Smart container couples GPS with RFID

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Containerization Rfid

A new smart container developed by Schenker couples satellite
location technology with radio frequency identification (RFID) to
track the condition of goods along the supply chain.

The Germany-based company said this week it completed the first phase of a test of the technology on ocean freight containers between Hamburg and Hong Kong. The test showed that containers can be continuously monitored for location, temperature levels and other parameters, Schenker reported. Under the EU's food hygiene regulators, companies are responsible for tracking and tracing ingredients and finished products along the supply chain. Ensuring that products get to the shelves in a safe condition is also a priority for all manufacturers. Schenker, one of the world's largest container transport companies, said the test examined the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors in conjunction with RFID technology. For the test the company fitted out ten of its containers, branded as Schenkersmartbox, with the special sensors in addition to the RFID tags. The containers are in regular use between Hamburg and Hong Kong. The GPS security devices communicate the current coordinates of each container. The specially developed sensors also give information at regular intervals about temperature conditions in the container, whether it has been shaken up during transport, and whether it deviates from the planned route. Other data, such as whether the container door has been opened during transport, can also be downloaded from the sensor. The RFID tags communicate the most important points where liability changes hands, when the containers are loaded and unloaded at the packing stations in Hamburg and Hong Kong, as well as the time of arrival at the terminal, Schenker stated. The information gives a clear view of when and where a load is being transshipped, stated Wolfgang Dräger, senior vice president at PM Ocean Freight, a Schenker subsidiary. "It is becoming clear that this technology will be ripe for serial production in the near future,"​ he said. "At least the RFID technology promises to be suitable for use on a wide scale, from the economic point of view as well."​ He said that once the technology is commercially produced, Schenker would be able to provide better handling capacity for companies with sensitive goods to ship. By being able to continuously monitor transshipped goods, companies could save money in the long term, rather than always having to use refrigerated containers. Schenker and BAX Global, which recently teamed up to form a partnership, are together the largest European land transport companies, is number two in worldwide airfreight, and is the third largest provider of ocean freight services. In related news, the European Commission today said it had launched an anti-competition investigation into Schenker AG in Essen, among other logistics companies operating in the bloc. Similar investigations have been conducted at Schenker's offices in South Africa, Switzerland and the US by the authorities of the various countries, the company reported. A number of other international freight forwarding companies have also been targeted by the investigations carried out by the competition authorities in Germany, Switzerland, South Africa and the US. The European Commission alleges that the companies have broken the bloc's rules on anti-competitive practices. Schenker said "free and unhampered competition" is a top priority for the company. "Consequently the company has assisted the representatives of the competition authorities in all matters connected with these investigations. Schenker will continue to contribute to the clarification of the facts of the case,"​ the company said in a statement.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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