Almost 90 percent of all general cargo in global trade is transported by container ships nowadays. Thousands of containers from Deutsche Afrika-Linien (DAL) for example, a German shipping line rich in traditions, are afloat on the high seas every day. But simple GPS tracking is no longer sufficient: The company’s customers expect precise predictions during the entire transportation about whether their goods arrive on time and, above all, intact at the port. Therefore, DAL together with Deutsche Telekom launched a project not only to locate its containers but also to monitor the freight’s condition.
Attaching a Smart Container Device
Ten DAL containers were equipped with an M2M module with GPS, Bluetooth, and a cellular modem. The so-called Smart Container Device is simply attached to the container’s door and operates – thanks to a rechargeable battery, a backup battery, and a solar module – maintenance-free for several years. Various sensors inside the M2M module monitor both container and content: The module sends, for instance, an alarm as soon as pre-defined temperature is exceeded, the container’s door is opened or the module is removed. Other measurable values are tilt and vibration of the container, outside temperature, or battery duration. The containers can be interconnected via Bluetooth so data can even be transmitted from the ship’s belly.
Connecting to the Cloud of Things
The Smart Container Device uploads position and condition data via mobile networks to the Cloud of Things, Telekom’s cloud-based management platform. DAL has access to the processed and visualized data from any device via the platform’s web portal. The shipping line can announce the precise arrival of the cargo to its customers and can also document the complete supply chain to insurance companies, in case the goods were damaged during transportation.
Benefiting from M2M communication
Using this M2M solution, DAL offers its customers absolute transparency regarding location and condition of their shipped goods and thus gains an advantage over its competitors. The Cloud of Things can be seamlessly integrated into the customer’s own systems and remains scalable: Prior to every order, DAL’s customers can decide if they want to book the service as an add-on or not. The investment costs depend on the number of connected containers and remain controllable, thanks to special M2M data rates.