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The IoT Wave: How Real-Time Data is Reshaping the Global Supply Chain

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It’s no secret that the world is going digital, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most powerful forces behind this transition, sweeping up almost everything – from utensils to global supply chains. Baltic Transport Journal spoke with ORBCOMM’s Michael Dempsey (VP Container and Port Solutions), Christian Allred (VP International), and Sue Rutherford (VP Marketing) about the changes that have already become a fact of life, as well as the opportunities and threats that emerge from this new wave of technological advancement.

Read the full interview to gain valuable insight into:

  • How M2M, IoT and real-time connectivity are reshaping the global supply chain
  • The benefits companies like Maersk are realizing thanks to IoT-based remote management
  • How actionable data from sensors and IoT technology is meeting industry challenges
  • Who is driving technology advancements across the supply chain
  • How terrestrial and satellite AIS data fits into IoT-driven transformation
  • The long-term outlook for industrial IoT advancement across the supply chain
  • …and much more…
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.

One example of IoT supply chain innovation is ORBCOMM’s VesselConnect, which enables end-to-end visibility of refrigerated containers transporting temperature-sensitive, high-value cargo at sea.

To learn more, read the full interview on Baltic Transport’s website

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Posted in 1. Transportation, 5. M2M/IoT Trends Tagged with: , , , ,

Cargo Theft: New Analysis Sheds Light on What is Being Stolen When and Where

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Cargo theft remains one of the most significant causes of disruption in the supply chain, accounting for around 10% of all reported claims in the last ten years, according to a new analysis by TT Club. The analysis includes some interesting statistics on where, when and what is being stolen along the supply chain worldwide.

Where is Cargo Theft is Occurring?
The short answer is everywhere, but TT Club has identified some hot spots globally which, contrary to what you might think, are not restricted to less affluent regions:

According to TT Club, theft “hot spots” are not restricted to areas suffering economic down turn.

According to TT Club, theft “hot spots” are not restricted to areas suffering economic down turn.

The data also shows that more cargo theft is occurring on key traffic routes near major ports and terminals. Crowded road networks with insufficient secure parking areas are prime targets for thieves, but even less travelled routes are not exempt. There have even been reports of high-value cargo being stolen from trucks while moving!

When is Cargo Being Stolen?
Not surprisingly, the majority of thefts happen during the work week (Monday-Friday), with Thursday accounting for the highest number of incidents, and Friday proving most lucrative for thieves in terms of dollar value. Even though Sunday has the fewest number of incidents, the value of goods stolen indicates a more thought out and targeted approach to cargo theft on this day.

The TT Club analysis shows discernible patterns concerning the days of the week and months of the year in which cargo is stolen

The TT Club analysis shows discernible patterns concerning the days of the week and months of the year in which cargo is stolen

Looking at theft by month, there is relative consistency until things peak in the latter part of year. Cargo theft patterns appear to be heavily influenced by peak freight movements around the holidays.

What Cargo is Most Frequently Stolen?
According to the TT Club analysis, electronics, food & drink and clothing represent over 40% of cargo theft incidents. Here’s how the top eight breaks down:

  • Electronics 17.00%
  • Food & Drink 14.81%
  • Clothing 10.13%
  • Metals 5.59%
  • Machinery & Vehicles 5.26%
  • Cosmetics 4.18%
  • Chemicals/ Oils 1.59%
  • Minerals 1.17%
  • Medicine/ Pharma 0.99%

TT Club’s findings are consistent with other recent cargo theft reports, many of which include numbers that are positively staggering. Earlier this year, in its annual cargo theft trend analysis, CargoNet reported 836 cargo theft incidents in 2016 worth an estimated $172.9 million.

Cargo theft accounted for more than half of all freight-related theft in 2016, according to CargoNet.

Cargo theft accounted for more than half of all freight-related theft in 2016, according to CargoNet.

All of this has transportation and logistics firms increasingly turning to technology to ensure the security of cargo from origin to destination. Specifically, the industry is leaning on Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor-based technology that use real-time data and exception based reporting to send alarms and other notifications to fleet operators when cargo is being compromised.

A turnkey solution geared toward cargo security should include state-of-the-art tracking devices, sensors, cellular and satellite connectivity as well as desktop and mobile apps that make it possible to track the location and status of in-transit and stored cargo at any time.

For example, ORBCOMM’s CargoWatch Secure solution helps companies minimize theft and enable quick recovery of stolen cargo,  monitor the estate of in-transit cargo to help prevent damage, identify route delays to properly manage customer expectations and optimize and automate the supply chain.

