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Companies Testing New IoT Devices for Refrigerated Container Monitoring

Orbcomm's cellular-based CT 3000 and CT 3100 units can be plugged into the reefer units of containers, thereby providing two-way access to sensor data, along with GPS-based location information, which shippers or transport companies can access via the ReeferConnect software platform, and adjust conditions remotely.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 19, 2018

Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technology company Orbcomm has released two new wireless devices for its cloud-based ReeferConnect refrigerated container-monitoring system that leverage the reefer unit sensors and provide two-way cellular connectivity. The units, called the CT 3000 and CT 3100, enable shippers and transport companies to view the conditions of perishable products in transit, as well as use ReeferConnect's two-way functionality to automatically adjust settings to improve conditions. The sensors and related software bring visibility to the conditions of containers as they move through the supply chain, or allow logistics providers to collect data and share it with customers.

The CT 3000 and CT 3100 are both compact wireless devices intended to track the movements and status of refrigerated containers, and to communicate that data via cellular connections. The CT 3000, a ruggedized unit designed to be permanently installed on a container, can track a container's location with a built-in GPS unit, monitor the conditions inside the reefer unit, and send real-time data via GPRS. It captures temperature and humidity levels, as well as dozens of other sensor readings, by accessing the data collected by the reefer unit's own internal sensors.

The CT 3000 (top) and CT 3100
The CT 3000 fits on any major containers currently available on the market and can be permanently attached via screws. It is designed to be easily cabled to internal sensor devices using a serial connector built into each container. "The secret sauce is that we work with all the major OEMs to get their protocol," says Mike Dempsey, Orbcomm's VP of container and port solutions, "so that we know how to connect to their controllers." By linking directly to the reefer unit, the system can collect real-time data that can include as many as 80 different data elements, such as ambient temperature, compression, suction and carbon dioxide levels.

The other unit, the CT 3100, serves as a temporary external port device that can be installed within seconds, Dempsey says, and then be removed from the container at any point at which that container changes custody. "We use it to talk to the reefer controller," he explains—similarly to the CT 3000, though this is a temporary installation. The CT 3100 is powered via rechargeable batteries that have a lifespan of 90 to 120 days, so they can continue transmitting data while a container is in transit. The CT 3000, on the other hand, relies on the reefer's power since it is permanently installed.

The CT 3100 is designed for use in scenarios in which operators transport or manage containers owned by a third party. For example, companies that own the containers often have vessel-sharing agreements involving containers from a variety of firms on a single vessel. With the CT 3100, the vessel line—or the transport company, such as a beneficial cargo owner (BCO) or freight forwarder—can attach the IoT box to the container and provide automatic monitoring for their own purposes, as well as share data with their customers or partners.

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