Evolution of Container Tracking Technology

The Progress of Container Tracking Technology Over Time

Shippers across the globe face challenges related to the loss or delay of cargo during transportation. To aid this, container tracking technology has presented a feasible solution for increasing supply chain visibility. Now, shippers and receivers from anywhere across the globe can access real-time data from tracking shipping containers. Using technologies like RFID and GPS, locating the containers and monitoring their status throughout transportation has become more accessible. Let us learn more about how containers were tracked and how technology evolved to offer better solutions.

Define Container Tracking Technology

The finished goods manufactured annually are shipped to various countries for import and export trade. These goods are transported internationally or transcontinentally to ship to the consignee on time and keep the supply chain cycle running. For shipment, cargo is properly packed into shipping containers that are further loaded onto the desired means of transport for delivery to its destination. While in transit, the consumer demand to know the whereabouts of their shipment is what stirred up the need for a container tracking system

Equipped with IoT sensors and GPS, container tracking technology is an efficient means to track the location of the cargo container from its origin to its destination to offer transparency and reliability to its consumers. It uses real-time data to convey instant updates regarding the containers, and it works for containers on both land and sea. It helps in increasing the efficiency of the supply chain management system by avoiding any chances of 

  • Loss of container in the supply chain cycle
  • Delay in delivery of the container
  • Additional costs incurred due to delay or loss of container

Container tracking takes place both manually and through technologically advanced devices. Let us know more about it.

Evolution of container tracking in the shipping industry 

Before the advent of technology, shippers and receivers relied on manual workers to convey the shipment’s whereabouts while in transit. Manual tracking was mainly a predictive method of locating and monitoring the status of shipments and was prone to many errors. There was a lot of delay between the occurrence of any event and getting any updates about it. It lacked accuracy and, therefore, came to be replaced by container tracking technology as the demand for international shipment increased extensively. 

The technological revolution helped offer standardisation to tracking the numerous shipments loaded onto any mode of transport. Various technology tracking systems have now aided the extensive task of monitoring containers.

  1. RFID- Radio frequency identification(RFID) is a wireless device where a tag is attached to the container. The radio waves generated from the device are caught by the tag that further transmits information about the tagged container to the reader. A reader is attached with one or more antennas that give off radio waves and receive signals from the tag. The received signal is then interpreted to be understood by the consumer. It helps provide data security as the primary data source is recorded as signals.
  2. GPS technology- Global Positioning System is a navigation system that relies on satellite information. It not only provides the location of the shipment but also helps in knowing the velocity with which it is moving, hence helpful in getting accurate ETAs of shipments. It can track objects irrespective of their global positioning, i.e., on land, air or water. It helps re-routing container fleets or allotting the nearest possible vehicles for transport to eliminate chances of fuel wastage by calling far-off vehicles. It can also alert the consumer of theft or if the vehicle is misdirected from its intended route.
  3. BLE Technology– Bluetooth Low Energy technology uses Bluetooth to track the whereabouts of assets such as shipping containers or equipment. It beacons to form small wireless devices that can be attached to the assets to track their movement. These are highly cost-effective and do not require a complex tracking setup, and consumers can easily monitor their containers from their mobile applications.

Applications of container tracking technology in the supply chain

  1. Security at checkpoints – All containers intended for cross-border trade must pass through checkpoints to ensure that the goods adhere to CBP standards. A container tracking system helps the checkpoint officials record the incoming of any intended consignment to be prepared to inspect documents. It minimises the chances of traffic that could lead to significant delays. Since every step of containerisation is tracked and recorded, it gets easier to check what all clearances and inspections the cargo went through.
  2. Port management– Container tracking offers real-time tracking of the shipping containers allowing the port authorities to monitor the cargo loading and inspection operations so that there is no delay in the other processes of loading containers onto ships. The delays may lead to demurrage, detention and port charges for storing containers in ports and causing port congestion. Through tracking, officials can timely look into why a container is stuck and help resolve it.
  3. Big data analysis Container tracking is beneficial in monitoring the movement of shipping containers for transportation, and the data collected during transport is stored for analysis purposes. Companies can draw several insights from the enormous stores of complex data to help companies improve the efficiency of shipping operations, like offering customised routes, predicting maintenance and analysing how newer strategies or processes would turn out.

Benefits of container tracking technology

  1. Enhanced customer service– Supply chain visibility has been a potential demand from customers to keep track of the location and status of their cargo and be prepared for its arrival. It helps in building trust and offering a reliable shipping experience to customers. The tracking system updates the departure time of the cargo from its origin and accordingly calculates the ETA to alert the consignee to receive the shipment at the given destination. Any delays in the shipment are directly conveyed to the receiver so that they can make arrangements accordingly.
  2. Saves time- In the cases of intermodal transportation, where containers go through multiple operations, it is difficult to track each shipping segment by tracking websites that require you to enter relevant booking numbers. Moreover, the information shown may not be updated or accurate. Through real-time data, live tracking of shipping containers is possible, thereby saving a lot of time. Container tracking platforms allow centralising the data for all the parties involved in shipping so that in case of large container fleets, you can overview your fleet and stay notified through calls or emails instead of tracking every shipment.
  3. Improved ROI– Offering transparency and reliability in the shipping process leads to customer satisfaction and retention of customers for future shipments. Container tracking helps minimise delays in shipping, and therefore there is no extra fee charged during transportation that may increase investment. The use of manual workers is reduced by centralising the real-time data collected by container tracking. Using the collected data and running it for analysis helps optimise shipping routes and save fuel, thereby maximising the ROI.
  4. Minimise losses- Since the shipper and receiver can constantly monitor the cargo throughout its transit, the chances of theft, tampering or loss of freight get minimised. Container tracking systems help enhance cargo security and ensure more significant opportunities for the timely delivery of goods.

Components of container tracking technology 

Since the integration of newer technological trends in the shipping industry, smart container tracking is spreading its wings. The industry uses specific smart devices to track the shipment’s whereabouts, which can continuously monitor the containers. A few components essential for container tracking are- 

  1. GPS technology- It is suitable for situating containers anywhere globally, on land or sea.
  2. IoT sensor– It is an intelligent device that can be attached to the shipping containers to sense the container’s environment and provide the shipment status to the customers. IoT sensors present real-time data and help in avoiding any cargo damage.
  3. RFID– It is a wireless system that uses radio frequencies to help communicate the shipment status but it is quite a complex process.
  4. BLE– Using Bluetooth as its primary source, real-time tracking of containers has been made more accessible.

These are the technologies used for tracking containers. Now the customers need a few identification numbers that they enter on tracking sites or apps to get hold of the movement of their containers. It also helps the shipping company identify that you are the receiver or shipper of the container.

  1. Container number– It is an alpha-numeric combination of four letters and seven numbers assigned by the ISO and is unique for every container. It helps in the identification of the shipping containers.
  2. Booking number– The shipping company gives receipts or invoices to the shipper to confirm the booking reservation. A booking number can be seen on the receipts unique for every new booking.
  3. Bill of lading– A legal document signed between the shipping company and the shipper that enlists details about the type and value of goods, their origin and destination, and acts as a shipping receipt. 

While tracking the shipment or containers, shippers, carriers, or consignees can use any of these three numbers to find updates regarding the shipment status.

Container tracking technology has proven to be a revolution in offering supply chain transparency and reducing risks involved during cargo transportation.

LOTUS Containers is a stellar marketer of shipping containers across the globe. With a network of 300+ container depots, we offer to sell and lease shipping containers from any corner of the world.

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