To learn more, visit http://www2.orbcomm.com/cargo-security or see us this week at Booth 212 of the IANA Intermodal Expo in Long Beach, CA.

 

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: ,

ORBCOMM and McLeod Q & A: Tracking Plus Dispatch for Increased Efficiency and Cost Control

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A Q&A with Chris MacDonald, ORBCOMM’s Vice President of Transportation Solutions

Managing trailers and ORBCOMM’s two-way asset tracking and control within McLeod’s LoadMaster

Why should companies track their trucks and trailers?
It’s all about boosting the bottom line. Managers of fleets of all sizes use tracking to optimize trailer utilization, improve tractor-trailer ratios, reduce maintenance costs, minimize cargo loss due to improper temperature or theft, reduce fuel consumption and more.

What kind of information can asset tracking deliver?
In addition to GPS, the range of capabilities includes notifications when vehicles enter or leave specified locations or stay in a location longer than expected; cargo tampering alerts; fuel usage monitoring and dynamic preventative maintenance scheduling.

Our reefer solutions deliver status reports, alarm notifications if ­­the cargo temperature strays above or below a specified range and the ability to adjust trailer temperature remotely.

How does ORBCOMM integrate with McLeod software?
Our integration with LoadMaster connects the location and status of assets with dispatch on a single screen, making it easier to manage operations. Industry leaders like Swing Transport use the ORBCOMM/McLeod solution, so we know it delivers results.

Order planning with reefer profile data, temperature alerts and current location

Order planning with reefer profile data, temperature alerts and current location. Just one of the features of ORBCOMM’s integration with McLeod Loadmaster

Are your devices up for the industry’s unique challenges?
Oh, absolutely. We designed and built them with the industry in mind. Our GT 1100 has a unique hermetically-sealed and waterproof solar panel for reliable dry van trailer tracking without need for battery changes. Our new PT 6000 provides direct interface to various Carrier Transicold and Thermo King transport refrigeration units and allows for two-way monitoring and control for temperature and fuel management.

The trend seems to be toward cellular and satellite dual-mode tracking. Why?
Dual-mode tracking offers the best of both worlds. We provide multiple cellular airtime plans with the option to add satellite communications when vehicles go out of cellular range. It’s the most economical way to maintain complete visibility.

What’s the next big thing for fleet managers?
We always have our eye on the future. We have hundreds of engineers working on new telematics devices and features for our CargoWatch application, based on extensive feedback from the field. For our integration ­­with McLeod’s LoadMaster, our two-way capabilities enable fleet managers to receive information and send commands from their dispatch screen. We were the first company to offer it—it was a game changer then and continues to be a differentiator for new customers looking to get even more from McLeod’s Loadmaster.

Where can people learn more about ORBCOMM’s integration with McLeod?
We’re committed to our integration with McLeod, and have a dedicated page at www.orbcomm.com/mcleod where visitors can download documents and watch a webinar to learn how they can  access valuable trailer and container data right from the McLeod Loadmaster platform.

To learn more, visit www.orbcomm.com/mcleod and be sure to visit ORBCOMM at Booth 409 of the McLeod User Conference, Sep. 17 -19 in Atlanta. Going to be there? Schedule a meeting here.

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , ,

Maximizing Mobile Mining Assets with Telematics Technology

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From trucks, excavators, and loaders to dozers and graders, mining sites operate a variety of mobile equipment. Depending on the size of the mining operation, simply keeping track of the locations of this equipment is a challenging job – and optimizing use of these expensive capital assets can seem like an impossible one.

Remote telemetry solutions provide real-time data to protect equipment from improper use, improper or insufficient maintenance, and theft. For mine operators, this technology helps minimize total cost of ownership of equipment and maximize ROI by making best use of equipment warranty and making sure vehicle, labor, and fuel resources are being used at peak efficiency.

Here are five areas where telematics can save mining operations time and money when it comes to managing their mobile assets:

1. Mining Vehicle Engine Condition Monitoring

Haul trucks, hydraulic excavators, and loaders are just some examples of heavy equipment that can be found in mine sites. In large or multi-site operations, knowing the real-time location of these vehicles is just one way that GPS-enabled cellular, satellite and dual-mode solutions can be used to automate fleet management.

Beyond position reporting, telematics devices can also be used to monitor the health of heavy equipment. Knowing
how the vehicle is functioning and how it is being used allows equipment supervisors to perform tasks like asset health monitoring, maintenance planning and proactive operator training.

