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Digitizing Container Supply Chains: Why Live Data from the IoT Holds the Key

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Maritime history is usually divided into separate eras: the Age of Navigation, the Age of Discovery, the Age of Sail, the Age of Steam and the Rise of Steamships and Motorships. During this time, innovations such as steering oars and rudders, navigation by the stars, the keel, the triangular sail, maritime engines and the chronometer have redefined what was possible.

In the 21st century, it is time for technology to lead a new revolution

transporttopics_containers_300x250In ocean freight supply chains, meaningful innovation is long overdue. The container shipping industry in the past decade and more has been characterized by intense peaks and troughs, rivalries and rate wars – but little in the way of real technological innovation. While container ships, ports and inland logistics alike have gotten much larger, they have not become much smarter, nor more connected to the wider logistics ecosystem.

But not for much longer, it seems. A wave of change is coming to container supply chains both on land and, increasingly, at sea, driven on the one hand by rapid advances in the cloud, digitization, automation and autonomous traffic, and on the other by evolving market dynamics.

In contrast to just a couple of years back, technology-enabled change is increasingly on the senior management agenda as an “when, not if” response to help manage massive complexity and scale, strip out waste and cost, and repurpose the ponderous might of maritime container trade for the on-demand era of Amazon and Alibaba.

New technology plays are now coming thick and fast – and not just from ‘disruptive’ start-ups. Consider Maersk’s evolving digital container logistics strategy, including recent tie-ups with Microsoft and IBM, on top of its smart container program. Or OneSea, a consortium of established marine and IT names with a vision to make autonomous commercial maritime traffic a reality by 2025. Or the tie-up between Port of Los Angeles and GE to launch a digital port information platform. Or DP World’s recently-announced cargo tracking initiative for shippers. The list goes on. The technology genie is well and truly out of the bottle – even if current reality does not, yet, match up to the digital hype.

connected containers

A wave of change is coming to container supply chains, driven on the one hand by rapid advances in the cloud, digitization, automation and autonomous traffic, and on the other by evolving market dynamics.

Commercially and operationally, what these digital initiatives share as a goal, and a need, is comprehensive, automated, systematic visibility to events, processes and status. The OneSea project may seem like an outlier here, but just try and run an unmanned ship, or robotized container terminal, or automated warehouse, without data.

Of course, the container supply chain is already awash with information – commercial, legal and operational. Indeed, the cost of physically moving a container is less than half the cost of handling the information related to its transport, said Maersk in a 2016 study of the trade pipeline. All this latent data can potentially deliver lots of operational and business value when properly mined on a massive, automated scale, as some start-ups are now setting out to do.

But all too often, the data on which supply chains rely remains after the fact, fragmented and unreliable – not surprising, given how much manual keying and rekeying is still involved. This may be a rather shaky foundation on which to build the digital revolution. At the TOC Asia conference this April, Electrolux executive Bjorn Vang Jensen lamented that the shipper currently gets “horrible visibility” from its container supply chain and that “data is not satisfactory.”

This is where Internet of Things (IoT) technology comes in. Worldwide, we are witnessing an explosion of ‘smart, connected things’, exploiting technological advances and reducing costs in telematics devices, sensors, applications, software and communications networks – including cellular, satellite and near-field. Analyst IHS Markit predicts 30.7 billion IoT devices in consumer and industrial use by 2020, rising to 75.4 billion in 2025.

As discussed in our new podcast for The Loadstar IoT connectivity is now being actively adopted on a growing array of container transport assets, including dry and refrigerated containers, chassis and gensets, both for domestic and international maritime operations. One recent large-scale adopter is US multimodal giant JB Hunt, installing solar-based IoT tracking devices with internal cargo sensors on more than 90,000 intermodal containers and trailers.

Technology is now enabling users to track not just the in-transit and geo-fenced location of their assets at any given time, but also the actual status of both asset and cargo – from loaded vs empty, internal temperature/atmosphere, shock, motion, fuel and oil levels, to tyre pressures, door open/close, device on/off, tampering/intrusion and more.

