Smart container solutions bear fruit slowly

03 May 2017
The RKN e1 is part of the Envirotainer range of containers for cold-chain cargo. Source: Envirotainer

Intelligent containers connected to the internet promise great things, but they will take time to gain traction

Industry insiders and analysts believe there is value in applying the Internet of Things (IoT) to the time-sensitive air cargo sector, especially in a period of forecast growth. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts a record year for air freight in 2017 with 55.7 million tonnes expected to be shipped by air worldwide, despite what it describes as "challenging" trading conditions.

World Economic Forum supply chain head Wolfgang Lehmacher told Jane's that airports would benefit from using "more intelligent ULDs [Unit Loading Devices]", as a partial solution to a range of operational problems. "The issue is that airports are highly congested, there is less and less parking space for the freighters; the cargo terminals are further away, there is more distance to be travelled; there is a clear benefit in knowing where all the cargo and ULDs are and bringing this information to the people working on the tarmac and in the cargo centres at the airport."

Lehmacher sees value in knowing more about the location and status of a container, and its contents for everyone along the supply chain, especially if it involves temperature-sensitive cargo. With smart ULDs, shippers know where their cargo is and its condition - enabling them to know quickly if it has been damaged. With such data, airlines can have greater confidence in the firms they outsourced their ULD, pallet, or container management to. Third-party ground handlers also benefit from having a record of how the container was handled; if there is any damage, they can prove it was not their team at their station.

In 2015, DHL Trend Research and Cisco Consulting Services produced a report, called Internet of Things in Logistics, which examined the use of predictive analytics when sufficient data is available.

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