Transportation (Getting Vertical)

M2M Offers DHL Visibility on Urgent Shipments

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  November 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

During his 4GWE keynote speech earlier this fall in Austin, Matt Groppe, director of global business development for DHL SAMEDAY, said that the shipping market is changing as customers are demanding more visibility into their deliverables.

“In transportation, there’s a black hole, and we had to innovate to [where] we can’t see,” said Groppe at the 4GWE event, which was co-located with ITEXPO (News - Alert) in September.

To address that black hole, he said, DHL leverages an M2M-enabled full sensor suite. The sensors are placed with shipments to enable DHL and its customers to track the whereabouts and condition of package contents. Knowing the location and condition of a package is always good. But when it comes to highly sensitive or urgently needed shipments, it’s mandatory, indicated Groppe. He is in charge of the SAMEDAY operation within DHL that handles high-profile and emergency shipments.

“Try misplacing a radioactive drill bit in the Middle East,” he said.

Groppe talked about the helplessness and anticipation regular airline passengers sometimes feel when waiting for their luggage to appear on the carousel at their destination airport. Imagine, he said, how anxious a plant manufacturer whose company is losing $10,000 an hour waiting for a part to arrive, or a surgeon who’s awaiting materials for an urgent medical procedure, must feel. Armed with M2M and sensors, he said, DHL can let them know when to expect what they’re waiting for and that the contents of their package is in usable condition.

He added that there are tremendous opportunities for M2M to “plug other holes in the supply chain.”

DHL is a customer of OnAsset (News - Alert) Intelligence Inc. OnAsset offers the Vision Software Platform, a SaaS-based solution that provides shippers with 24x7 visibility as to the whereabouts and condition of their high-value assets in the supply chain. It features mapping with custom data overlays that show in real time the state, location and status history of assets being tracked by OnAsset SENTRY devices.

“Our SENTRY asset tracking devices provide a wealth of data, and the Vision platform enables customers to interpret the data, and turn it into actionable intelligence in the event of an alert during transit,” said Chris Robison, vice president of development and professional services for OnAsset Intelligence. “The latest version of Vision incorporates functionality that’s specifically designed to work the way that shippers and logistics providers work. Much more than just ‘dots-on-a-map’, Vision is a business-centric tool that helps companies secure their supply chain, and reduce their transportation costs.”      

There are many areas in which M2M can be leveraged, from shipping, to health care (monitoring patients in their homes), to real estate (tracking the activity on a lockbox) to pharmaceutical (checking the condition of medication en route) industries, to name just a few.

Nikki Cuban, vice president of marketing and business development for OnAsset, earlier this year told INTERNET TELEPHONY that its customers include CDC Software (News - Alert), a cloud-based ERP outfit; CH Robinson Worldwide; DHL; and Flemming Cargo Securement.

OnAsset offers its solution for a monthly service fee per M2M device, and the network and management piece is provided at a per-device fee lower than most people’s monthly cell phone bills, Cuban said.

The OnAsset service leverages M2M technology to look at a variety of factors. For example, if an M2M device on a palette or box registers excessive shock, that’s typically a sign of theft, Cuban explained. In this case, one of the companies can take steps to check the cargo and call the police, if needed. This capability already has registered big returns for some of the companies using the OnAsset solution, including one business that was able to recover more than $1 million in stolen goods.

In addition to shock, the OnAsset devices can provide information on humidity, temperature, pressure, and light relative to a shipment. Cuban noted that maintaining certain levels of humidity and temperature windows is important in ensuring the effectiveness of some medications and the safety of many things intended for human consumption.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi