BLOG: IoT offers the promise of smart cargo management

SITA Portfolio Manager for Airline Operations and Air Travel Solutions by Arnaud Brolly (pictured below)

The air cargo sector hasn’t really developed much over the past forty years – but in a world where data and connectivity are leading the way, it is about to be disrupted by new technologies capable of providing a higher level of service with greater transparency.

Air freight by its very nature is a challenging market, but it still relies largely on legacy technologies. At SITA we believe, however, that the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT), is going to change the market landscape dramatically.

IoT has the power to create an agile infrastructure that will enable cargo companies to push the speed advantage of air freight and create an ecosystem where airlines, ground staff and local authorities, such as customs can work more closely together to create greater efficiencies.

IoT is already making its presence felt in the airline industry by way of radio frequency identification (RFID) for baggage tracking and aircraft predictive maintenance analytics. Air cargo supply chain operations are now also set to benefit from the vast improvements IoT can bring by way of visibility and efficiencies.

This new-found visibility will enable cargo companies to make informed decisions about how cargo is stored, monitored and routed, for example, especially for goods such as perishables and medicines, as well as contributing to operational health and safety practices.

IoT tackles cargo pain points

The air freight industry is a complex one and one that has its own set of unique challenges. These include a stark lack of insight into unit load devices (ULD), which can result in them getting lost on the tarmac and flights being delayed, inefficient task allocation and antiquated paper-based operations, making it difficult to automate, extract and action data.

Millions of parcels are handled every day, so the system works to an extent. But IoT can make it much better, more efficient and streamlined. This in turn will make cargo transportation much more coherent and productive, cutting down on insurance claims on mishandled or lost ULDs, for example.

But, IoT isn’t a silver bullet and it is imperative the technology providers understand exactly how the cargo industry works, so they can create solutions that overcome, not complicate the issues.

Our vision

Working with a multinational package delivery company we have come up with an innovative ULD-centric solution, which combines aero-domain know how with IT expertize which we at SITA believe will finally bring cargo handling into the digital age.

The end-to-end solution starts with aero-certified sensors attached to the ULD. These can capture a host of data from Geolocalization, temperature, vibration to shock and humidity which is sent via a low power Wide Area network to SITA IoT platform. Based on information raised on the IoT platform ULD alerts can be sent out, check lists managed and task assignments created for tug drivers, for example.

An iOS based mobile app lets tug drivers know when ULDs need to be picked up from where and delivery points, flags up if they contain dangerous goods and immediately sends out a warning to supervisors if ULDs have been opened or damaged.

A dashboard provides a 360 degree view of the ULD in real-time monitoring flights, document submissions and task updates, together with any historical data, analytics or queries against it. Once tasks are completed digital reports are sent in real-time to the back-end system. This makes the whole process simple, secure, paperless and green!

Harnessing the power

IoT is going to play a vital role in air cargo, which is why we at SITA are getting ahead of the curve. The intelligence IoT makes possible across the entire ULD journey ensures a smooth passage and detects any problems before they escalate.

Yes, there is investment to be made and infrastructures to change, but the value IoT brings is there for all to see.

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