Container ship operators are collaborating to create an ecosystem for smart container IoT connectivity throughout the logistics chain
Container shipping is at the forefront of developing internet of things (IoT) to track cargo throughout the logistics field.
Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is developing IoT connectivity standards for smart container tracking devices to provide more information to cargo owners and shippers.
DCSA chief operating officer Henning Schleyerbach said container ship operators will invest millions of dollars in smart container tracking devices when the standards for data communications are ready.
He explained what these devices can do and what was needed from connectivity during Riviera Maritime Media’s Digitalisation and data standardisation: time for the maritime industry to act webinar on 12 May.
“We are working on IoT connectivity standards for smart container tracking devices,” said Mr Schleyerbach. These devices will communicate with the global positioning satellite constellation for container tracking and will have sensors measuring parameters such as inside temperature. “They could alert owners when there is a door opening that they did not expect,” he explained. “And there could be shock detectors.” These devices will also have details of the container and its cargo.
Mr Schleyerbach says there could also be bilateral communications between containers using Bluetooth technology to prevent dangerous goods being shipped adjacent to each other.
If container sensors are linked to the ship’s IT network, the master will have more information on the condition of the cargo and could receive early alerts in emergency situations.
“Even if only 10% of smart containers have temperature sensors, that could help you detect a fire before you even see smoke on your vessel,” said Mr Schleyerbach.
Data captured from smart containers will need to be communicated from the ship to shore offices, and this remains a key challenge to the industry.
“Global network coverage is very difficult to reach,” said Mr Schleyerbach. “What we found is even if you equip all your own vessels with required gateway technology, your boxes will end up on chartered or partner vessels or on feeder carriers where they do not have connectivity,” he explained.
“Then the customer experience you have been promising and selling is only available in a scattered way.” Therefore DCSA is working on connectivity standards for container IoT.
“Our boxes are equipped with smart container devices and need a gateway to connect them up to either satellite or cellular networks.”
IoT sensors can then communicate with a cloud-based facility for data storage and onward analytics. Containers also need to communicate throughout the logistics chain including in ports, during intermodal transportation and in warehouses.
“We believe if we can agree on a common standard for these gateways and take the commitment of our members to install them on their controlled vessels,” said Mr Schleyerbach, “we can create an ecosystem in which we can guarantee network connectivity for the devices wherever they end up.”
This will involve several connectivity solutions and open standards for data exchange and communications.
“We will select three different connectivity standards because this gives us more freedom to equip the device with an appropriate technology,” said Mr Schleyerbach,
“We can then have a sustainable solution that saves money and increases the customer experience,” he concluded. “All we need to do is combine people’s commitment to digital infrastructure with appropriate standards.”
Mr Schleyerbach was joined on the panel during the webinar by Thetius founder Nick Chubb and P&O Maritime Logistics chief executive officer Martin Helweg.
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