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Full Control.

Tracking shipments in real-time and with precision – it’s possible with Lufthansa Cargo’s new Realtime Tracking. The technology behind it fits into an envelope that travels with the shipments.

Where is the air cargo shipment with the automotive parts for the plant outside of Shanghai? And the show horses from Argentina – have they landed in Germany and been transferred to the customized truck as planned? Customers can now get immediate and precise answers to these kinds of questions with the click of a mouse – at the web portal www.lufthansa-cargo.com/realtime.

Realtime Tracking is the new service that calculates the location of shipments in real-time. It is precise within a few hundred meters nearly everywhere in the world. The tracking service covers the entire delivery chain, including pre-carriage and on-carriage logistics. It can deliver valuable information, especially for shipments with time-criticial and valuable cargo.

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It’s all made possible by a tiny device that accompanies the shipment. This device weighs only 46 grams and is hardly larger than a credit card. A padded envelope serves as its permanent packaging. 

“The tracking device functions so precisely because it uses the mobile communications standard GSM,” says Niko Hossain. As project manager, he was significantly involved in the implementation of the service. The GSM standard might be less well known than GPS. But GSM, as opposed to GPS, functions reliably under difficult conditions – for example in closed rooms or containers. That is a decisive advantage for air cargo shipments.

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“What’s special about our device is that right now it’s the only one in the world that meets the EASA’s high testing standards,” says Martina Vollbrecht, head of Product Management Standard & Express, who was also in charge of the Realtime Tracking project.

“Thus on the issue of flight security, the highest standards have been fulfilled. That was very important for us.” In accordance with the requirements of the various national aviation agencies, the device automatically shuts off while on board – and turns back on after landing.

Customers can use Realtime Tracking without having to buy additional equipment or software. They only have to register once for the service, then they can order the tracking devices, on a rental basis with a ­minimum order quantity of 20 items. They are delivered by courier. “The customer thus has low, earmarked costs and ultimately no investment risk,” says Niko Hossain. The tracking device is activated by pressing a button on the padded envelope. From that moment on, the device sends a signal that can be tracked over cell towers. 
    
When the shipment reaches its destination, the same button ­deactivates the tracking. The user simply tosses the postage-paid and pre-addressed envelope into a mailbox, and the rented device goes back to the manufacturer. There it is serviced, if necessary.

The shipment tracking device also gets high marks with regard to handling: “It is very robust and damage-resistant, even if you drop it on a hard floor,” says Hossain. The tracking portal is ready-to-use as an app on the internet and doesn’t have to be installed. It functions everywhere and on any computer. Each customer receives a personal account where the status of the shipment can be called up.

In the future the service will be even more extensive. “We’re already working on integrating more functions,” says Martina Vollbrecht. Additional sensors are planned, which will register the external conditions. By using geofencing technologies, automatically generated status reports will inform customers as soon as the shipment has reached its destination area.

“Thus on the issue of flight security, the highest standards have been fulfilled. That was very important for us.” In accordance with the requirements of the various national aviation agencies, the device automatically shuts off while on board – and turns back on after landing.

Customers can use Realtime Tracking without having to buy additional equipment or software. They only have to register once for the service, then they can order the tracking devices, on a rental basis with a ­minimum order quantity of 20 items. They are delivered by courier. “The customer thus has low, earmarked costs and ultimately no investment risk,” says Niko Hossain. The tracking device is activated by pressing a button on the padded envelope. From that moment on, the device sends a signal that can be tracked over cell towers. 

When the shipment reaches its destination, the same button ­deactivates the tracking. The user simply tosses the postage-paid and pre-addressed envelope into a mailbox, and the rented device goes back to the manufacturer. There it is serviced, if necessary.

The shipment tracking device also gets high marks with regard to handling: “It is very robust and damage-resistant, even if you drop it on a hard floor,” says Hossain. The tracking portal is ready-to-use as an app on the internet and doesn’t have to be installed. It functions everywhere and on any computer. Each customer receives a personal account where the status of the shipment can be called up.

In the future the service will be even more extensive. “We’re already working on integrating more functions,” says Martina Vollbrecht. Additional sensors are planned, which will register the external conditions. By using geofencing technologies, automatically generated status reports will inform customers as soon as the shipment has reached its destination area.

 

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The Philippines – relief flight as test.

Realtime Tracking successfully completed a practice run in November of 2013 – on a flight with relief supplies to the Philippines, where typhoon Haiyan had left a path of destruction. In cooperation with the emergency aid organization Aktion Deutschland Hilft, Lufthansa sponsored two relief flights carrying medical supplies and water treatment systems.

On the second flight, a non-scheduled Lufthansa Cargo MD-11F, ten transport units were equipped with the tracking modules. The shipments started in Frankfurt, then flew over the United Arab Emirates to Manila. From there they were transported, with the help of Kuehne + Nagel, to the worst-hit islands of Leyte and Cebu. It took only seconds to find out that the aid had arrived where it was needed.

Photos:

Jürgen Mai, Lufthansa Cargo

planet 1/2014