Until recently, the ocean leg has been something of a ‘black hole’ in all of this. That visibility gap is now being closed thanks to developments in low-cost, on-ship cellular GSM networks like VesselConnect, our new solution just launched in partnership with Vobal Technologies. The first adopter is US carrier TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, long a proponent of smart containers, which is using the system to monitor on-water refrigerated shipments of pharma and food cargoes.

Why does this all matter to broader container supply chain digitization efforts? Because data from connected containers (read chassis, gensets, vessels) is reliable, real and real-time. It reveals what is, versus what was planned or anticipated, in the moment, shining a light not just on asset operations but on supply chain processes, flows and hand-offs – not least in the complex ship-port-landside interface.

remote container managementIt’s telling that recent adopters such as JB Hunt cite the ability to deliver better supply chain visibility to their customers as a prime reason for investing in container and trailer telematics, allowing them to deliver new value beyond just transportation. In a short space of time, asset tracking could become just the basic entry level for IoT adoption, with supply chain network optimization as the considerably bigger prize.

For global maritime container supply chains, the next decade may come to be known as the Age of Visibility. Change is certainly coming and the current and next generation of IoT technology will be central to the transformation, in ways we probably don’t yet even grasp.

ORBCOMM is looking forward to taking part in the forthcoming TOC Europe Conference in Amsterdam, June 27-29, as a sponsor and speaker. We’ll be joining a session in the Container Supply Chain Conference looking at how digitalization can help the industry achieve higher performance to discuss how the IoT is evolving and what this means for all the supply chain stakeholders

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Posted in 1. Transportation, 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: , , ,

Hurricane Business Continuity: Wireless Failover Keeps You Connected When Disaster Strikes

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hurricane internet failoverFor businesses on the U.S. East coast, hurricane disaster is a real possibility every year. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy became the second costliest superstorm in America’s history, impacting over 300,000 US businesses with assessed damages in the range of $75 billion USD.

Network outages due to damaged wirelines were reported to have led to loss of revenue and halting of business operations where companies were no longer able to process transactions and employees were unable to access company networks and data.

Despite so much at stake, few businesses residing in high-risk areas take preventative measures against loss of internet connectivity. In a previously published post on wireless failover for business continuity, we discussed reasons why more and more companies are choosing to adopt a failover solution to maintain uninterrupted connectivity in the event of a network outage.

First of all, it’s preventative. When the primary wired connection goes down due to a short-term malfunction or long-term catastrophe, a backup wireless failover solution will kick in automatically to deliver sustained connectivity, both for external transactions and internal operations.

But what about cost? The key to a good wireless failover solution is that it offers an affordable, cost-effective way to ensure continuity of business in the event of a network outage. It’s a form of insurance that brings peace of mind to any business, especially in times of inclement weather. It further saves money by limiting the number of IT personnel needed for on-site technical maintenance through an option called out-of-band management, which allows for remote troubleshooting and configuration of network devices.

Security is also at the forefront of today’s business concerns. Fortunately, good wireless network failover solutions are able to integrate into existing security structures with strict measures in place, such as PCI compliance for credit card security.

hurricane business continuity

The Economist reported when Hurricane Sandy struck that wirelines were soaked with salty flood water causing disruption of internet services to millions of customers. It was a natural disaster that tested the readiness of businesses to cope with disaster. “Firms are increasingly reliant on networks, but often fail to understand the risks that networks bring,” management guru Don Tapscott was quoted as saying in the article.

No company expects that at any one time, a long-term network outage could have such a catastrophic effect on their bottom line, but it’s something that could strike in any given year. Just like car or health insurance, it’s not something you think about when the going is good, but it’s when the going gets bad that it really counts.

Protect your business with a hurricane preparedness failover solution. Learn more at www2.orbcomm.com/hurricane, or contact us for more information.

