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In the second part of our series on the nominees for IATA’s Air Cargo Innovation Awards, we feature CanTrack

An innovation from CHEP, CanTrack does what it says: it tracks ULDs. But it does so using solar power; it harvests its own energy, thus overcoming the potential pitfalls of tracking systems which rely on battery life alone.

Working with OnAsset, which already has a tracking device approved for use on an aircraft, CHEP wanted a way to automate tracking its ULSDs – but the downside to existing technology was that it needed to be charged.

“It is completely impractical to run round airports trying to charge units – we have 80,000 of them,” explained Floris Kleijn, CHEP’s IT director and project leader.

“So we looked at ways to harvest energy – from temperature differences, or kinetic energy. Those weren’t enough to power the batteries of this device. So we turned to a solar panel.”

But is there enough sun during a ULD’s average journey?

“As the ULD travels, we see a variation in the ability of the device to charge,” admitted Mr Kleijn. “We need a couple of hours of sun every two days. If the device reports twice a day it uses 6 to 10% of its power, so it can last for up to two weeks without sun.”

The device is able to record and transmit data on a range of things: impact or shock to the ULD, motion, temperature, light and pressure. Originally designed to benefit CHEP, the team realised it could also provide a wider industry benefit.

From the perspective of a ULD pooling provider, the first focus was on how to improve asset control,” said Mr Kleijn. “We developed it with our own interests in mind, but the bigger potential lies in the data which could be shared with all the players, supporting C2K for example. When goods leave your custody, your interest in the data does not end.”

The team identified several points which would benefit the wider industry. By turning the ULD from ‘mute’ into ‘smart’ it would: improve ULD stock availability; reduce damage to cargo and ULD by introducing accountability – the ULD would know where damage occurred; improve monitoring of the cargo and its environment; and give real-time information on the whereabouts of the ULD and its contents.

Part of CHEP’s submission may not be welcomed by the handling industry, however.

An additional benefit of CHEP’s submission is the ability to identify where damage happens.

“We believe around 50% of damage is related to the handling of ULDs under the responsibility of GHAs, so by us being able show where damage occurs, we can work with the GHAs on training programmes to improve handling that will reduce damage, that could save the airlines up to $50 million a year, so there is significant benefit for all parties.”

Mr Kleijn added: “Ultimately for ground handlers, the information will deliver value through improved timeliness and accuracy of data. It offers an opportunity to prove that your service delivery stands out versus your competitors. You can use the data to influence behaviour and win or retain business.”

The device is still being trialled with Hawaiian Airlines and Air Canada. CHEP plans to absorb the installation and running cost for the base tracking functionality for existing customers and generate ancillary revenue through charging for added-value services.

The team thinks it ticks the right boxes for IATA’s award; they say greater visibility into the supply chain will increase air cargo’s competitiveness over other modes; it will increase the quality of air cargo, as well as lower costs through less damage; and it could also improve onboard safety.

“I’m very humbled to be in the company of the the other two nominees,” said Kleijn. “What struck me is how complementary our solution is to the others. They all address different opportunities but they are all about improving the quality of data. The real success of that depends on the ability to turn that data into a benefit.”

Tomorrow: Niall van de Wouw’s Clive

Comment on this article

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  • Ed Kerwin

    February 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    And using solar power is a “green” solution too. Does the device add much weight to the rare of the ULD? Now all we need is for the ULD to gather information about the shipments loaded inside and the aircraft it is loaded aboard to add to the visibility.

  • Floris Kleijn

    March 03, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Dear Ed – Thank you very much for your interest
    and comment. From a weight perspective our
    design target is about 1,5kg or lower.
    Unfortunately, the solution inevitably adds some
    weight but adding lightweight materials to the
    design and minimizing the solar panel to a minimum
    will help us to keep overall additional weight to
    below 1,5 kg. As for the association of the
    shipments with the ULD you are spot on.
    That is exactly the visibility we are hoping to
    provide including additional telemetry / sensor
    data around the well-being of the shipment.

  • Viktoriya

    May 05, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    This is really great!!!
    But it is so interesting to know how much money will the implementing of this innovation cost?

    • Floris Kleijn

      May 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Dear Viktoriya – Thank you so much for your kind words and asking this important question. Unfortunately it is not easy to provide a clear answer on this for you yet. Our current assumptions are that as CHEP we will be able to absorb the initial launch cost of the solution for our customers, however the provision of longer term data services derived from the sensor devices (e.g. temperature monitoring) is something that needs to be examined in greater detail once requirements for such a service have been refined. I hope that nonetheless this is helpful in terms of an initial response. Please feel free to contact us at [email protected].