Real-time container tracking is ready to take off

The installed base of intermodal shipping containers worldwide has surpassed 20 million and represents a significant market opportunity for the telematics industry. Several wireless M2M operators including Orbcomm, AT&T, Everything Everywhere and Telenor even have assumed the role of end-to-end solution providers of container tracking. A real-time container tracking solution with data logging, satellite positioning and data communication can help transportation chain stakeholders to comply with regulations and security programs as well as increase the transportation efficiency and decrease the carbon footprint from container transportation.

It has been challenging to find the right business models to suit the diverse range of players in the intermodal transportation chain, but technology advancement, declining hardware prices and market awareness are starting to come together to make remote container tracking solutions attractive. According to analyst firm Berg Insight, the number of active remote container tracking units deployed on intermodal shipping containers was 137,000 in Q4-2012, up from 89,000 a year earlier. Aftermarket solutions mounted on high value cargo and refrigerated containers are the first use cases to adopt container tracking. By 2017, the number of tracking units is expected to reach over 1 million.

Orbcomm has after recent acquisitions of StarTrak, PAR LMS and GlobalTrak emerged as the largest vendor of wireless container tracking devices. Omnitracs, ID Systems and Skybitz are prominent vendors focusing on inland transportation in North America, which is so far the most mature market for container tracking solutions. Envotech, Pointer Telocation, Savi Technology, PearTrack Systems, Honeywell Global Tracking and Kirsen Global Security are examples of companies which have been successful in offering dedicated solutions targeting the global end-to-end container transport chain. Continued strong focus on container transport security and increased supply chain visibility in the coming years will favour the container tracking market. Proving the commercial value, finding efficient solutions for reverse logistics and bringing down hardware prices are key components in order for the container telematics market to reach its full potential.

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  1. Nils Meyer Larsen

    Tracking of containers has clear advantages both from security and logistics perspective. We expect the number of tracked containers to grow, leading to improved supply chain transparency and thus to considerable benefits for shippers, logistics providers, and authorities.

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