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Posted in 6. Networks Tagged with: , , ,

Podcast: The Road to Supply Chain Logistics Digitization

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In the latest podcast by The Loadstar supply chain logistics news portal, ORBCOMM’s Christian Allred (SVP & GM Global Sales) and Michael Dempsey (VP Container and Port Solutions) talk industry trends and developments in connecting road and intermodal assets with Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Listen to this podcast, recorded live at Transport Logistic in Munich (where ORBCOMM launched its new VesselConnect solution), to hear how new technology is meeting the needs of a changing regulatory environment, as well as growing expectations from cargo owners and their logistics services providers.

ORBCOMM is looking forward to taking part in the forthcoming TOC Europe Conference in Amsterdam, June 27-29, as a sponsor and speaker. We’ll be joining a session in the Container Supply Chain Conference looking at how digitalization can help the industry achieve higher performance to discuss how the IoT is evolving and what this means for all the supply chain stakeholders.

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Posted in 1. Transportation, 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: , , ,

AIS Data: Advocating for our Oceans with 22 Million Points Per Day

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Marine-Satellite_2017_300-x-250In May, Reuters reported that authorities in West Africa detained seven Chinese vessels for fishing illegally. In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau, inspectors boarded the ships to find violations of regulations relating to catching protected fish and using nets with small holes to facilitate bigger hauls. Boat owners could be subject to millions of dollars in fines.

A recent study by Frontiers in Marine Science states that West Africa’s annual losses from illegal and unregulated fishing costs $2.3 billion. However, the consequences of illegal fishing travels far beyond this geography.  From a global perspective, the World Wildlife Fund estimates that more than 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries are reaching their biological limits due to overfishing, due in part to illegal fishing and other regulatory problems.

To turn this around, Global Fishing Watch—a collaboration by OceanaGoogle and SkyTruth to end Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing—is using ORBCOMM’s extensive global satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) data capabilities to help collect more than 22 million data points per day from hundreds of thousands of ships. With this information, anyone can monitor and track large commercial fishing vessels in near real time.

ais data powers global fishing watch

Using AIS data from ORBCOMM, Global Fishing Watch shows commercial fishing activity from Jan 2012 to three days prior to present time.

Global Fishing Watch can classify the time-stamped positional vessel data points as either “fishing” or “non-fishing” activities. This will have a critical impact on the commercial fishing industry’s accountability, environmental regulation compliance and seafood supply chain transparency. It also provides a tool to governments, non-government organizations (NGOs) and researchers for the enforcement of IUU regulations and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

In the words of Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor/activist co-funding Global Fishing Watch, “This platform will empower citizens across the globe to become powerful advocates for our oceans.”

Learn more about Global Fishing Watch at www.globalfishingwatch.org. To discover the world of possibilities enabled by ORBCOMM AIS data, meet with us at GEOINT 2017 in San Antonio this week, or contact us anytime to talk vessel tracking with satellite AIS.

More on Vessel Tracking with Satellite
VMS: Providing Safety and Regulatory Compliance for Mexican Fishing Vessels

Learn how Mexico’s National Commission on Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA) uses ORBCOMM technology to maintain an electronic nautical mapping system with delimitations of the maritime waters, define and monitor geofences with defined rules of operation, broadcast notifications for emergency, area restrictions, fishing in a restricted zone etc., and track vessels that are in the water and disconnected or not transmitting their location.

Download the Case Study

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Posted in 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: , , , ,

GPS Tracking in the World’s Harshest Terrain: Rhino Charge 2017

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IDP-782 dual-mode vehicle trackingORBCOMM devices and connectivity are designed to handle even the toughest demands of non-stop real-time security, safety and tracking in some of Africa’s most extreme locations. How rugged? Every year, ORBCOMM’s dual-mode cellular-satellite IDP-782 device is put through extreme data requirements in a harsh and dusty environment, in one of the world’s most exciting and challenging 4×4 competitions.

