Coming Soon: Real-Time Shipment Tracking

June 1, 2001
Shippers, receivers, and distributors of perishables need a way to track shipments not loads, shipments accurately, says Bob Twitchell, chief technology

Shippers, receivers, and distributors of perishables need a way to track shipments — not loads, shipments — accurately, says Bob Twitchell, chief technology officer for Intransit Networks in Seattle, Washington. Current mobile tracking systems can follow tractors or trailers, but tracking an individual pallet of broccoli or fresh meat still relies on batch-processed paper processes. Those who deal in perishables need a way to track inventory and workflow in real-time, he says.

A number of new technologies have the potential for a combination that will allow location, tracking, and communication with refrigerated goods, Twitchell says. These technologies include cellular/PCS networks, global positioning satellites, “Bluetooth” low power radio, wireless identification tags, and the Internet.

Low power radio frequency communication is developing rapidly, and both the Wireless Ethernet and Bluetooth have the potential for global coverage. In general, these radio systems are for point-to-point communication; so far, limitations in the control of such networks have prevented large-scale use.

Most tracking systems are unwieldy and expensive, Twitchell says. Many tracking systems use portal technology with radio frequency tags and fixed readers that capture information as goods pass the reader. Once on a trailer yard or in a warehouse, portal technology loses track of the tag, he says. This prevents the system from checking inventory on command.

Intransit Networks has a new approach to tracking that it calls a class-switched network with six modular components. This network gives users an affordable, accurate, and flexible method for tracking and inventorying shipments. It controls low power radio tightly in a network built around the way users plan to interrogate and inventory assets, Twitchell says. A class-switched network has low power consumption, high efficiency, low noise interference, and high flexibility.

The six components in such a network are a radio frequency tag, a low power radio or repeater, a mobile locating gateway or scout, a network interface module or gateway, a handheld interrogator, and a web server. Radio frequency tags are low cost radios with a small battery (sometimes no battery at all) for communication with a reader/repeater. Cost of an RF tag can range from 50 cents to $2. Typical range for a semi-passive tag is 20 feet from the reader.

Tags are located by low power radios that read or write information on the tag and pass that information along to other repeaters for subsequent transmission to increase the range of the total system. Users can communicate with the repeaters with handheld computers or across the Internet. Repeaters in the Intransit Networks system are based on Bluetooth standards for functionality, cost competitiveness, availability, and global coverage, Twitchell says.

The mobile locator or scout is a combination mobile phone, low power radio, and global positioning system receiver. It can track RF tags anywhere a mobile phone network is available. The locator also can communicate with RF tags placed in individual shipments.

The network interface or gateway is the base for the class-switched network. From a fixed position, it translates the Bluetooth protocol to Ethernet, PSTN modem, or other communication network for transmission of data to the Internet. The handheld interrogator in the Intransit Networks system is a combination Bluetooth module and handheld computer that provides access to information on the wireless tags from the repeater network and communicates with the web server.

The web server with its application database contains the operating system for controlling and accessing information on the network. The server, working with the other components in the network, can provide real-time shipment tracking, Twitchell says.

A class-switched network allows users to track goods from processing through shipping and warehousing all the way to the point of retail sale, Twitchell says. The system is streamlined so that information is collected only when directed. Based on existing radio standards, such a network can be built with off-the-shelf components and customized with individual software.

The projected cost of a class-switched network should be one-half to one-third of the current $600 to $1,500 per truck tracking system now used. Wireless warehouse inventory management systems cost between $350,000 and $500,000, roughly three to five times more than a class-switched network, Twitchell says.

Mobile tracking is growing rapidly. About 650,000 trucks and more than one million automobiles already have tracking systems. Some researchers project that 10% of all automobiles will have tracking by 2004.

Intransit Networks expects to have class-switched networks capable of tracking vehicles and containers available by January 2002, Twitchell says.
ConMet Web Site Offers Interactive Capability

Consolidated Metco Inc has unveiled its newly redesigned web site, located at Detailed images and descriptions are included on the TaperLoc slider, part of ConMet's Simplex fifthwheels. Users also can access magnified views of slide rail features, such as the tapered lockpin that moves deeper into the lock pocket as the slide rails wear.

Other highlights include procedures for coupling and uncoupling an air-ride or non-air-ride suspension. The site's comparison charts assist in understanding wheel-end compatibility with brake components and installation requirements.

Aluminum hubs and PreSet wheel ends can be specified using an online interactive selection guide, and cast brake drums can be selected using the Drum Selection Guide. Downloadable brochures, manuals, and bulletins are available for all ConMet products.
SDA FreightDATA Helps Firms Cut Costs

SDA FreightDATA Corp introduces its FreightDATA transportation software with web tracking capabilities. The software is designed for small- to medium-size companies to handle management of a freight carrier business, from accounts payable and automatic rating, to credit and collections. New web-tracking capabilities are estimated to reduce administrative and support costs associated with locating shipments en route.

