Bluetooth-based ULD tracking solution promises to improve control, visibility, transparency, accuracy and safety in the air cargo supply chain
Unilode Aviation Solutions has won the IATA Air Cargo Innovation Award for 2019 for its Bluetooth-based tracking solution for unit load devices (ULDs) that promises to help accelerate air freight’s digital transformation and improve control, visibility, transparency, accuracy and safety in the air cargo supply chain.
An independent jury that included industry experts, academics and CEOs evaluated 56 entries from across the industry, ranging from small start-ups to large multinationals. Projects were evaluated based upon the idea, its potential to create value, and the likelihood of achieving success. Entries covered a wide-range of areas including ULDs, digital solutions and track and trace that used cutting edge and emerging technologies such as block chain and big data to develop innovative solutions to benefit the industry.
Three companies were shortlisted to present their projects during the closing plenary of the 13th World Cargo Symposium in Singapore to over 500 audience members, which subsequently cast their vote for their preferred innovation project. The award and its US$20,000 first prize went to Unilode, with the two runners-up prizes both also going to ULD-related innovations.
With piece-level tracking of air cargo still rarely available, IATA said that Unilode’s ‘Digital Transformation’ concept will allow customers to use the ULD as a proxy for the air cargo shipments located inside it in order to track location and transmit status updates on the temperature, light and shock exposure and humidity of the ULD and its contents.
Outlining the solution, Markus Flacke, head of product management and solution development for Unilode Aviation Solutions (Germany), explained that Unilode’s concept “will allow for the fast and easy introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) to the world of ULD management and to the air cargo supply chain. Unilode has developed, together with its partners, a Bluetooth-based tracking solution for load devices potentially creating transparency across the whole supply chain.
“In this model the Bluetooth-equipped ULD will allow customers to use the load device as a proxy for tracking and transmitting status updates of their cargo whilst offering improved inventory control and damage reduction of their ULD fleet. The applied technology will at the same time record temperature, humidity, shock and light information that can be used by the customer to create their own service offering for products like perishables, valuables or sensitive cargo.”
Commenting on the award, IATA’s global head of cargo Glyn Hughes said: “One of the biggest growth areas in air cargo is special handling items, like time- and temperature-sensitive payloads. Customers for these products want to know where these items are, and their condition, at any time during their transport.
“Unilode’s tracking innovation will make this a reality. I congratulate the company on their achievement and use of data to drive improvements in operational quality.”
Unilode CEO Benoît Dumont said: “Unilode is extremely proud to have won the IATA Air Cargo Innovation Award with its digital transformation programme, which will improve control, visibility, transparency, accuracy and safety in the air cargo supply chain with a breakthrough end-to-end solution. Unilode’s aim is to deliver enhanced value to various stakeholders including airlines, ground handlers, shippers and freight forwarders to solve common issues relating to ULDs and cargo, and is looking forward to continuing the development and roll-out of its award-winning digitalisation programme.”
The two runners-up prizes went to entries from Air New Zealand Cargo in partnership with Cargo Composites, and to SITA in partnership with Safran and CHAMP.
The ‘Keep it cool with aeroTHERM’ entry from Air New Zealand Cargo & Cargo Composites highlighted how Air New Zealand had recently tested and launched new thermally-insulated aeroTHERM ULDs aimed at better protecting temperature-sensitive shipments and reducing cost.
Designed by Cargo Composites, aeroTHERM is “an industry-first container fabric door that insulates 25 times better than regular ULDs and curtains, allowing shipments to stay within desired temperature ranges for longer, reducing the use of thermal covers, wraps and heavier temperature controlled ULDs”. The aeroTHERM curtain, coupled with the aeroBOX’s insulated honeycomb panels, frameless design and secure closure mechanism, work together to minimize energy exchange, keeping shipments cooler or warmer for longer.
For the ‘Smart ULD’ entry from SITA, Safran and CHAMP, SITA’s Arnaud Brolly explained that Smart ULD “is an innovative solution combining the latest mobile, IoT and blockchain technologies to solve major pain-points on ULD management”. Smart ULD digitally tracks and monitors ULDs during their transport, providing geolocation, temperature, shock, vibration, pressure alerts, and digital damage reports. It aims at reducing the disrupting impact the loss or misplacement of ULDs, as well as moving ULD handling from paper to digital formats.
Smart ULD “leverages a specific event-driven blockchain, to organize the full supply chain”, in order to bring “more visibility and event transparency to all stakeholders in need to exchange data”, contributing to enhancing the efficiency of supply chain processes.
The IATA Innovation Awards were launched in 2014 to encourage and promote innovation in the air cargo industry.
“To attract demand in new market segments, the air cargo industry must improve its value proposition,” said Hughes. “Innovation holds the key to industry development, sustainability and success and we are committed to help unlock its potential. It’s important to recognize the individuals and companies that are driving change.”