Monitoring goods at all times, from point of origin to destination, in a secure way and in real time is now possible.
Such monitoring is exactly what a team of researchers from the Public University of Navarre (UPNA ) and the Navarre-based TB-Solutions enterprise (specializing in the development of secure communication platforms) have achieved. This research is within the remit of the Intelligent Transport of Intermodal Goods (TIMI) project and the team is currently working on the commercial development of their product.
The aim of the TIMI project is to develop new technologies which enable the creation of a future generation of devices, systems and tools in order to make intermodal transport (by land, sea, rail or air) more intelligent. This is why, within the framework of the CENIT project, in 2007 a consortium of some ten enterprises was created in collaboration with universities and public bodies, and which have worked on different aspects of the project. TB-Solutions requested UPNA to develop the required software and this collaboration has now borne fruit.
The required hardware has been devised and the software installed in the sensors, the devices located in each goods container having the function of transmitting information in wireless mode. As Mr José Javier Astrain from UPNA explained, "with this device, I know what goods are being moved by which truck and in what conditions of temperature, luminosity, etc. If and when it arrives at a customs post, who has been involved in this customs check and if they have been given the green light; I know if there are hazardous goods and if they are driving along an authorized route or not, etc., and I can arrange that, when the container arrives at the port, I don't have to do any paperwork and the container can be loaded on board directly."
"One of the greatest difficulties faced was interpreting the information, given that if there are, for example six containers, I don't want to share information with any others than those of my company; this information must not be sent or intercepted without being coded and having a security mechanism". This is what TB-Solutions has worked on, devising a system that guarantees the information being transmitted and interchanged is intact and secure. "We are the first to develop this type of tool certificate — pointed out Ms Mayte Hurtado, Managing Director of TB-Solutions—. That we know of, there is no-one else in Europe".
Optimizing the chain of supply
Ms Hurtado emphasizes that this system enables the optimization of financial, human and logistic resources, because the chain of supply is enormously optimized. For example, in the transport of foodstuffs, it is important that there is no handling thereof and that the goods arrive in the condition as has been agreed.
"It can occur — added Mr Astrain — that three trucks carrying fruit make contact with the operator at the same time in order to give updates on incidents: one load is not in such a good state, another might be making better time than expected, etc. This information, in real time, enables the company to take decisions ahead such as, for example, diverting the container with the more delicate load of fruit to a closer destination".
The sensors, communicating with each other and also transmitting data to a central control, register any incident happening during the journey. Even if they are going through an area without coverage, such as the English Channel or a tunnel, the information continues to register and, when the lorry re-enters a zone with coverage, this is transmitted to the central control.
The devices have been successfully tested in the port of Valencia, with real containers. The PORTEL project will now be presented to those who wish to provide added value services for their specific needs.