Shipping containers are an integral part of the world’s supply chain. With over 34 million active containers worldwide, everything from pineapples to pharmaceuticals makes its way around the globe in these boxes. Simple yet vital, these containers are getting an internet of things (IoT) upgrade. With smart sensors on the rise and connectivity increasing, there is a bright new future ahead for the shipping container.
High-Connectivity in Shipping
Complex management systems track shipping containers across the globe. Each container has a different barcode, which is scanned upon entering and exiting transport. Transportation management systems (TMS) use this information in combination with cutting-edge software solutions to monitor shipping times, routes, and logistics.
Between each barcode scan, shipping containers go quiet. Keeping these units active throughout each journey would prove valuable live data feeds. Blackberry has announced a release of portable units that retrofit existing containers, keeping them active around the clock. Each device is weatherproof, with GPS and cellular modem technology.
Blackberry’s devices could work hand in hand with existing TMS solutions. Live information feeds significantly improve transportation management. Shippers would be able to track goods throughout the journey, creating a better customer experience. Logistics would be more comprehensive because lost or misrouted containers could be found easily.
Blackberry’s solution is purported to provide up-to-the minute information on container humidity, temperature, movement, and pressure, which would all be valuable and money-saving information.
Monitoring Goods in Transit
What Blackberry is attempting with a portable device, Maersk Line is executing with a complete redesign of refrigerated containers. This shipping company out of Denmark has designed units with built-in smart sensors that monitor container conditions at all times. If any changes occur or power is cut, containers send an alarm to the central system. Alerts describe both the problem and exact location, giving the crew time to fix issues before goods spoil.
Spoiled goods account for a large portion of money lost in refrigerated shipping. When products do not make it to their destination in good condition, carriers lose money. Smart sensor containers dramatically reduce these occurrences. Additionally, these devices negate the need for regular in-person container checks, creating a safer work environment for employees.
Along with spoiled goods, cargo theft represents a large percentage of lost income in shipping. Companies are developing IoT solutions to address this.
Security Features of Smart Containers
GE was one of the first companies to design a reliable tamper-evident container in 2005. Since then, the IoT has expanded significantly, providing a greater platform from which to implement security features. Both the portable Blackberry solution and Maersk’s containers can sense movement, including the overall container’s motion and door activity. With huge sums of money lost every year to pirated cargo, these early warning systems will save companies billions internationally.
Governments support new security innovations because of their impact on customs. With access to instant security checks and detailed cargo information, an otherwise arduous process is easier. Better security through the IoT and TMS combination will improve the overall shipping experience throughout the supply chain.
The Future of TMS
Both TMS solutions and the IoT are growing more sophisticated every day. Better security, logistical data, temperature monitoring, and connectivity, mean simple shipping containers are no longer just metal boxes.