Once again this year, ORBCOMM’s IDP-782 is being installed by our partner RiverCross Tracking on all-terrain vehicles traversing the African wild back country during the “Rhino Charge” off-road vehicle rally in Kenya, aimed at raising funds and awareness for the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust. All funds raised by Rhino Charge are donated to Rhino Ark to help conserve central Kenya’s Aberdare Conservation area. The course includes checkpoints scattered over approximately 100 sq km of rough terrain, including ravines, boulder fields and dry river beds, proving to be a challenging setting for any security, safety and tracking application. The competition requires vehicles to drive the shortest distance between 13 guard posts in 10 hours.

vehicle tracking at Rhino Charge Kenya

The shortest distance between two points can sometimes be a little bit dicey.

Read more ›

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , , , ,

Fleet Telematics: 5 Things to Look for in an IoT Technology Supplier

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dry van tracking white paperThe coming years will see exponential growth in smart transport solutions that enable fleet managers to use telematics devices to remotely track, monitor and control their road and intermodal assets. New use cases and applications will emerge at a rapid rate as Internet of Things (IoT) and other digital technologies are adopted by growing numbers of transportation and logistics companies, and as the technology sector continues to bring new products and services to market. Real-time visibility and control, leveraging the latest IoT technologies, will emerge as a norm within the next 3-5 years, becoming a basic requirement for remaining competitive in business.

Technology analyst Gartner forecasts that 20.8 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. In the latest edition of its annual Trailer and Cargo Container Tracking report, Berg Insight says that the number of tracking devices on trailers, intermodal containers, air freight boxes and cargo pallets reached 2.9 million units at the end of 2015. Berg forecasts that the trailer and cargo container tracking market will increase at a CAGR of 23.2 per cent over the next few years, hitting 8.1 million devices by 2020. The analyst estimates that shipments of remote tracking systems with cellular or satellite communication capabilities totaled 800,000 units in 2015, with trailer tracking accounting for 56.8 per cent of deployments.

To help future-proof current investment in fleet telematics, here are 5 practical issues to consider when it comes to IoT technology suppliers: Read more ›

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , , ,

Container Supply Chain Visibility: Filling the Traceability Gap for Vessels at Sea

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reefer container supply chainAs supply chains become more complex and globalized across road, rail, water, ports, and yards, it is more important than ever for shipping lines to have end-to-end visibility of their containers and the cargo they carry from the point of origin to the final destination, and everywhere in between.  Full transparency is especially mission-critical for the management and control of refrigerated smart containers and other IoT-connected assets that transport temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo across international waters.

To help fill the traceability gap on vessels at sea and bring IoT connectivity to the sea leg of the supply chain, ORBCOMM is partnering with Vobal Technologies, a leading telecommunications service provider for the maritime industry based in Evanston, IL. ORBCOMM is deploying Vobal’s CargoGSM™ network as part of its new VesselConnect solution, which allows shipping lines to monitor and control smart containers and their cargo on-board their ships.

Unique GSM Technology

Vobal’s core GSM technology was developed specifically for use at sea, which means that not only does CargoGSM work with VSAT but also, uniquely, with FleetBroadband®. CargoGSM on board enables ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect to extend reliable network coverage throughout the vessel’s cargo spaces, above and below deck. Using Vobal’s system to plug the mid-ocean connectivity ‘black hole’, ORBCOMM can now provide shipping lines with end-to-end traceability of reefer containers throughout the supply chain both on land and at sea in real-time.

ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect enables end-to-end visibility of refrigerated containers transporting temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo across water, filling the traceability gap on vessels at sea.

ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect enables end-to-end visibility of refrigerated containers transporting temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo at sea.

Maximum Crew Efficiency and Safety

remote container managementVesselConnect allows carriers to receive critical data from smart containers loaded on their ships, including reefer status, temperature and slot location, as well as to adjust reefer container set points and conduct pre-trip inspections on-board, reducing manual labor and expediting cargo distribution on land. The solution enhances crew efficiency and safety by eliminating the need to manually check reefer and other containers carrying perishable cargo. Status reports and alarms are automatically displayed on the VesselConnect console on-board and can also be viewed by shore-based personnel on ORBCOMM’s Cloud platform for immediate action.

