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Smart containers will help us develop even smarter protection systems

At the Transport Logistic exhibition in Munich in June 2019, Hapag Lloyd announced that it was equipping its 100,000 strong fleet of refrigerated containers with the latest internet of things (IoT) technology. It follows the lead Maersk took when they announced the commissioning of smart technology in 30,000 new containers in 2015. That number had expanded to 270,000 by 2016 with Maersk refrigerated containers providing data on position, temperature and humidity in real time. These investments represent a steady movement towards digitization and connectivity and there is much speculation of how much more can be done as this IoT technology is deployed alongside blockchain systems.

Swiss-based, Smart Containers have pioneered the use of this new technology in the air freight sector, specializing in time and climate-sensitive shipments for the pharma and food industries. Their systems now facilitate paperless shipment organization and administration and provide a fully autonomous smart container solution. Further down the line, they envisage automated container billing along the entire supply chain using cryptocurrencies, to increase security and reduce transaction fees. Co-founder and CEO, Richard Ettl says “By using blockchain technology, we can decentralize logistics and create autonomous containers – container 4.0. This container will know who’s renting it, when the contract ends and when to invoice the customer.” He goes on to say that their new platform will “create a seamless, fully integrated, digital logistics process that everyone can use for free.”

So far, this technology is being targeted at the refrigerated market where it offers the greatest benefits but Hapag Lloyd also foresees growing demand from shippers using dry containers. Meanwhile, in May 2019, Rotterdam’s Port Authority dispatched “Container 42”. This hyper-smart container will spend two years gathering data on a mission that will take it all over the world. Its first stop was Munich where it appeared at Transport Logistic, alongside Hapag Lloyd.

Container 42 houses sensors and communications equipment which measure vibration, slope, position, sound, local air pollution, humidity and temperature. It has also been fitted with solar panels to determine how much power a container can generate during a given journey by ship, train or truck. The project reflects Rotterdam’s ambition to become the world’s smartest port, digitizing all their services with the ultimate goal of handling fully automated shipping. The Port authority’s Erwin Rademaker said “You can imagine that this container will talk to cranes in the future. Or that it will fill in its own customs forms, because it knows exactly where it has been and that it has not been opened."

These developments are hugely exciting for the entire logistics industry. At Cordstrap, we can see the enormous value of having detailed data to assess exactly what forces, pressures and moisture levels cargo will be subjected to during the course of a journey across the full range of modalities. Our research and development team already carry out in-depth studies working closely with regulators such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Associations of American Railroads (AAR) but this will take their expertise to a new level.

Armed with this new data, we will be able to advise on the best forms of protection and help you tailor protection solutions that precisely match the risks to your cargo at every step in the supply chain. Information about atmospheric conditions will be particularly useful as we further develop our industry-leading Moisture Control solutions and help us monitor climate change so we can advise you how best to prepare your shipment for it. We pride ourselves on delivering bespoke solutions that exactly match your requirements and this new technology will enable us to do that in an even more precise way.

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