Sample mining vehicle reports include:

  • Engine run hours. Track how many hours the engine has been on and off to ensure timely scheduling of service maintenance and reduce time spent collecting hour-meter readings.
  • Utilization reports. Report the machine’s total utilization to allow fleet supervisors to spread vehicle usage across the entire fleet.
  • Engine data. Gain remote access to and real-time notification of engine data like diagnostic fault codes, fuel consumption, idle time, temperature and pressure to ensure vehicle is operating at peak efficiency and proactively
    schedule operator training in the event of repeated misuse.

2. Mining Vehicle Tire Monitoring

Tires are a significant cost for heavy equipment and their proper maintenance can save time, money and tire life. Tire pressure monitoring systems combined with telematics technology provide fleet and maintenance supervisors the
ability to remotely monitor for high and low pressure alerts.

Having the ability to monitor that the tires are being used at the appropriate pressure provides many benefits including:

  • Increased tire life. A tire will wear out 12% faster at just 10% under-inflation.
  • Reduced tire damage. Under-inflation can lead to sidewall/casing damage, ply separation, disintegration and heat build-up
  • Better fuel consumption. Fuel consumption is increased by 1% for every 10 psi that a truck’s tires are under-inflated.
  • Increased operator safety. Over-inflation of tires can lead to explosions which can be dangerous to those operating the vehicle and to other workers around the site.

3. Mining Vehicle Brake Monitoring

Similar to tire monitoring, there are products in the market that allow fleet managers to monitor brake stroke on heavy equipment. On-board brake stroke monitoring systems use sensors to monitor pushrod travel and can detect conditions like over-stroking, brakes not releasing or inoperative brakes. Since vehicle operators cannot easily detect when brake performance is degrading, remotely monitoring brakes with telematics devices can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased operational safety. Added awareness of the condition of the vehicle’s brakes allows the maintenance manager to schedule repairs before a problem occurs.
  • Decreased number of under-vehicle brake stroke inspections. The number of under-vehicle inspections, where a driver or maintenance personnel has to physically measure air-brake pushrod stoke can be reduced by remotely
    monitoring brake health.
  • Decreased time for pre-usage inspection. The maintenance manager can substantially decrease the time required to inspect a vehicle prior to usage.

Underground Mine Asset Tracking

AssetWatchTM Mining: Real-Time Visibility for Mining Operations 
ORBCOMM’s AssetWatch gives you total visibility and insight over your mining operations above and below ground. By combining real-time location systems (RTLS), condition monitoring sensors, mobile devices and analytics software, ORBCOMM’s turnkey platform helps mine operators maximize productivity and profitability.

To learn more, schedule a demo or email sales@orbcomm.com.

4. Asphalt Laying Monitoring

Asphalt is often used by mining facilities to build roads and aircraft landing strips. However, laying asphalt properly in mining locations can be difficult due to weather as well as remoteness of mining sites. Several factors can shorten the lifespan of asphalt roads including:

  • Material not being at the critical temperature point when being applied
  • Rollers compacting newly laid asphalt at the improper temperature range
  • Performing too many passes on one area and not enough passes on other areas.

If the temperature is too low during the application of asphalt, it can lead to premature disintegration. If the temperature is too high, the asphalt will sag and spread. The right temperature at compaction will also reduce the effort required to compact while at the same time maintain evenness.

For these reasons real-time temperature monitoring during the application of asphalt is critical for improving
the quality of road construction while saving time and money through quick completion.

5. Dust Control Management for Mining Operations

RTLS for miningControlling dust is an important requirement for mining operations. Open pit mines and mines in desert-like areas are often plagued with high levels of dust which can:

  • Threaten moving parts of mining equipment leading to expensive repairs and downtime
  • Decrease visibility on roads forcing drivers to drive much slower
  • Increase risk to worker safety by releasing airborne dust that can be harmful to the human respiratory tract

Telematics-based solutions support fleet management of vehicles applying dust suppression material and help to ensure that the activity is performed evenly, even in areas outside of cellular coverage. Plus, With automatic and real-time notification of dust concentrations, dust suppression vehicles can be directed to focus their efforts on high dust areas. Not only does this reduce vehicle running costs, it can also reduce the consumption of water and other dust suppression material.

These benefits represent just a pebble in the open pit of what cellular and satellite-based remote monitoring can do to decrease operating costs and increase efficiencies for mine operators. To learn more, be sure to download our White Paper: “5 Reasons You Need to Track Heavy Equipment“.

Please share your own mining telematics success stories below, and contact us anytime talk telematics solutions powered by the Internet of Things.

