In the sector of logistics, cold chain transportation holds a very special place since itâ€™s responsible for transporting goods that cannot be conveyed via conventional mediums. Perishable and environment-sensitive products such as medicines and foods are shipped in air-conditioned containers to retain their freshness and quality.
The cold chain transportation is clearly dependent on these refrigerated containers (also known as reefers). They allow transportation companies to ship goods at large distances while protecting them from harm due to factors such as high temperature or humidity. These refrigerated containers are hence an essential aspect of modern-day supply chains, allowing long-range shipments of goods resulting in reduced product wastage.
The reefer business is one of the fastest-growing areas in the shipping industry. On a global scale, the cold chain market stood at a valuation of $160 billion in 2018 and is estimated to reach $585 billion in 2026. Advancement in reefers will play a major role in this explosive growth and the technology of IoT will be an essential contributor for the same.
How does a Refrigerated Container Operate?
The first implementation of using can be dated back to the late 1930s when the first mechanically powered refrigerated trailers were used for commercial applications. Not much since then has been changed in the way a typical reefer operates.
Two fans push chilled air generated from the cooling engine downwards along the wall of the container. The air then passes under a baffle plate and enters the actual storage space from the floor via a T-shaped decking. The fans keep circulating the air into the container, allowing the cargo to maintain a steady temperature. Based on the type of cargo being shipped, either the same air can be circulated in the container or fresh ambient air can be drawn in to prevent goods from deteriorating.
Reefers henceforth allow logistics and transportation companies to transport products to vast distances and ensure them that their customers will receive unblemished goods.
However, these companies often lack the means to track the condition and location of the goods being transported. With the help of IoT solution, companies can now gain visibility into their cold chain operations and ensure the optimum performance of these reefers.
IoT in Reefers: End to end Cargo Monitoring Solution
By leveraging monitoring and analytics capabilities of IoT technology, the working and performance of reefers can be monitored and controlled from remote locations.
Powered by high-speed internet, high-performance sensory devices, and the global reach of smartphones, this technology creates a digital ecosystem where different devices connect and share information with each other. The use of IoT technology allows fleet companies and logistics to utilizing myriad opportunities in terms of remote monitoring, real-time data stream processing, and live insight generation.
Embracing the technology of the Internet of Things allow logistics to use a remote cargo monitoring system that enables them to monitor and remotely adjust the internal conditions of a container. Letâ€™s look at some benefits of using such a system:
1) Internal Condition Monitoring:
Reefers as discussed above are responsible for maintaining a consistent internal temperature for the cargo being shipped. Through remote container monitoring systems, companies can now track the internal conditions of a container from a far-off location.
Quality depreciating parameters such as temperature and humidity can be supervised at all times to ensure that the cargo is being shipped in safe and controlled surroundings. They can hence not ensure the freshness of products and reduce wastage, but also allow them to gain alerts whenever the parameters cross above or below the permissible limits. In such, condition the cargo carrier can be alerted about the fluctuations and the varying parameters can be brought under control instantly.
This helps companies to reduce supervision costs and deliver fresh products, resulting in better customer satisfaction.
2) Remote Reefer Control:
Along with monitoring capabilities, logistics also gain the benefit to remotely control some operations associated with cold chain transportation.
In the presence of moisture, water, or condensation; cold air can degrade cargo packaging, result in the formation of molds, and manifest bacteria that can further affect the quality of the goods. In such cases, relying on cargo carrier seems to be the best option but in reality, it isnâ€™t. The cold air from the storage area of the container when comes in contact with outside results in the formation of condensation that can further impact the quality of the products. Hence, drivers cannot be asked to stop the vehicle, open the gate of the container, and handle the issue.
However, by leveraging the remote controlling facilities of IoT, these issues can be handled remotely. The evaporator attached to the cooling engine can be remotely accessed to remove the abovementioned constituents from the container. Additionally, the use of evaporator can be smartly handled to utilize less energy and direct the available power for cooling purposes.
The container monitoring systems generated through IoT technology are allowing logistics companies to gain clear cut visibility in their cold chain transportation operations. They can now track different variables that affect the variables affecting the quality of the product and hence make sure that their customer receives fresh products.
In addition to the existing system, IoT technology can also be used to track the flow of individual goods within the containers and provide the same information to the client with even greater transparency. A solution with such potential can also help in tracking the shelf life of perishable goods and greatly reducing the wastage of products being shipped. Doing this will help transportation companies and fleets to enjoy a seamless revenue stream even when the shipping rates vary in the competitive market.