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Driscoll's Monitors Its Berry Shipments in Real Time

The company is using a combination of RFID sensors, GPS and cellular communication technology to ensure its products are transported at the proper temperature, and that trailers are not opened while in transit.
By Claire Swedberg
The Locus Traxx system aims to solve those challenges. For the pilot, says John Hennessy, Locus Traxx's marketing VP, the staff at Driscoll's placed two Smart Traxx active 2.4 GHz RFID sensors tags (which employ a proprietary RF interface specification) within each truck's refrigerated trailer as pallets of packaged berries were loaded. A sensor tag was placed between pallets of berries at two different spots within the trailer, in order to obtain two separate temperature readings. The sensors measure the temperature levels at predetermined intervals, and then transmit that information at a rate of every five minutes, though that rate can be adjusted if necessary. A third Smart Traxx RFID sensor, known as a harness, was attached around the closing mechanism of the trailer door after the vehicle was loaded. This sensor was designed to detect whether the door was open or closed, and to then transmit that data, also at a pre-determined rate.

The final component of the package is a Smart Traxx module consisting of an RFID reader wired to a GPS unit and a GPRS transmitter. That module was plugged directly into the power source in the vehicle's cab, and the GPS unit was placed on the dashboard, where it had a line of sight through the windshield. When the sensor units transmitted their own ID numbers and temperature measurements, that transmission was received by the module's RFID reader. The module, in turn, captured the latest GPS data, indicating the truck's latitude and longitude at that time, and transmitted all of that information via a GPRS signal to the nearest cell phone towers, which forwarded the data to the Locus Traxx server. Smart Traxx software residing on the server then interpreted the information and displayed it on the server. The Driscoll's management team could then access the data on the server, via a password.

For the pilot, Reyes says, "Our main interest was knowing the status (of the product) with real-time alerts for location, temperature and security." If the software determined that the truck door was opened when the vehicle was not at a distribution center, for example, an alert was issued via e-mail or text message. If the temperature rose too high or too low, Reyes also received an alert. Upon receiving that alert, he could then contact the carrier, which would call the driver and request an action, such as turning up the refrigeration. The trucks were traveling through the Southwest in the summer months, and Reyes says he was especially interested in determining whether the proper temperature range was maintained under some of the hottest conditions. He did receive some temperature alerts during the pilot, he says, and was able to respond immediately to make sure the trailer temperature was corrected.

The software is designed to initially send e-mails and text messages to specific individuals if an event occurs. A Driscoll's employee, to indicate he or she has responded to the alert, would then input the action taken, such as calling a driver or notifying the staff at the delivery point. If no one responds to indicate the alert has been viewed, it is then sent to additional staff members at Driscoll's until a response is received.

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