May 18, 2017

Honeywell launches freight-tracking tool for high-value goods

Honeywell launches freight-tracking tool for high-value goods

IoT-based solution was developed with partners Intel, DHL, Expeditors, and Kuehne + Nagel.

By Ben Ames

Honeywell International Inc. today rolled out a shipment tracking solution for high-value and perishable goods, adding another page to the industrial powerhouse's growing catalog of products for retail and supply chain operations.

Honeywell said its "Connected Freight" system could help users reduce damage, loss, and theft by providing real-time location and status details for critical freight in transit, whether on the road, rail, or sea.

The system works by attaching sensor tags to pallets or individual packages, collecting their signals through a mobile gateway placed inside a truck or shipping container, and transmitting that data over cellular networks to a cloud-based platform, Honeywell said. Users can monitor the variables that most affect their cargo, such as temperature, shock, tilt, humidity, pressure, or intrusion detection, Honeywell said.

Technology companies such as BlackBerry Ltd. and Roambee Corp. also provide asset-monitoring tags that bolt on to trucks and containers to monitor data over wireless sensors. Honeywell said its system is different because it collects data from a handful of relatively inexpensive sensor tags that are priced so low that they are considered disposable, Sameer Agrawal, vice president of supply chain solutions at Honeywell's Safety & Productivity Solutions unit, said in an interview. The system then routes that data through a reusable "smart gateway" that contains enough computing power to perform edge-processing functions and alert local warehouse workers or truck drivers of immediate problems, he said

The Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled system was originally developed by chipmaker Intel Corp. to track the movement of high-value supplies through its corporate supply chain, Intel Corporate Vice President CJ Bruno told reporters in Minneapolis Friday prior to today's launch. Honeywell then brought the system to market through a collaboration with Intel and with third-party logistics (3PL) providers Deutsche Post DHL Group, Expeditors Inc., and Kuehne + Nagel International AG.

The tags are currently used to protect high-value goods such as high-technology items, precision equipment, medical devices, or perishable goods, Agrawal said. But Honeywell's long-term vision is to extend that model to a much broader market by driving down the cost of sensors through mass production of "smart labels" that can be affixed to individual items of far lower value, he said.

"The Internet of Things can play a significant role in the connected supply chain, but [we] need to figure out the places where we want to connect and figure out why we want to connect," Agrawal said. "Today's consumers are ordering products off of Amazon, and they can get shipping and tracking information so easily, but it is a lot harder for businesses to get similar information for their shipments, and the accuracy is severely limited."

Honeywell's goal is to provide both the freight's owner and its custodian with improved information about any given shipment, Agrawal said.These units of "intelligent freight" should be able to answer three sets of questions, said Agrawal:

1) Where am I?
2) What condition am I in, and do I need help?
3) When will I reach my destination, and what processes need to be followed when I arrive?

Morris Plains, N.J.-based Honeywell entered the supply chain management market when it acquired data-capture equipment supplier Intermec Inc. in 2012. It has steadily expanded its presence since then, acquiring material handling automation provider Intelligrated in 2016 and announcing a partnership with Intel earlier this year to develop IoT solutions for retail and logistics applications.

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

More articles by Ben Ames

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