Photo: Nexxiot

Cargo industry must choose safe devices

With supply chain participants striving to create new levels of accountability around cargo transportation, safe devices are paramount to success.

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As a digital supply chain enabler, Nexxiot brings together the essential components needed to increase visibility and create accountability in global trade. Having deployed one of the world’s largest dedicated mobile IoT fleets, this TradeTech provider understands what it takes to transform the ecosystem by prioritising the highest standards in safety.

The past few years have presented multiple cases of supply chain disruption. With around 300 million intermodal shipping container trips per year, people depend on efficient cargo transport for their every need. Up to 30 million shipping containers are used globally to distribute essential resources like food, clothing, home goods, vehicles and raw materials. Around 5 million railcars are in use globally to move bulky goods and those shipping containers between ports and their destination factories and retail sites. It’s incredible to consider that from all these industrial objects which are essential to our survival, less than 1% are equipped with any monitoring technology.

Let’s consider the benefits of visibility. Assets like intermodal containers and railcars move around in complex operations. They are valuable objects which must be maintained, managed and co-ordinated, so they are fit for purpose and so the goods they contain get delivered. The cargo itself is a valuable resource which needs to be kept in the best condition and protected from risks like theft or damage. Some goods are particularly sensitive to environmental conditions like chemicals or pharmaceutical products and must be kept within recommended parameters to prevent spoilage and risk of accident.

Whether transporting railcars or shipping containers, the risk of fire or explosion is very real. These industrial objects often pass through high risk zones even if they themselves don’t contain hazardous goods. When selecting a device to install onto an industrial asset, it’s important to consider how long it will be used, who will be handling it and for what kind of goods it will be used. If railcar compositions include inflammable cargo, then unsafe digital hardware on adjacent cars cannot be used.

In fact, all IoT sensors and gateways used on industrial assets should be certified safe to guarantee the safety of workers and the public. Ex, ATEX or HAZLOC are the most relevant certifications for the digital supply chain space. This means that those in charge of transport planning, fleet management and quality should seek out companies that put safe hardware design at the top of their list of priorities. One stray spark caused by a faulty circuit or a deterioration of components over time can cause a fire or explosion with the risk of destruction of bigger assets, infrastructure, or natural habitats vital for nature.

After this recent supply chain disruption, we need to find ways to reduce risks and avoid further chaos. When installing hardware devices on railcars and containers the device must be smart enough to stay ‘alive’. It needs to manage its power consumption and have the means to harvest energy from its immediate environment. As long as it has power, it is able to send its essential data to be processed in the Nexxiot intelligent cloud platform. This data is processed and valuable business intelligence is extracted. This helps clients to manage their maintenance and fleet, reduce emissions, create new cargo owner services and align their business processes with partners needs and customers wishes. To create zero-maintenance hardware with all the safety certifications needed around the world is not a trivial challenge. It requires a technology partner that has diverse hardware and software competences, an understanding of international certification processes and close partnership with clients and supply chain participants to establish the right balance of quality, usability and price.

The entire worlds cargo transport assets will be equipped with monitoring devices over the next few years. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how fast’. The shippers and cargo owners are now demanding it and transformational leaders are deploying it. The best devices are future-proofed with the right communication protocols and components for a long lifetime of more than 6 years, they are robustly constructed and the data packages are managed to control connectivity costs. All these details really matter because the business cases rely on high quality unique data. The recurring theme is quality. When it comes to industrial IoT hardware and hazards in the global supply chain, if given the choice between cheap and safe, always choose safe.