The Container Owners Association is establishing a work group to consider standards for container tracking and telematics
The COA has announced an ambitious move to address the issue of a lack of interoperability between container tracking and telemetry systems. Noting that there are a wide variety of systems on the market, the COA said: “One of the issues facing the industry is to find technology to permit the different systems to communicate with each other. The increase of partner shipping lines using the same vessel along with shipper owned container requires a level of commonality”.
There are some standards related to container information. ISO 10368:2006 establishes the information and interfaces required for communicating with a reefer controller via the power line, while ISO18185 covers frequency and communication protocols for electronic container seals using RFID. There is, however, no standard for IoT tracking and telemetry devices and the COA does not see any moves to address this. “It seems that there are no ISO Work Groups focusing on communication protocols and standards for the container industry. The lack of standards (and incompatibility) could result in the delay in the introduction in systems.,” the COA said.
At a meeting earlier this year the COA Board agreed to establish a technical work group to address standards for tracking and telematics, with the first meeting to take place from 10:00 to 13:00 on Monday 5 November 2018, as part of the 22nd COA Members Meeting in Rotterdam.
The COA has circulated a memo to its members inviting comments and topic suggestions for the meeting agenda. It is anticipated that the key figures in the work group will come from shipping lines, leasing companies, tracking and telematics suppliers and container depots.
A standard could help move container tracking forward. Despite all the hype about digital shipping and the Internet of Things, very few dry freight containers today have a tracking and monitoring system permanently installed. One of the main reasons is the cost, some devices came onto the market priced in hundreds of dollars, which is well above what the market is willing to pay for all but a few niche applications like tracking military cargo and single shipments. The cost of tracking hardware has fallen to the point where some vendors are now talking about devices that cost US$30 and under, which could be a viable proposition.
It will still be a challenge to get lines with large container fleets to invest, but a standard that would allow a container owner or lessee to connect to an IoT device on a container using different communication platforms, and allow different hardware devices to send a common message to a software platform would certainly help make the case for container tracking more compelling . The first step, said COA Secretary Patrick Hicks, is for the work group to decide whether they want to tackle tracking and telemetry separately or together, and develop a vision of the technology that will be required in the future.
The COA is inviting companies (including non-COA members) wishing to participate to register their interest at this link.