Wireless containers – RFID put to use

A container that can be automatically identified throughout the transport chain. With a built-in burglar alarm. Sounds nice? Of course it does.

Readout of an electronic seal using a handheld RFID reading device

Readout of an electronic seal using a handheld RFID reading device

The EU project CHINOS has proved that identification of shipping containers in container terminals and other logistics hubs using current Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is not only feasible, but also quite useful. With RFID, information can be read and written without actually seeing the container. The reading process can be automated, making for instance identification at terminal gates much more efficient. Benefits are evident for both transport and terminal operators.

During the demonstration phase of the project, more than 60 containers were equipped with tags – passive transponders containing the container number. The containers were also equipped with electronic seals, a combination of conventional high-security bolt seals and active transponders. These devices lock the container doors and transmit the seal number and status (intact or breached) to a reading device. As a consequence, container identification and seal check can be performed fully automatically without any human intervention, improving logistics processes, safety of terminal workers, and container security. Furthermore, errors which occur during manual data acquisition are eliminated.

The applicability and usefulness of the CHINOS system was successfully demonstrated at several European locations, in particular North Sea Terminal Bremerhaven (NTB), Germany, the Port of Thessaloniki, Greece, the POLZUG rail terminal at Warsaw, Poland, and Cargo Center Graz, Austria, always in close cooperation with practitioners on site.

In order to be as interoperable as possible, the CHINOS system is compliant to current standards. During the project, which ended in 2009, it became evident that equipping each and every shipping container worldwide with RFID transponders would not be feasible, and it still won’t be within the next three to five years due to organisational obstacles in worldwide container businesses.

This technology is well suited to be applied for closed container loops already today and implies considerable benefits here.

More information are available on the project website.

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