ULD tracking enters new phase

posted on 13th December 2018

Jettainer and Unilode are both moving forward with ‘game-changing’ Bluetooth-enabled technology, while Delta Cargo is extending visibility to off-airport customer facilities, reports Will Waters

Air freight tracking seems set to enter a new and improved phase, with two major carriers and the industry’s two largest outsourced unit load device (ULD) management companies, Jettainer and Unilode, moving forward with the use of “game-changing” Bluetooth-enabled ULD tracking technology.
In September, Unilode revealed that it had successfully completed Bluetooth tracking trials with its ULD management customer Cathay Pacific, providing end-to-end visibility of cargo shipments between Hong Kong and Melbourne. It says the project team, consisting of Cathay Pacific, OnAsset, Nexiot, and Unilode, was able “to deliver a flawless capture of data for all relevant supply chain events” into Cathay Pacific’s cargo management systems.
According to Unilode, the trial included the world’s first deployment of ‘Bluetooth Low Energy version 5’ technology, with superior performance and range over any other Bluetooth deployment previously conducted. It also featured another world-first, with data capture from a mix of fixed readers and mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – “which all parties believe marks the true game-changer for delivering reliable and robust tracking services to our industry”.
Unilode says the expansion of its ongoing ULD track and trace trials is continuing and the company will soon be making further announcements on its rollout schedule for the digital enablement of its ULD fleet.
Meanwhile, Jettainer in October revealed that it has entered into a strategic partnership with ULD tracking specialist Core Transport Technologies. It says the CoreInsight tracking solution, which is based on Bluetooth technology, will in future be used in the containers and pallets of the company’s outsourced ULD-management customers, noting: “The seminal tracking system will streamline Jettainer’s ground processes at customer airlines and, for instance, enable fully automated inventories.”
It says the Bluetooth tags, which can be retrofitted without additional certification of the ULDs, are automatically recorded and evaluated by strategically installed readers at the airports, making scanning by hand or other interventions no longer necessary.
Carsten Hernig, managing director at Jettainer, comments: “The integration of the Core tracking solution allows us to further increase efficiency through improvements in inventory management on the ground for airline customers. The fact that the geolocation of our ULD fleet is further improved at the same time is a nice side effect. The decisive factor for us, however, was the possibilities for process improvements on the ground.”
Ian Craig, CEO of CORE, comments: “Our Bluetooth solution was initially designed as a simple tracking solution for ULD inventories. But when we implemented the system at the major airlines in 2017, it quickly became clear that the large amount of data and the ability to analyse ULD movements would bring many benefits to airlines and their customers.”
Meanwhile, after earlier this year unveiling its plan to provide real-time Bluetooth-enabled tracking for ULDs, Delta Air Lines is extending the offering to cargo businesses based off airport. This will enable customers to have end-to-end tracking of the ULDs starting in their own warehouses throughout the journey to the final destination, Delta Cargo says – and, by extension, tracking of the shipments contained within those ULDs.
It says this new service will provide a number of customer benefits by eliminating all paperwork at the dock door when units are loaned out and producing a digital uniform control receipt (UCR) that is emailed directly to the shipper. In addition, customers will receive customised push notifications with full tracking available in 2019.
Delta is one of the first major airlines to test Bluetooth tracking technology, and since March 2018 has deployed readers at 80 Delta and partner airline warehouse locations across six continents, including all US hubs and major trucking stations, with 70 locations remaining. Nearly 40% of its ULD fleet has so far been tagged with Bluetooth asset trackers.
By January 2019, it says the tracking system will be available on nearly all of Delta’s ULDs, with customer reader installations set to be completed soon after that. Rather than developing this ULD capability in-house, CAAS understands that Delta is working with ACL Airshop and Core Transport Technologies to provide this service.