Visibility in the Air: Monitoring Your Shipment in Flight

When it comes to moving freight, ocean and over-the-road dominate global and domestic transportation modes; however, it sometimes makes sense to move goods via air cargo due to perishability or time constraints. Ocean shipping accounts for 90% of global traffic according to the International Chamber of Shipping, and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics show truck and rail as the top modes based on weight. Yet, airfreight volume is increasing as consumer demand grows for fresh goods and safe medical supplies. In 2017, International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that “freight tonne kilometers across the airfreight industry rose by 9.0% [year-over-year] for the full year.” The report noted that the robust increase was due to favorable trade conditions and demand from the retail sector. With continued growth expected, it is more important than ever for shippers and carriers to monitor their cargo across all modes. Advancements in IoT technology are rising to meet the challenge and improve supply chain visibility.

Airfreight management has many parts to track, from booking to ready for carriage to the actual shipping. Basic information tracking of pallet or package is by label and air waybill(s) through the process. In the past, it was sufficient to monitor shipment location using the flight locator information. However, new IoT supply chain technology provides not only location but also granular environmental conditions while in the air. This data helps shippers and carriers maintain a chain of command as well as adherence to FSMA and other government regulations.

The on-demand economy means that consumer goods are always on the move whether as raw materials destined for manufacturing or finished products out for delivery. Visibility data helps reduce waste from inefficient processes, document control of the cargo and minimize the risk of loss. It also reduces excessive communication by allowing vested parties to track in real-time. While this information is enough for static goods, cool- and cold-chain shipments such as food and pharmaceuticals require temperature monitoring. Other sensitive freight must log conditions such as humidity levels, light exposure and shock at every stage of the journey.

For example, with life science shipments, it is crucial to maintain the correct temperature for active ingredients of vaccinations or clinical trial samples. Our white paper, Cold Chain Integrity: Visibility for Safety and Compliance, notes that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7% - 37% of providers expose vaccines to improper storage temperatures. Traditional terrestrial monitoring with RFID and smart sensors provide data logging during rail, truck or ocean transport – some in real-time. However, with air shipments, there has been difficulty knowing the condition after takeoff.

IoT technology is catching up. New solutions are coming to market which offer the recording and transmission of data while in flight. Each individual cargo-carrying airline tests and approves these smart sensors for use in their fleet. For example, CalAmp’s SC1102 approval from CargoLux, Cathay Pacific and United Airlines as of the publication date of this blog. Shippers using this one-time smart sensor can monitor the temperature across all modes to ensure quality and traceability. The SC1102 logs data continuously and transmits the information when there is a cellular connection.

Companies can now ship their goods by air transit with confidence. Implementing a smart sensor solution gives shippers and carriers the critical information to make informed decisions when a deviation occurs. It also helps them better plan routes and mode options that suits their shipments.

If you would like to learn more about CalAmp’s SC1102 and our other Asset Management, Visibility and Theft Prevention solutions, visit our website here.

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