Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

AT&T introduces worldwide container management service

Steve Rogerson
October 6, 2015
AT&T says it is helping businesses manage their shipping containers as they move across the globe. And Danish company AP Moller-Maersk Group is one of the first to use the technology to connect its refrigerated containers.
Companies that transport containers by truck, railroad or trailers can use the AT&T network to help them have a complete view of their inventory from departure to arrival.
According to Machina Research, there will be 69 million M2M connections in the supply chain by 2023 with container tracking the biggest single area. AT&T can work with businesses to develop a system that helps them meet their container monitoring needs. Companies can use IoT technology to create intelligent container fleets. They can improve operations with information that's delivered based on specific business needs.
Here's how it works. Each container has a monitoring device that collects data with sensors and sends it to a web portal. Managers can view the location of containers for cargo owners. Back-office workers can easily find containers. Drivers have the tools to be more productive because they have more information about their next load to pick up.
Shipping companies can quickly locate and send containers or trailers that are closest to the clients who need them. They're also able to identify customers that are keeping containers for longer time periods. They can improve the usage of containers and reduce their overall transportation spend.
Key benefits include:

  • More control – Receive timely alerts on containers or trailers that deviate from their expected location; identify containers that have been idle to optimise pool size; keep more accurate records of when cargo shipments depart and reach their destination.
  • Custom notifications – Know the status of container or trailer inventory, the safety of cargo, or excessive dwell time with custom alerts; detect if and where a container drops or impacts the cargo; evolve by adding a variety of sensors as business needs change.
  • Longer battery life – Each tracking device is solar powered and uses an industrial grade chargeable lithium ion battery. Shipping companies can provide years of continuous service without battery changes, reducing the total cost of ownership.
"Shipping companies are constantly moving their trailers and containers across the world," said Mike Troiano, vice president at AT&T. "Our container monitoring solutions can help them know that a shipment will arrive on time. We're helping businesses better manage their distribution process and offer a service customers can depend on."
Whether a container is in a nearby freight yard or moving around the world, knowing its location can help businesses reduce theft or loss. Companies that transport time-critical or valuable goods can monitor their cargo to ensure it's safe and arrives on time.
Maersk is working with AT&T to track and monitor the condition of refrigerated containers with perishable goods. Before, onsite supply chain managers would spend time manually checking the condition of each container. Maersk now has near-real time visibility into the conditions of each refrigerated container at almost any part of its journey during the supply chain. Its shipping supervisors can monitor mechanical performance to help ensure the equipment is in proper working condition.
“Every day we’re responsible for shipping perishable goods around the world,” said Maersk Line’s vice president Amdi Krogh. “AT&T’s technology helps us improve the level of services we provide, helping ensure they are optimised and arrive in the proper condition – no matter the length of the journey.”
Maersk has connected more than 290,000 of its refrigerated containers to the AT&T network. Each unit uses a remote container device (RCD) that has a 3G high temperature SIM card, a GPS unit, a Zigbee radio and antenna, and multiple interfaces for connecting into the refrigerated container’s controller. The RCD can operate with two-way connectivity from just about anywhere in the world.
“We help companies better manage their delivery process and offer service their customers can depend on,” said AT&T’s regional vice president John Vladimir Slamecka. “One of the largest shipping container companies in the world can keep its customers informed about the location and condition of each shipment, helping them operate more efficiently and giving them peace of mind about their cargo.”
AT&T’s IoT technology suits industries such as asset management, vehicles, equipment and machinery, and smart cities. This includes smart meters, cargo tracking, connected cars and fleets, and smart city street and traffic lights.