Connected Containers in Action

Early adopters of ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect solution include TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, a premier shipping carrier specializing in moving cargo between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. TOTE Maritime is using ORBCOMM’s connected container solution to reduce cargo damage, decrease operating costs, maximize crew safety and enhance customer service.

For more information on ORBCOMM VesselConnect,, please visit www.orbcomm.com/en/solutions/web-applications/vesselconnect

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Posted in 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: , ,

Chassis Tracking: 4 Ways Lack of Fleet Visibility is Costing You Money

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trailer and chassis telematicsReal-time chassis tracking, monitoring and control is proven to enable better business planning, streamline operations, minimize theft, improve preventative maintenance and repair, and enhance customer service. With so much at stake, why are so many companies hesitant to adopt telematics technology for their chassis fleet operations? When put into those simple terms, outfitting a fleet of chassis may sound like a no-brainer, but there are many perceived barriers to entry that could prevent companies from doing so.

For companies looking to deploy a telematics solution to manage their chassis fleet, procurement becomes a potentially complicated and expensive process. Barriers to entry include cost, difficulty in understanding the technology and lack of quality customer support. This often results in fragmentation that prevents or impedes the process, often causing unnecessary technical challenges and unexpected expenses, which is even more problematic in an industry with paper-thin margins.

But having a comprehensive, reliable solution in place from one, experienced provider helps companies mitigate the multiple risks involved with leaving your assets unprotected.

Here are four ways lack of visibility into your chassis fleet can impact your bottom line:

1. Long dwell times
Optimizing chassis operations without readily accessible data is a complicated process that requires a great deal of manual effort. Even then, it’s near impossible to achieve maximum efficiency. When chassis are in dwell time, it means they are not on the road making money. Telematics solutions can keep you up-to-date how long an asset has been sitting unused and alert you in real-time when it has been sitting too long.

2. Improper distribution
Having either too many or not enough chassis distributed to a single geographical area reduces efficiency and increases costs. Moving chassis to a new location to re-balance your fleet requires labor, money and time. Additionally, the wrong chassis sent from the yard due to human error results in added costs and potential asset loss. Real-time data brings complete visibility to your chassis fleet, allowing for better planning and more effective utilization.

3. Asset misuse
The shipping industry in general has long been plagued by misuse of assets. Customers may not be taking proper care of your chassis, or improperly storing them in outside yards that put them at increased risk. If and when those chassis go missing, they must be written off for a loss. Alternately, drivers may be using your chassis for unauthorized runs, or your chassis disappears when passed to another driver at an international border. The right telematics solution can mitigate the risk of asset misuse almost entirely by tracking the whereabouts and location history of your chassis.

4. Competitive disadvantage
Data obtained through manual processes is likely not 100% accurate and is often outdated, hampering efficiency and putting companies who have been slow to adopt telematics technology behind the competition. On the flip side, companies that have implemented a good tracking solution are experiencing enhanced visibility into freight management operations, resulting in more accurate on-time deliveries, ETAs and in-route location updates for better customer service and satisfaction.

chassis tracking solution

ORBCOMM’s GT 1100-CTS is designed specifically for chassis tracking and features ORBCOMM’s GT 1100 device combined with its PS 100 proximity sensor and custom mounting bracket.

The benefit of telematics
The biggest upside of adopting a good tracking solution is real-time visibility into where your chassis are and whether they are in use or not, which in turn improves operational efficiency, asset utilization and maintenance costs. Put simply, telematics helps you deploy your chassis more strategically and get them back quicker when they are not in use.

