Ocean ETA Provides Visibility to Location of Vessels and Cargo Contained Within

By Claire Swedberg

Savi's new satellite- and cellular-based system for tracking goods from land to sea offers companies access to location and condition data regarding goods traveling across oceans.

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Sensor analytics solutions company Savi Technology has released its new Ocean ETA functionality to bring visibility into the location of shipments as they move across waterways. Several companies have been trialing the technology for the past two months, the company reports, to view where high-value products are located as they travel between continents, as well as when they are expected to reach their port.

Ocean ETA is part of Savi’s solution known as Savi Visibility. The information captured through the Ocean ETA system can then be securely managed and shared through the company’s Multi-Enterprise Grid, Savi Technology reports. The Multi-Enterprise Grid allows shippers to provides visibility or performance information to customers or partners. The new functionality employs satellite and cellular data to bring more continuous visibility to that system with oceangoing data.

Nanette Efird

The logistics of land-to-sea shipments can be highly complex. Multiple stakeholders have an interest in knowing what goods were loaded onto which vessel, and when they left one port and will arrive at their destination. If a vessel is delayed, the destination port’s workers and assets—such as lifting cranes—might be tied up waiting, while if it is early, the vessel unloading could be delayed as well while crews and assets are summoned. On the other hand, the company that owns the goods being shipped, such as a retailer or manufacturer, has an interest in knowing which goods are loaded aboard any specific vessel, and thus when they can be expected to be available to stores or at the receiving facility.

Savi Technology, located in Alexandria, Va., already offers its Multi-Enterprise Grid that serves as a single cloud-based solution for companies to track and share subsets of information about where goods are located, to help them optimize their operations and to reduce costs. The company has geofenced most domestic and international ports with real-time location technology including active RFID readers.

However, Ocean ETA provides further data and analytics by tracking the location of oceangoing containers and goods, even when they are in the middle of the sea. The firm brought Nanette Efird, its product VP, onboard earlier this month from General Electric, where she had helped that company’s customers in tightening their supply chain with data and analytics solutions for logistics and supply chain verticals. In joining Savi, Efird brings that background as Savi moves beyond RFID to a full solution for supply chain management.

Savi customers can employ either of two types of Savi tracking devices, Efird says: Savi Locate Sensor and Savi Secure. The Savi Locate Sensor is a battery-powered sensor that can be attached to a container. It sends a signal via cellular connection at preset intervals, using GPS location data to indicate its location.

Once a container moves out of range of the cellular network, such as when it crosses an ocean, the device transmits its own unique identifier and GPS location via a satellite connection. Users—for instance, the shipper, the products’ owner or the port—can then be given access to the Multi-Enterprise Grid and view where that container is located. In the case of the port, managers can more accurately forecast the container’s arrival and thus schedule the necessary unloading equipment and manpower.

The device also comes with shock, vibration and motion sensors. This enables it to detect any changes in the conditions around a container or cargo, thereby alerting interested parties if there might be a problem, such as potential damage.

The Savi Secure device comes with two parts: a larger battery-powered sensor with integrated GPS, cellular and satellite units, and a child device that transmits its own unique ID number to a parent via a UHF RFID signal. Savi designs and manufactures the hardware.

When using the Savi Secure device, a company can attach a unique identifying child sensor on each crate or pallet of goods being loaded into a container, so that it or an approved third party can then view not only a particular container’s location, but also what is inside it and the status of those items. Therefore, if a pallet of goods was not loaded when expected, or if it was removed during shipping, an alert would be triggered, allowing companies to adjust their plans accordingly.

If a store were planning a sale on specific products ordered from Asia (such as lawn furniture), it could know which goods were in transit, as well as when they would be received. Thus, the retailer could ensure that the items would be available for an advertised pre-summer lawn products sale, for example.

Companies can also receive alerts, Efird says, if a product or container is determined to be off-schedule. The solution comes with add-on tools called Savi Insights, she notes, “to see trends over time and collective data about the shipments.”

For the past two months, several companies that ship high-value goods have been testing the Ocean ETA function with the Visbility and Multi-Enterprise Grid. One such firm was constructing a new facility and had preplanned labor schedules that relied on receiving parts in a specific order. The technology, Efird says, enabled the company to know when four of the 20 expected containers were not on the anticipated vessel, and thus to reschedule its work force according to that information.

The technology provides benefits not only for real-time scheduling, Efird says, but also for long-term planning. “If you take this to the logical extension,” she states, “you can address the tremendous amount of slack that’s built into a shipment [schedule],” which is intended to accommodate any delays along the supply chain. If shippers and product owners can be certain of the arrival date and time of goods, they can manage tighter scheduling of each shipment, reduce labor, expedite transit times and reduce demurrage fees.

Customers who use the technology are also interested in sharing their data with other stakeholders throughout a supply chain, the company indicates—for instance, shippers could share information with suppliers, port operators or transportation providers. They could then view information pertinent to them, based on their user ID and password.