What if the cargo transported in your truck could recognize a situation of danger and propose you a place to spend the night and wait for calmer water, next exit and then right?
Does it even make coffee?
Imagine a pallet of cargo that understands if it has been loaded in the wrong truck and alerts the warehouse manager of the error. Imagine a box of fresh food that realizes if its temperature has risen too much during the transport and registers the event for the final customer. Imagine a container that upon unloading from the ship sends its data to the customs. All this, without human intervention or manual control.
Immediate benefits that shippers, warehouses, transport service providers and authorities – to name those involved in the vision above – can expect are early fault detection and repair, time saving, reduced possibilities of (human) mistakes, a better control of the freight conditions during transport.
The good news is, all this is possible. Even better, it’s been tested.
All these capabilities are examples of what the so called Intelligent Cargo can do. Formally, intelligence is meant as the capabilities of identify itself and the environment around, to access services, monitor and register properties of the own status, and being able to behave independently and take autonomous decisions.
Several services have been tested in the Intelligent Cargo implementation, that can be combined to realize the desired business functionalities, including shipment management, access to sensors, transport monitoring and tender, document repository, traffic information, event management, object identification, location information (Geofencing and Geocoding). Besides, several pilot applications were developed and tested for distributed and centralized data gathering, anomaly detection, analysis and prediction based on approaches like semantic web and domain ontologies.
The EURIDICE implementation
It took four years (2008-12) and a EU-funded project, EURIDICE, to implement and test a platform proving the Intelligent Cargo concept in the freight transport management scenario. Objective: making the cargo able to have and collect information about itself, its movement and context and to exchange it with the supply chain stakeholders. Eight pilot activities verified the feasibility of the implementation and the quality of the offered services.
From a strictly technical point of view, the cargo intelligence was made possible by distributing pieces of software on the cargo items at different levels (box, pallet, container) and coupling them with sensors and actuators, both on the cargo and spread in the environment (eg roadside equipment, antennas in the truck etc). In this way, these pieces of software (agents) can retrieve information about their context and monitor physical properties, such as the cargo geographic location, temperature, shocks etc. More than that, these agents are programmed to react upon pre-defined events and communicate with a central platform, that establishes which services should be enabled.
More information is available on www.euridice-project.eu.