Long range (LoRa) wireless radio frequency technology is being deployed on ships operated by an unnamed major global carrier for the first time to monitor reefer containers
Orbcomm worked with service provider Net Feasa to install the world’s first commercially available solution using LoRa technology to monitor containers on board vessels.
This wide area network (WAN) technology enables refrigerated containers to communicate in real time through LoRa gateways mounted in strategic locations on the ship.
This combines Orbcomm’s VesselConnect container communications service with Net Feasa’s EvenKeel internet-of-things (IoT) connectivity management and services platform.
Container condition data including temperature, humidity and alarms is collected in EvenKeel and uploaded to VesselConnect. Data is sent by the onboard VesselConnect application over satellite back to Orbcomm’s onshore platform.
Customers can then view the location of all vessels and the status of each container on board from a command and control centre. In addition, managers can use two-way commands to change the container’s temperature set points and other parameters remotely from shore.
These communications eliminate the need for seafarers to manually inspect containers.
LoRa-based IoT container monitoring improves operational efficiency through remote pre-trip inspections along with actionable data on maintenance and repair status, said Orbcomm general manager of global sales and senior vice president Christian Allred.
“Together with Net Feasa, we are helping shipping companies drive digital transformation, while achieving measurable savings,” he said.
Net Feasa chairman Mike Fitzgerald said this solution was compliant with IoT industry standards for the global container marketplace. “As global concerns for cargo quality and security as well as traceability increase, the real-time tracking and monitoring of refrigerated containers is becoming the industry norm,” he said.
EvenKeel can support low-power WAN, such as LoRa and long-term evolution monitoring (LTE-M), and cellular networks LTE, 4G and 5G for two-way device communications.
Orbcomm’s LoRa-based system is compliant with the Digital Container Shipping Association’s (DCSA) new IoT connectivity standards, created to make the shipping container supply chain more transparent, reliable and secure.
DCSA has published a series of standards enabling industrywide container tracking, optimal navigation and load list sharing in 2020.
Its latest drive is a collaboration with Bureau International des Containers (BIC) to standardise the codes used to identify facilities such as depots, container yards, maintenance and repair vendors and other supply chain container facilities. Both organisations have created a machine-readable database of more than 11,000 facilities in 160 countries.
Each facility in the database has a structured address, GPS co-ordinates and a nine-character BIC facility code assigned to it, which can be used by existing IT systems.
Machine learning techniques were used to sanitise and align nearly 30,000 facility codes from 10 major carriers and lessors, resulting in high-quality, harmonised facility names, addresses, and GPS co-ordinates.
There is an application interface (API) available on SwaggerHub, enabling supply chain participants to ensure their systems are using a unique, standardised code for every container facility. Subscribers to the API get automatic synchronous updates and the SMDG ocean terminal code lists.
DCSA worked with BIC to set up a standard facility code, similar to the standards used in other industries, such as the standard worldwide airport code, said DCSA chief executive Thomas Bagge.
“With the standardisation of the BIC Facility Code and the API, the container transportation industry is one step closer to this goal,” he said. “This is a good example of the foundational work required to make digital transformation a reality in container shipping.”
BIC secretary general Douglas Owen said this agreement was required for efficient data sharing. “This new focus has allowed us to conduct the global facility code harmonisation we have long wished to complete, thanks in large part to the DCSA’s assistance in actively engaging the major carriers,” said Mr Owen.
“Moreover, the participants are eager to embrace the API, which will ensure the harmonised codes are widely available and in sync going forward. We see this as an important enabler for digitalisation efforts underway in the industry,” he added.
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