Shipping lines, freight forwarders and haulage companies are under increasing pressure to minimise transport costs, ensure on-time delivery and meet the increasing need for the goods they carry to be closely monitored to ensure that environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and air quality are maintained at the correct level. Globally, 90% of goods are transported via ship, truck or rail using standardised steel containers. Approximately 89% of the global fleet are dry containers, which equates to 25 million and numbers are expected to grow by 4-5% year on year.
The cargo within these containers needs to be constantly tracked and monitored to ensure it has a safe and compliant journey to its final destination. The most efficient way to do this is to install smart sensors, also known as IoT (Internet of Things) devices, on or within the container. Currently the batteries, which power these sensors, have a life span of less than two years making it unviable to retrofit sensors on containers without a major maintenance regime. The Energy ECS (Electronics, Components and Systems) teams at Tyndall National Institute at UCC and Net Feasa, an Irish wireless IoT service provider focused exclusively on connecting assets that move across the global supply chain, are working together to develop the future of cargo transport in the form of a smart container.
Mike Hayes, Head of ICT for Energy Efficiency at Tyndall, explains, “Our researchers are developing a PMIC (Power Management Integrated Circuit) that will dramatically extend the battery life of retrofitted wireless sensors. This PMIC will not only reduce battery drain, but will also use tiny amounts of previously unusable ambient energies available on the container’s journey, such as vibrations, heat and light and harvest them as an auxiliary power source. In many cases this will mean that the sensor will have full power autonomy.”
This advancement is a potential game changer for the intermodal transport industry, where currently only 5% of containers, predominantly refrigerated (Reefers) are wirelessly connected and sensorised. Removing the need for frequent in-service battery replacement means the sensors and their power source will match the lifetime of the container.
Mike Fitzgerald, Chairman of Net Feasa added: “This is a critical IoT Use Case in the digital transformation of the supply chain. We are complementing this important research in Tyndall with an open standards based global wireless network making Net Feasa the trusted and dedicated service provider. Our IoTPAS edge device, together with any 3rd party devices, will communicate back to our cloud based EvenKeel device management and performance monitoring network. We will also deliver the benefits of this new meta data through data analytics and machine learning to shipping companies. This will enable a significant carbon footprint reduction, cost reductions and new revenue generating services.”
This research forms part of the new Energy ECS (Electronics, Components and Systems) project launched in June 2021, with 30 participants from eight European countries which will pave the way for an emerging new European business and technology ecosystem aimed at tackling various energy related challenges for the future of mobility.
The advancement of e-mobility is a key part of the green energy transition. Together with its direct role in reducing emissions, the adoption of e-mobility also has a crucial indirect role as a grid stability element. E-mobility accelerates the transition to wind and solar energy production, and thus reduces the use of fossil fuels in the energy mix.
“We are proud to drive European innovation and technology ecosystems as a part of the Energy ECS project. Addressing problems in the now helps our society to transition towards a low-carbon economy. E-mobility is an excellent area to drive the transition in practice. Collaborating in ecosystems is the way towards innovation and joint benefits for all the partners involved,” concluded Ari Järvelä, Head of Operations at TietoEVRY, the overall project coordinator for Energy ECS.