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Smart containers: The future of supply chain visibility

Smart containers: The future of supply chain visibility

Nowadays, standardized container boxes are used to move the vast majority of the global non-bulk cargo transported by sea. Furthermore, containerization and intermodal transport have steadily supported global economic growth by transforming and revolutionizing supply chains and logistics.

Nowadays, standardized container boxes are used to move the vast majority of the global non-bulk cargo transported by sea. Furthermore, containerization and intermodal transport have steadily supported global economic growth by transforming and revolutionizing supply chains and logistics.

03 January 2024
Streem Global - Smart Containers

In turn, technology is transforming the transportation industry to support the growing needs of supply chain actors. Product innovation is delivering unprecedented asset intelligence and is reshaping the intermodal sector for the better. New insights and services are resulting in significant improvement by combining the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI analytics into the smart container.

What are smart containers?

First things first: even though containers exist for well over 60 years now, their intelligence only started rising in the late 1990s’. What are they, though, and what range of IQ are we talking about?

Smart containers are standard shipping containers in every way, with one significant addition: IoT technology. This means that a self-sustaining sensor transmitting real-time data is installed on each existing intermodal shipping container.

This data is then sent to secure platforms that use specifically designed algorithms in order to detect important events, manage processes and pre-emptively offer courses of action. Stakeholders can also access asset data through web-based applications, enabling them to monitor the container's status and automate processes with updates as they happen. Pretty witty, right?

What data?

We’ve established that these sensors can really turn traditional containers into big data-transmitters. Multiple sensors can also be installed onto a single container to address additional monitoring needs. But what parameters can this data cover?

Monitoring devices and sensors cover three general components that are increasingly combined to enable advanced asset visibility:

  • Identification.

Supply chain agents need to know which container is theirs and know for sure. The traditional (and still in use) method is the assignment of a number to each container, also referred to as a container identification number, a unique identifier assigned to a shipping container for legal and business reasons. Although credible, it’s not impregnable to tampering. Smart containers can go beyond traditional container numbers by incorporating advanced tracking, sensing and connectivity features. These innovations not only aid in precise identification but also contribute to overall efficiency and security in the global shipping and logistics industry.

  • Location.

To paraphrase the famous real estate saying, “there are three things that matter in logistics asset management: location, location, location!”. Being able to locate an asset in the supply chain is of paramount importance – you can’t identify, manage or do anything for that matter if you can’t locate your container. Intelligent transmitters attached to the container offer real-time asset monitoring, which results to reduced risk of misplacement, theft or poor storing.

  • Physical parameter monitoring.

Containers contain goods, and these goods are to a smaller or larger degree susceptible to the conditions that exist inside and/or outside the box (temperature, humidity, vibration, etc.). That’s why it’s important that supply chain stakeholders are able to monitor not only the whereabout of their assets but also the conditions in which they are transported in.

Apart from these three basic categories, such devices can collect, store and transmit data on many more physical parameters, safely and quickly.

Why the hurry?

In our time and age where things happen at the speed of digital, it’s of the utmost importance to be able to live-track an asset. And since time is money, time-saving is money-saving.

Real-time asset intelligence enables carriers to transform their strategies on the spot. With the level of transparency smart containers offer, carriers are better equipped to manage their container fleet deployments and deliver improved customer service with greatly reduced time lag.

The future of cargo transportation is digital.

Digitalization fosters an environment of transparency, supporting competitiveness, enabling companies to focus on containing and cutting down costs.

Smart containers are the missing link in the full digitalization of the supply chain. Thanks to smart containers, supply chains can and will become more transparent, reliable, agile, secure, resilient, connected and sustainable, leading to further growth for the industry.

That's why Streem Global is employing state-of-the-art technology, in order to provide the best supply chain visibility possible to its clients.

It's a smart, smart world after all, ain’t it?