For more information on ORBCOMM’s chassis tracking solutions, or to get  a free no obligation quote, visit http://www2.orbcomm.com/chassis-tracking

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , ,

How RFID As A Service (RaaS) Can Accelerate Your RFID Application Deployments

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rfid taggingRFID is an emerging, albeit mature, technology. There is certainly no dearth of hardware or software options in today’s RFID solution marketplace. There is an abundance of varying hardware options (frequencies, functionality and application relevance, economics, etc.), a wide variety of RFID software applications (middleware, line of business, etc.), and complex back-end integration issues — the result is that many companies are unable to find a single vendor who can cover all of their needs, and they therefore are forced to piece together multiple systems. The result is a marketplace shortage of complete, or hardware/software-matched, solutions that require minimal time and effort to prove, develop, and deploy.

Navigating this technology labyrinth is a challenge for first-time adopters as it puts a large premium on validating return on investment (ROI) for the internal business users and many times delays or makes such projects infeasible.

High Cost Of Technology Validation For Proof-Of-Concept

As chief RFID strategist for your company, it gets very frustrating trying to explain the value of technology adoption for your specific business process when the evaluation phase is as expensive as the actual full-fledged implementation of the project. In a world where business users are used to downloading evaluation software free-of-charge, trying to justify a six-figure cost for RFID application proof-of-concepts becomes a formidable challenge.

If there’s anything that puts the brakes on RFID implementations faster than technology issues, it’s the initial high costs associated with developing and deploying these applications within the four walls, much less across the enterprise. Hardware costs (and the services costs associated with installation, calibration, etc.), software licenses, additional server infrastructure, integration, and scalability quickly add up, creating a significant hurdle for internal project champions to make and sell the case for application adoption. Proving a concept through a full-scale pilot can be as costly as actual deployment, especially in enterprise applications, where value of adoption (ROI) is dramatically enhanced by the number of enabled ecosystem partners.

Definition Of RFID As A Managed Service

First we should perhaps define what is meant by RaaS — RFID applications as a service. Read more ›

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Posted in 5. M2M/IoT Trends, 6. Networks Tagged with:

Illuminating Reefer Monitoring Black Holes with the IoT: Transport Logistic 2017 Preview

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vesselconnect-cropThe “black hole” of reefer monitoring has always been on the water. Historically, carriers have used manual data capture with engineers equipped with clipboards walking the decks and inspecting each reefer’s temperature periodically for set-point deviations and alarms.

In the 1980s, power line modem systems for on-vessel reefer monitoring were developed. These systems required that the vessel be equipped with extensive cabling and specialized data modems and all containers had to have a modem. With the advent of standards-based cellular GSM in reefer monitoring, the demand to use GSM on vessels emerged.

Leveraging advances in wireless technology, ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect enables end-to-end visibility of refrigerated containers transporting temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo across water, filling the traceability gap on vessels at sea.

We are looking forward to discussing VesselConnect and our other land-based tracking solutions at Transport Logistic 2017 trade show in Munich, Germany. It is the world’s leading trade fair for logistics, mobility, IT, and supply chain management, and acts as the business platform for and driving force behind the global logistics and transport industry. The event also includes a comprehensive conference program.

What: Transport Logistic 2017
When: May 9 – 12, 2017
Where: Messe München, Messegelände, 81823 München, Germany
Booth: ORBCOMM Hall A6, Booth 116

At the show? We’d love to meet with you. Schedule a Meeting with us and visit ORBCOMM Hall A6, Booth 116 to learn how the IoT can help container assets, cargo and shipments make the move from ‘dark, dumb and disconnected’ to ‘visible, smart and connected’. We’ll also have exciting news to share on our other solutions involving the supply chain.

Staff will be on the floor to discuss our hardware, applications and end-to-end solutions and will be providing free demos. Here is what to expect: Read more ›

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Posted in 1. Transportation, 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: , , , ,

ORBCOMM is a single source provider of multi-network connectivity, leading edge devices and powerful applications for industries including transportation and distribution, heavy equipment, oil and gas, maritime and government.
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