Businesses know that success comes with an equal amount of risks. A technology company that dominates the market becomes a target for regulatory oversight. A sports team that drafts the best players is met with skyrocketing salary demands. In the shipping industry, the explosive growth of a global economy brings in more opportunities for cargo theft, whether it is from a truck in the local area or from a ship in the high seas.
Cargo theft is a major economic drain. In the United States alone, it is estimated that $15 billion worth of goods are stolen every year, of which trucks account for $11 billion. It is a number that is increasing every year. In 2014, at any given moment, there were five to six million containers on ships throughout the world. Each year, billions of tons of cargo, worth trillions of dollars, are shipped across the United States. Such volume provides ample opportunity for cargo theft, especially with organized crime becoming more and more sophisticated.
The loss seems inevitable and preventing it requires a new way of thinking, one that is based on a smart Internet of Things (IoT) system of sensors and data. While theft will always be a problem, this kind of system can create stronger and smarter security, reducing loss and hence, increasing profit.
Using IoT to Improve Cargo Tracking
Sensors are not new ideas for the shipping industry, but criminals often knew where they were and how to disable them. One of the reasons that technology advancements in IoT are so exciting is because today many new sensors are tiny and can be put into the walls of the shipping containers themselves, making them virtually undetectable.
Having a system of GPS-enabled sensors on every truck, ship, rail car – and every piece of freight – can help companies track their goods at every step. Let us use trucks as an example of how this might work:
Some companies have already started experimenting with geolocation technology and engine monitors to alert fleet management if a truck has made an unusual stop. This can be an early indicator that something is amiss, whether the driver has been waylaid or there has been a mechanical malfunction. Even if it ‘just’ happens to be a mechanical problem, any downtime is an opportunity for cargo theft. Tracking technology lets companies know when they must be on high alert.
Where does the IoT functionality come in? If an unusual stop is detected, individual containers that are hooked up to the IoT system can lock automatically. This remote locking/unlocking capability can be done by the containers themselves through direct communication with the truck. It does not require a central repository through which the response must be channeled. The containers ‘know’ that something is amiss and instantly protect the cargo from theft.
Tracking technology can also be used to set up a geo-fence around routes. This ensures that freight and trucks do not deviate from a planned course. An alert can be set up to let fleet management know if cargo has gone beyond, say, one mile away from the highway.
If cargo is stolen when a truck stops to fill gas, it can also be easily tracked and located from the moment it leaves the truck. Sensors will be able to immediately detect if a shipping container is not offloaded at the desired destination and can instantly begin tracking it. Sensors are smart enough to even detect if the loading door is opened at any point during the trip. Even if the freight is somehow separated from the trackers, companies are still left with a better-known starting point and a more comprehensive report for the insurance agency.
Beyond Detection: Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Even if a loss occurs, there are still huge benefits that can be gained from these sensors since they create terabytes of big data. All this data, organized using data analytics, can help determine theft patterns (if any).
We may never actually recover the goods, but with enough sensors and tracking data, we have as much information on the criminals as they have on us. The data tells us when and where and how they strike. Algorithmic criminology is a growing field that has earned the respect of law enforcement, and Big Data fueled by IoT can be used to help the shipping industry avoid cargo theft.
Beyond that, IoT can provide biometric sensors to protect drivers, keeping fleet managers alert to signs of tiredness or erratic driving. This information can help shipping companies plan routes that maximize efficiency while minimizing driver fatigue. More than accidents, tired drivers are likely to make unplanned stops, which is when they are most vulnerable.
Protect IoT Systems with OTA Cybersecurity
Every advancement brings with it potential danger, more sensors and connections bring in more opportunities for cybercriminals to steal information about goods that are shipped and the shipping routes that are used, allowing them to turn cybercrime into physical crime. There needs to be a way to send out immediate security patches when criminals break into the system. But it is impossible to call in every truck (and shipping container). To stay ahead, industry leaders must follow the example of the auto industry by implementing Over-The-Air (OTA) software updating mechanisms.
With this kind of security, if there is a ‘break-in’ (digitally speaking), it is immediately blocked. But not only that, every sensor in the network will also be alerted to block any similar attacks. The system can instantly send out an enhanced layer of security across your entire fleet. It can also send out software updates as the system improves and we learn more about how to keep cargo safe.
OTA software updates and security patches can protect IoT. IoT can, in turn, protect cargo from being lost or stolen. Cargo drives the global economy, in a world filled with supply chains and long highways, we need to protect it every step of the way.
As the auto industry is changed by technological and economic currents, OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers will need to partner with technological specialists to thrive in the era of the software defined car. Movimento’s expertise is rooted in our background as an automotive company. This has allowed us to create the technological platform that underpins the future of the software driven and self-driven car. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can work together.