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IoT Brings Smarts to New Shipping Container

Aeler Technologies' composite 20-foot shipping container leverages an Internet of Things-based software platform from Foundries.io, enabling companies leasing its containers to view not only where their goods are located, but also the environmental conditions.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 18, 2020

Aeler Technologies reports that it has developed a 20-foot shipping container with intelligence. Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity allows Aeler's C3 container to broadcast its location and condition via a cellular transmission.

The container is built out of composite materials to be lightweight, durable and better insulated, according to the company, with more packing space than traditional steel containers, so that businesses can move more products in a single shipment. It comes with an IoT sensor that allows shippers and logistics providers to view the conditions in and around each container, as well as its location throughout the supply chain. The IoT-based network leveraged by the sensors is provided by operating systems platform company Foundries.io, and the platform is known as FoundriesFactory.

An Aeler container
Aeler Tecnologies, a French company, was formed to revamp a standard shipping container model that has not evolved much in 50 years, according to David Baur, Aeler's CTO. "We offer a lot of advantages that make the container less expensive to operate," he states, based on its relatively lower weight and added durability. The IoT system also enables logistics providers and shippers to improve their own efficiency. The container collects data and transmits it via a cellular connection. The information is captured and managed using Foundries.io's Linux-based software platform, says Trina Watt, the company's CMO.

The global supply chain, Baur explains, is a maze of redundant information. For instance, a shipper often has little view into where goods are located once they leave a warehouse. What's more, receiving parties may lack the information they require about the scheduled arrival of goods so they can properly prepare. Companies often simply visit shipping line websites and refresh the information daily in order to view where a particular container is located. That may end up being how a shipping delay is discovered.

"With our container," Baur says, "the shipper could view the last known position of the container." With that information, the company would be able to forecast when it would be unloaded. "This is the case for any cargo. We need to know where things are." The sensor in the container tracks not only its location via GPS, but other data regarding activity around the container. A built-in IoT device consists of temperature, humidity, pressure and light sensors, an accelerometer, GPS functionality and a cellular telecommunications unit, according to Quentin Cabrol, the firm's lead developer.

The door-opening detector ensures that users can view each time a door is opened, then confirm whether or not that access to the container was authorized. If the container was opened without authorization, for instance, a red light would be displayed on the monitor at the container door. With temperature, humidity and shock sensors, the system can alert users if the products loaded within may have been exposed to conditions that could damage them.

Those using the new Aeler shipping container will initially be companies shipping bulk liquids, high-end luxury goods, pharmaceuticals or other sensitive products that would benefit from sensor data collected during transportation. The sensors not only detect environmental conditions, but also can identify if a container is opened, based on the light sensor data, in order to help prevent theft.

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