Container tracking technology

London, UK: The smartphone has revolutionised container tracking. And for reefers it offers extraordinary monitoring potential. Before operators adopt new systems they should consider the quirks and limits of the technology.

The Container Owners Association has produced a useful guide, available from its website, that identifies the issues that must be considered for reefer data communication before finalising telematics hardware and software providers.

The smartphone revolution that began in 2007 enabled complex, hi-tech features to be manufactured in volume, supplying a global consumer market of some billion units per year. As a result, advanced battery technology, multiple transmission frequencies, movement and shock sensors, etc, are economically priced features enabling their inclusion in niche, industrial applications. Reefer containers can be monitored, settings changed in transit and maintenance issues identified. The countries where the reefers will operate will also determine communications requirements.

Although here are international protocols on technology, each generation (2G, 3G, 4G, etc) will vary between countries. Collectively, telematics system providers are putting in place standards to assist hardware and software developers to provide compatible products. Data transmission technologies already in use – those in different stages of rollout around the world and those under development – underline the complexity of issues to consider and confirm that telematics technology will continue to evolve. But there are solutions today from telematics suppliers which can provide real-time data monitoring of all equipment and remote control of reefers.

Given the wide variety of communication technologies that will need to be considered, reefer operators need to carefully consider the capabilities of products to see which systems best meet their current and future needs. Operators should also consider what options partner shipping lines are using and whether alternative systems are compatible.

Finally, operators will also need to consider ‘application programming interface’ issues between differing systems to ensure greater flexibility and lower costs of operation over the long term. A common standard has yet to be agreed.

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