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Coscon's Customers Use Tags to Monitor Cargo

Unlike a conventional RFID system, the tags utilize the global cellular network to transmit a container's ID number and location, as well as the cargo's environmental condition and status.
By Claire Swedberg
The tag's SIM card allows the system to transmit to any GPRS/GSM base station around the world, at a rate of recurrence that can be set by the customer. When not within range of a base station, the tag continues to store sensor data, as well as GPS location coordinates, and that information is all uploaded when the container comes within range of a cellular base station. If the container experiences a security breach, or if a temperature issue occurs while the container is out at sea, its tag sends an immediate alert when the container comes within range of GPRS/GSM service at a port, thus letting system users know when the incident took place, and in which location.

Lin Hongbing, Coscon Logistics' general manager
There are two forms to the tag: one that clamps onto the edge of the container door, and another with a bolt that attaches to the door's latch, thereby locking it. The sensors wired to the tag are placed inside the container, while the GPRS and GPS antennas are located outside. If containers are stacked below deck on a vessel, however, the GPS system is typically unable to capture location information—though the tag continues to store sensor data, which is transmitted, along with the time an incident occurred, when the container is within range of a GPRS/GSM base station.

Customers already using the Coscon system include those with high-value or high-risk items vulnerable to theft or spoilage, such as hazardous chemicals, electronics, pharmaceuticals or fresh produce. Eventually, Lin hopes the Savi Networks system will allow for the expedited movement of containers through customs at ports in Europe or elsewhere.

Currently, for example, the European Union is researching the establishment of smart and secure trade lanes as part of its Seventh Framework Program (FP7). If the secure trade-lanes program is established, Sewell says, the SaviTrak system could make it possible for Coscon's containers to qualify for expedited clearance as they enter through customs without inspections, because of the greater security and shipment data history the system provides. Since the tags are removed when goods are unloaded from containers, the containers can also be tracked when they are moved by truck or rail across land, if a customer so chooses.

"We hope this useful technology would be expanded to more areas, such as customs issues," Lin says. Sewell declines to reveal the number of Coscon customers using the service immediately, but indicates Savi Networks hopes the number will reach the thousands within the next few years.

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