Extreme Tracking

Meeting the challenges of tracking shipments in extreme conditions

By Maxim Perry, VP Sales & Product Starcom Systems


Goods are moving around the world further and faster, and reaching the four corners of the globe. As shipping lanes via land, sea and air new challenges are being faced, not least the extreme conditions goods, sometimes very sensitive to temperature or humidity changes, have to pass through.


Tracking where goods are is obviously important, but even more so, what conditions they are travelling through. It is of little use to a shipper if the goods arrive on time but have been affected or even destroyed by extreme cold, heat or humidity en route.


Over the past few years Starcom Systems have worked on solutions to help shippers become smarter, more efficient, and protect their shipments not just from losses geographically but also from conditions. We will take a look at some examples and see the solutions put in place and how they have directed impacted product specifications.


Ain’t No Mountain High Enough… (Extreme Cold)

The challenge of extreme weather conditions
The challenge of extreme weather conditions

Electronic and computing components are usually impervious to cold or heat, until it becomes extreme. A company shipping components through the northern Baltics and Siberia were experiencing major damage due to the severe cold temperatures. It was not just a matter of packaging, but understanding when the temperature within the containers dropped below a certain threshold. If the information on temperature drop was received in time, the company could save damage to the components by acting quickly and saving losses. It is not just financial losses at stake in replacing the damaged items, having to ship from scratch costs time that could lead to cancellation of orders. There is also a cost to the reputation of the company itself. Making sure items arrive on time and undamaged is a critical success factor.


The Dukes of Hazzard… (Transporting Chemicals)

Tracking hazardous materials in hazardous conditions
Tracking hazardous materials in hazardous conditions

Moving hazardous materials in chemical tankers is a challenge in itself. Any tracking units need to be installed with the greatest of care. Units need to be secure and safe, minimizing the possibility of fire for example. Knowing exactly where the chemicals are at any time is a matter of health, plus getting real time alerts on deviations from routes, long stops or towing are critical.


On top of all this, there is a specific and understandable need to monitor not just position but also condition in real time. With Isotanks sometimes taking months on their journey, any tracking needs to have a long battery life so that no charging is needed.


There’s Something Rotten in the State of Denmark… (Transporting Perishables)

Many of the goods shipped can be spoilt by heat, humidity or cold. Being able to track the conditions within the container is essential. At the same time, it is important to see if the container is opened, or even left open allowing conditions to change … like leaving the fridge door open at home, or allowing light into a container of light sensitive materials. 


With shipments crossing international borders, we would also expect that customs may wish to inspect the contents. You would want to be able to grant access to officials, but at the same time you would want to keep the container locked for other people. In fact, there is a need to be able to lock and unlock a container from your location and grant access when needed only. The key is to track where it is, what the conditions are inside, who has access and even if it has been stationery for too long or moved without permission, such as being towed.


If the shipment is going by air, then you also need the ability to turn off cellular capabilities on take off and landing as well.


Solving Problems

Many of the systems developed at Starcom Systems have evolved to meet the demands of modern shipping and provide solutions way beyond geographical tracking. The units are equipped with a host additional sensors and linked to a central operating system that can provide real time email and SMS alerts on a range of predefined and user defined instances.


The Tetis range provides comprehensive container tracking, including temperature, light and humidity information accurate to +/- 0.2°C. The capabilities help resolve the issues of refrigerated containers and sensitive cargos. In addition, the light sensors can also alert when the container is opened. 


The Kylos range brings all the capabilities of Tetis into any shipment – be it part of a larger container or a single box or even a Isotank Chemical Container. Equipped with a full range of sensors, it also comes in smaller unit size and can operate under the most extreme weather conditions for a year without recharging or replacing. With Kylos Air, the units are approved for air freight with International Airlines such as South Western as it has the functionality to turn itself on and off for take off and landings.

Lokies and Watchlock Cube take tracking and security down to the level of the lock itself. Lokies is a smart keyless lock. The central office can open and grant access remotely and detect any attempts to breach the lock in real time. Watchlock Cube is a box running on AA batteries that simply slips over standard C10 padlocks and provides tracking and opening information back to the central office. 


More Than a Tracker

In today’s shipping industry it is not enough to simply track position – you need to be able to track security and conditions even in the most extreme environments.