether it's the condition or location of the goods, or the behavior of the driver, down to the vitals of the vehicles carrying the goods.

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