This is our third post on interoperable active RFID and the ISO 18000-7 standard. So far, we have discussed how the standard allows true interoperability in the active RFID technology environment and we have discussed where the value of that standard can be derived in the international shipments market. In this post we will discuss what is needed to deliver that value.
In our last post, we introduced the concept of an evaluation framework that can be used define the market as well as the key business drivers. Now we are adding to that framework the attributes that any solution needs to be capable of delivering the key business values of shipment intrusion assurance, in-transit visibility, and cross border regulatory compliance. These attributes can be used, in a broad sense, to evaluate the products and solutions currently on the market.
Technology Framework to Deliver Value
The technology framework to deliver the business value to the key stakeholders must incorporate physical security of the container, sensor assessment of key environmental factors affecting the shipment, multiple form factors for tags and readers, enablement of storage and recall of user-defined shipment data (e.g. master bill, bill of lading, cargo manifest, packing slip, etc.), determination of container location in the world that is situationally appropriate, and communication of these data to in-transit visibility servers on demand or on a schedule.
Physical security of the container should allow for intrusion detection at a minimum, with intrusion attempt detection preferred. The inclusion of sensors for this detection as well as assessment of shipment environmental factors (e.g. temperature, shock, humidity, light, door opening, vibration, etc.) is essential. Multiple form factors allow for the application of interoperable tags with similar functional capabilities in different shipment and cargo packaging situations (e.g. attachment to a container, pallet, vehicle, etc.). Readers with similar capabilities but also in different form factors (e.g. fixed, transportable, hand held terminal, imbedded in a laptop or notebook, etc.) allow greater flexibility for data collection and tag location determination.
The ability to carry shipment/user defined data when coupled with a hand held device allows determination of shipment characteristics, validation of shipment integrity, and consignee/consignor determination without connection to a central computer system or network. Such on tag data also enable searching of multiple containers to find the one(s) that match specific criteria and then determining their specific identity and location.
Container location determination is going to be dependent on reader infrastructure capabilities. Based on the specific situational need, location in proximity to a fixed or hand held interrogator may be adequate, whereas in other situations determination of the latitude and longitude in real time may be more appropriate.
Further, the in-transit visibility server needs to allow secure, user appropriate interaction to determine shipment location and contents. It needs to:
• support alarming and notification to specified recipients
• support push communications from the reader infrastructure
• enable communication of specific message types to predefined entities (e.g. consignee, consignor, carrier, freight forwarder, customs authority, border control, etc.) to enhance the shipment’s movement through the supply chain.
Solution Framework to Deliver Value
The solution framework is the collection of functions necessary to support the movement of the shipment through the supply chain. The solution needs to include:
a. The manufacturer of the hardware attached to the containers and the reader infrastructure.
b. The reader infrastructure provider and maintainer.
c. The in-transit visibility server infrastructure provider.
d. The reverse logistics service provider that helps insure that the tags are reused and may also provide maintenance service for the tags.
These functional elements are all needed and may be provided by one or more entities. For instance, some shippers want full control of their shipments, and they may determine that it is best for them to own their own tags and manage the maintenance and reverse logistics of the tags themselves. Other shippers may want the benefits without direct ownership and will contract with a third party services provider to take care of the operational details.
Related posts in this series are :