Tracking of land-based freight movements has been possible for many years using a combination of satellite and GSM networks. However, as hijackers become increasingly sophisticated, there’s latent demand to provide a solution that covers both the truck and the trailer efficiently and cost-effectively, with seamless international coverage.
An effective logistics and transport IoT solution should be able to operate at three levels, namely:
- Real-time collection and presentation of data
- Needs to be low-powered, easy to install, have a small footprint, and be cost-effective to run
- Needs to be globally accessible and not restricted to an operator or local networks
Sam Schalkwyk has been in the tracking business for over 30 years. Starting out with the trunk radio network before moving to SMS, GSM, and satellite networks. Sam set up Streamline SA in 2006 with the aim of providing a complete tracking and solution offering to businesses across South Africa. As the business has grown, Streamline SA now works across Africa with resellers in Namibia and Zimbabwe. Technology does not stand still and Streamline prides itself on providing the best and most effective solutions available to a wide and growing customer base.
Road transport of goods across Africa is key to supplying large cities and the more remote townships. But with many long and deserted roads between destinations, there is a growing trend towards the hijacking of containers. While existing solutions tend to place a tracker on the cabin, the trailer is often left untraceable. Where satellite and GSM tracking solutions are in place, cost (satellite) becomes a consideration, and reliability (GSM network roaming) becomes an issue. Couple this with the ever-growing sophistication of the hijackers, who are able to scan for tracking devices, and the problem is becoming acute.
There are many reported cases of trucks being pulled over by hijackers, the trailer is then de-coupled to disappear while the cabin is escorted on its original route (the tracker in the cabin reports as usual and no suspicions are raised) and the theft is not reported for hours, by which time the goods have gone.
The challenge is to find a reliable and cost-effective solution for both the cabin and the trailer.
Early in Q1 2019, Streamline SA connected with Thingstream (now u-blox - see press release) and immediately began pulling together a pilot solution that would address the issues of GSM roaming connectivity and cost versus benefit. The solution, which is currently being widely piloted, works as follows. A small Thingstream connected device is hidden on the trailer, and when the trailer is de-coupled (for whatever reason) from the cabin, the device wakes up and starts pinging the relevant organization. As the Thingstream powered solution works across any cellular network, connectivity is seamless. And because Thingstream uses the MQTT protocol over GSM, the service is very cost-effective and low powered.
The full commercial roll-out of the Streamline/Thingstream connected solution is expected to go live in Q3 2019, offering a totally new approach to tracking for the logistics and transport sector internationally.
- International connectivity – there is no constraint as to where a vehicle can be tracked – this is a global solution.
- Cost-effective – because Thingstream uses existing GSM networks there are no expensive satellite charges incurred. (The connectivity is provider agnostic, Thingstream connected devices just latch onto the strongest signal)
- Full visibility – for the first time operators have full visibility of their fleet of trailers/containers and are instantly notified if an unscheduled de-coupling takes place.
- Small form factor and low powered – the device can be hidden easily to avoid detection and boasts industry-leading endurance.