The next leg of the journey
By Ella Copeland
New sensor technology offers visibility options which are poles apart from traditional tracking methods, reaching above and beyond simple location tracking to provide near real-time information on a range of the variable factors for sensitive shipments.
With today’s technology, companies are able to monitor the temperature, barometric pressure, light exposure, humidity and location of sensitive shipments in near real-time, thanks to devices such as FedEx’s SenseAware.
Combining a small multi-sensor device which is placed in shipments with an innovative online application, the new FedEx SenseAware can provide customers with near real-time data which logs manual checks and charts atmospheric changes, even while a shipment is in the air.
Acting not only as a tracking function but also as an inventory management and security device, new sensor based logistics are set to become a central supply chain management function for sensitive shipments, according to Chris Swearingen, Marketing Manager for SenseAware, who believes we are still only part-way to utilising the full capabilities of this technology.
“SenseAware gives customers the power to monitor key factors such as environmental conditions, location and even whether or not a package has been opened. This near real-time flow of data eliminates the need for an RFID scanner or data logger, as customers (and other business parties to which the customer has granted permission) can log in to the SenseAware application to monitor journeys, and even customise triggers, while the package is in transit,” explained Swearingen.
Following a development phase spanning several years, the FedEx innovation team has utilised a number of technological breakthroughs in the world of sensor-based logistics (SBL), which give customers the power to react to unexpected situations and improve supply chain efficiency.
Using specially developed technology to control the device’s radio during takeoff and landing, the SenseAware is able to log and store information during a flight, and Swearingen believes that this new technology will continue to evolve, enabling new supply chain models which will dramatically increase efficiency.
“In the near future, customers will be able to dissect data even further, using it to forecast information about what time of year, or even what time of day, is best to ship their package based on data previously collected through sensor-enabled devices,” he said.
The SenseAware’s data collecting capabilities allow procurement teams to receive alerts when shipment contents have gone outside a specified range, or have entered or exited the boundary of a preset geographic area. It also brings to light new information on routes, transfer points, potential bottlenecks and more.
The data collection options also enable procurement teams to test assumptions about packaging, storage and transportation methods to ensure they are operating efficiently. This data can also enable more collaboration and sharing between supply chain partnerships, making information easier to access and providing extra insight into security and quality KPIs.
According to Swearingen, this is only the start of SBL’s potential, as logistics companies continue to develop solutions to improve track and trace capabilities.
“As Sensor Based Logistics (SBL) technology evolves, electronic tracking will continue to evolve along with it. In the case of SenseAware, it provides access to near real-time information that enables new supply chain models that have the potential to dramatically increase supply chain efficiency. In the near future, customers will be able to dissect data even further, using it to forecast information about what time of year, or even what time of day, is best to ship their package based on data previously collected through sensor-enabled devices,” he said.
This development is something that FedEx plan to be at the centre of, as the company’s innovation team continues to invest time and resources into developing products and services to complement the SenseAware device.
“Sensor Based Logistics (SBL) will continue to be a game-changer when it comes to increasing the efficiency of supply chain operations, and will continue to allow devices such as SenseAware to empower organisations to gain control over their supply chains, manage operations and make changes that improve productivity and efficiency,” Swearingen concluded.