Keeping tabs on road and rail shipments – why hybrid M2M solution are becoming all the rage

Gavan Murphy, director of Marketing EMEA, Globalstar

M2M communications for monitoring used to be a binary decision – GSM or satellite. But with technology costs falling, it is now affordable and viable to choose a hybrid model.

Moreover, a hybrid solution ensures enhanced operational and cost efficiencies for organisations which need to keep track of their assets or cargo. This is changing the game for manufacturing, freight management and logistics businesses, nearly everyone in the supply chain, says Gavan Murphy, director of Marketing EMEA, Globalstar.

Recently we have seen the launch of various new devices that extend the reach and reliability of communications by automatically switching between GSM and satellite communications.

This ensures cargo in rail cars, containers and trucks can be constantly monitored and that information is shared in near, real-time, with everyone in the supply chain. The result is lower costs and enhanced information sharing for better, faster decision-making.

With governments eager to have more transparency in the transport industry, there is an increase in regulation requiring cargo-carrying vehicles to have trackers installed. Innovative technology providers are creating new kinds of solutions to not only help their customers meet such regulations but also to improve their operations in many ways.

Spanish technology and fleet tracking solutions specialist FAGOR Electrónica, S. Coop has adopted a hybrid communications system with a new fleet tracking solution for the trucking industry. The solution reports the precise location of the vehicle as well as details about engine time usage and total mileage.

It leverages hybrid technologies as Ernesto Pérez, Overseas Distribution Manager at FAGOR explains: “When the vehicle moves out of GSM range, satellite transmissions automatically take over. We believe that this combination of complementary technologies delivers maximum reach, reliability and cost efficiency.”

While earlier tracking-based technologies focused simply on the location of goods, the latest generation of solutions feature integrated sensors providing businesses with more environmental data and enabling them to understand elements that could impact cargo’s condition and the supply chain. One valuable metric is movement, with sensors instantly reporting when an asset – such as a rail car or container – has experienced damage or shock.

Chemical and oil/gas companies for example, need to monitor potentially hazardous materials in unpowered environments including rail tank cars and tank containers across far-flung locations where communications infrastructure is inadequate, uncertain or even non-existent.

With hybrid GSM/satellite M2M asset tracking, everyone in the supply chain can have information about where each rail car or container is, whether it has been impacted due to a crash, is leaking, is at the right pressure and temperature and is in the correct location.

If an accident were to happen, the business and emergency services can’t wait until the rail car and device have access to the GSM network.

Satellite’s availability and reliability makes it the only viable option for continuous connectivity. With satellite communications being more affordable and reliable than ever before, savvy value-added resellers (VARs) are adding satellite communications to their existing GSM solutions.

And hybrid communications can come in different flavours. Identec Solutions recently announced a new solution that incorporates both satellite technology as well as Active RFID. For companies carrying out remote asset monitoring, this solution achieves the important industry-set ATEX Zone 0 certification standard for safety in potentially explosive situations.

This hybrid multifrequency capability means that users can leverage low power and long range Active RFID transmissions as well as reliable satellite transmissions, depending on what the asset requires.

The ability of these innovative solutions to dynamically switch transmission types enables uninterrupted tracking visibility regardless of the asset’s / cargo’s location, thereby significantly reducing the total cost of ownership. They enable asset owners to not only know the location of their assets but also to know that they are secure and whether or not they are able to be redeployed.

As businesses begin to demand always-on communications, these emerging hybrid platforms demonstrate the value of satellite-enabled M2M / Internet of Things (IoT) to help companies keep tabs on their assets and help them optimise their operations for the benefit of all partners in the supply chain.

The author of this blog is Gavan Murphy, director of Marketing EMEA, Globalstar.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @M2MNow OR @jcm2m

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