This software provides electronic dispatch, rating, billing, and accounts receivable for various trucking requirements including less-than-truckload, truckload, drayage, ocean and air freight forwarding, and air cartage. All freight bills are accessible in the system by various search criteria, with daily activity and revenue reports posted automatically to the general ledger, accounts receivable, and various statistical files.

Web-tracking capability allows the user to check the status of a shipment, access activity reports for the past month, and print images of actual bills of lading and Proofs of Delivery online, pinpoint time and date of delivery, and obtain the name of who signed for a shipment. For more details, contact SDA FreightDATA, 20311 SW Birch St, Suite 200, Newport Beach CA 92660.
Arzoon Has New Software

Arzoon announces an extended suite of Web-native solutions that bring control, collaboration, and visibility to the flow of goods worldwide. The new software enables the transformation of a company's ecosystem of suppliers, customers, and service providers into a collaborative supply web.

Supply chain professionals are now empowered to use a single platform to procure, execute, monitor, and reconcile freight services. Arzoon's solution fuses multiple transportation modes, information systems, and enterprises into a cohesive supply web.

The Web-native design is one of the key differentiators of the Arzoon solution. This approach preserves security, real-time speed, and data integrity while allowing for cross-enterprise scalability. Arzoon's Web-native software resolves problems such as visibility of inbound freight, tracking across different modes of transportation, compliance with business rules and routing guides, and synchronizing flow of data with product movement.
LocationSmart Expanded

@Road has unveiled its new technology solution for delivering location-based content to wireless web-enabled devices. This technology application, one of four mobile-commerce application solutions made possible by @Road's patented LocationSmart technology platform, enables @Road to provide location-specific content via its iLM Internet Location Manager to any wireless web-enabled device, including cell phones, personal digital assistants, and laptop and notebook computers.

LocationSmart integrates positioning technologies such as GPS, wireless communications, and the Internet to transport XML-enhanced, location-specific content. Services that can be offered through LocationSmart include mobile yellow pages, real-time traffic reports and interactive navigation, news and e-mail, and local information on nearby hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other hospitality services.
Partnership Will Benefit Chinese Carriers

TMW Systems Inc and Qualcomm Inc have entered into an agreement to localize TMW's proprietary PowerSuite dispatch software for use with Qualcomm's OmniTRACS mobile communications system by truckload carriers in the People's Republic of China. This new solution will also enable United States trucking firms to partner more easily with Chinese logistics companies by facilitating data interchange.

Qualcomm distributes the OmniTRACS mobile communications system in China through its Chinese reseller, Guangdong South Satellite Telecommunications Service Co Ltd (SST), a subsidiary of Guangdong Nanfang Communications Group. The agreement between Qualcomm and TMW will enable TMW to offer the localized PowerSuite dispatch software to SST's OmniTRACS customers.
Shipment Status Can Be Viewed on Internet

Prophesy Transportation Solutions Inc has launched its new Internet-enabled Shipment Status for the trucking industry. This subsystem, a component of Prophesy Dispatch, allows trucking companies to provide shippers, recipients, and other interested parties with real-time information about any shipments being carried. Information is viewed via any standard web browser.

With this service, any trucking company now can provide complete shipment status to customers without taking up dispatcher phone time, and customers have access to progress of their shipments via the Internet. Communication is enhanced by optional support for automated, e-mail-based status information or alerts from the trucking company, and by providing the ability to follow up immediately with e-mail questions regarding status of a shipment or load.
GarNet Enhances Accuracy of GPS Devices

@Road offers GarNet, a terrestrial network of GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers designed to improve data and time information to GPS-equipped wireless devices for high-speed information acquisition and enhanced location accuracy.

GarNet (GPS-assistance reference network) is designed to provide data information, such as ephemeris and Doppler data, for assisted GPS solutions throughout the continental United States. For example, GarNet can provide differential correction data that would allow GPS-enabled handsets to meet and exceed location accuracy required under the E911 Phase II mandate. GarNet also is designed to improve data acquisition time, sensitivity, and accuracy of traditional GPS.

A description of the GarNet technology platform is featured in the white paper titled, Data and Time Assistance for Mobile Users of GPS from the @Road Reference Network, which can be found on the @Road web site at

About the Author

Gary Macklin

Sponsored Recommendations

Reducing CSA Violations & Increasing Safety With Advanced Trailer Telematics

Keep the roads safer with advanced trailer telematics. In this whitepaper, see how you can gain insights that lead to increased safety and reduced roadside incidents—keeping drivers...

80% Fewer Towable Accidents - 10 Key Strategies

After installing grille guards on all of their Class 8 trucks, a major Midwest fleet reported they had reduced their number of towable accidents by 80% post installation – including...

Proactive Fleet Safety: A Guide to Improved Efficiency and Profitability

Each year, carriers lose around 32.6 billion vehicle hours as a result of weather-related congestion. Discover how to shift from reactive to proactive, improve efficiency, and...

Tackling the Tech Shortage: Lessons in Recruiting Talent and Reducing Turnover

Discover innovative strategies for recruiting and retaining tech talent in the trucking industry at our April 16th webinar, where experts will share insights on competitive pay...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!