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Unipart Launches Insight Service for Real-Time Shipment Tracking

The service combines RFID, GSM/GPRS and GPS technologies so companies can track containers of goods and the trucks transporting them.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 05, 2007Third-party logistics provider Unipart Logistics, a division of U.K.-based Unipart Group has unveiled a new service combining radio frequency identification, GSM/GPRS and GPS technologies. This combination will allow companies to track a fleet of trucks, along with their trailers and the containers within, with a single integrated system.

The service, called Unipart Insight, equips each vehicle in a fleet with a GPS receiver, an RFID interrogator and GSM/GPRS-based telecommunications equipment. It also comes with software that interprets the telematics and RFID data, as well as an application-protocol interface (API) kit to integrate the software with back-end information systems.

Unipart is offering Insight to its worldwide customers as a managed service that incorporates the design, testing and installation of the hardware and software, as well as training and best-practices advice. The logistics provider has been investing in RFID for its own operations, and is now using the technology to track after-market Jaguar automobile parts shipped from the United Kingdom to the United States (see RFID Tracks Transatlantic Shipments of Jaguar Parts). In addition to managing Jaguar's entire after-market parts supply chain, Unipart Logistics also provides logistics services for such companies as mobile phone provider Vodaphone UK, U.K. auto parts retailer Halfords and aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus.

The Insight service enables companies to track totes, boxes and other containers of goods, around the clock and in real time. Depending on their requirements, customers can fit the containers with active RFID tags covering the unlicensed frequency bands at 315 MHz, 433 MHz, 868 MHz or 915 MHz while loading or unloading them in tractor trailers. RFID readers are installed on the trailers, while the cab of each truck is equipped with a GPS receiver. Unipart's software links the RFID and GPS technologies together to associate specific tags with the geographic location, time and date of each tag read.

The integrated RFID/GPS service allows companies to track containers as they are loaded onto trucks, transported and ultimately unloaded. A customer that loses or misplaces goods, Unipart says, can quickly access the container's trail.

Unipart developed the hardware and software components for the system over the past several years. The company says it has tested and refined them within its own vehicle fleet and logistics operation.

Customers can evaluate Insight and determine how well the service would work in their operations at Unipart's Advanced Logistics Center (ALC) in Oxford, England. The lab models a supply chain, from the manufacturer through the distribution network and on to the delivery points.

Although Unipart declines to identify any current customers of its Insight service, the company notes that the testing and evaluation process has already begun for a number of its international clients.
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Bill Wilkinson 2007-02-06 12:10:20 PM
"The boxes knew we were lost" Remember the IBM commercial a few years back that showed an 18-wheeler coming to a stop in front of a woman sitting at a desk in the middle of the road? The woman proceeds to tell the driver that he is lost, and she knows this because the RFID tags on the boxes he is hauling told her so. Unipart is making this real -- minus the woman in the road and the American southwest setting, of course.

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