 

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Posted in 2. Heavy Equipment Tagged with: , , ,

IoT Technology Helping Meet Increasing Demands on Food Transporters

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Major players like Amazon are changing customer expectations of acceptable delivery timelines and transportation requirements in many sectors, including the food industry. Customers are increasingly going online to buy cosmetics, housewares, health and personal items, furniture and more, according to Thom Albrecht, President, Sword and Sea Transport Advisors, speaking at the in.sight User Conference and Expo in Nashville this month.

Online grocery shopping—although growing slower—is expected to become significantly more widespread as consumers warm up to buying fresh food on the Internet. According to the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, one quarter of US households currently buy groceries online—up 20 percent from three years ago— but more than 70 percent are expected to do so in the next ten years.

online grocery shopping

25% of US households currently buy groceries online, and more than 70% are expected to do so in the next ten years.

Albrecht said that temperature-controlled shipments have grown 43 percent in the US since 2000. These numbers are a good indication that more refrigerated trailers and vans will be hitting the roads in years to come.  With increasing demand for online grocery shopping and larger volumes of temperature-sensitive loads moving along the supply chain, the ability for carriers to efficiently offer refrigerated and last mile logistics will be key to their success.

But hauling fresh and frozen food comes with challenges, such as tough food safety regulations like FSMA, blind spots in the network and chain of custody breakdowns. To help ensure successful operations, a growing number of transportation and logistics service providers are making IoT technology part of their core strategy, improving fleet and load visibility, maintaining temperature requirements, automating processes and complying with regulations.

Real-time temperature monitoring

A cold chain solution monitors cargo area temperature around the clock to ensure adequate temperature ranges are maintained during a trip. If the system detects discrepancies between the trailer temperature and the specified temperature, an alert is sent to the appropriate parties so they can deploy corrective action before the load is lost.

equipment telematics: PT 7000

The new PT 6000 enables complete visibility and control of cold chain operations to help ensure the integrity of temperature controlled cargo along the supply chain.

Accuracy and two-way reefer control

A state-of-the-art solution connects directly to a refrigerated unit to ensure accurate temperature readings and enable remote reefer control. Two-way functionality enables users to remotely initiate defrosts, run pretrip inspections, change reefer states and set reefer temperatures. By doing so, fleet operators take some responsibility from drivers, so drivers can focus on what they do best. It also reduces human error by enabling the monitoring and addressing of issues from a centralized location.

Regulatory compliance

FSMA complianceAutomating data collection and record keeping (two key aspects of FSMA) safeguards operators, as proof of temperature compliance is always available. In addition, a telematics solution allows users to send automatic reports to shippers or receivers to prove cold chain integrity and document chain of custody. Solutions with onboard printers also allow drivers to provide records on site. As well as automating processes, a cold chain monitoring solution simplifies temperature management, enables pre-cooling notifications in preparation for loads and efficiently manages records by storing digitized copies of key hard-copy documents.

20 percent more brick and mortar stores are expected to close in the next five to eight years, said Albrecht. As more fresh foods are purchased online, expect increased demand for quick delivery times, real-time visibility of shipment status and location, and proof of product integrity. Here, solutions based on IoT technology can help carriers gain a competitive advantage.

ORBCOMM’s solutions for refrigerated transporters feature smart tracking devices with 3G or LTE cellular or dual-mode satellite-cellular connectivity, sensors, and comprehensive management portals. To learn more about our next-generation cold chain monitoring solutions, email us or visit www.orbcomm.com/en/hardware/devices/pt-6000

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , , ,

Reefer Genset Innovator Shakes Up the Market with Advanced Telematics

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genset monitoringDutch innovator Genmark has developed a range of lightweight, easy-to-operate, fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly reefer container gensets, including a world-first design for use on extending road chassis. And it has turned to ORBCOMM telematics as an integral part of the solution…  

There are over 40,000 gensets in active service around the world, providing mobile power to keep refrigerated container shipments cool where no fixed electricity supply exists. Used in rail, road, barge, port, depot and DC operations, the importance of genset to the containerized cold chain cannot be understated. Keeping units on power ensures cold chain integrity can be maintained, safeguarding temperature-controlled shipments and ensuring compliance with food and pharmaceutical regulations, such as FMSA and GDP.

reefer genset installation

There are over 40,000 gensets in active service around the world, providing mobile power to keep refrigerated container shipments cool where no fixed electricity supply exists.

Genmark, a Dutch company with many decades’ diverse experience in the design, operation and maintenance of reefer containers and gensets, has set out to shake up the market with a new range of lightweight, fuel-efficient and easy-to-operate machines. Designed with real-life field operations firmly in mind, the units are optimized for swift mounting and dismounting from road chassis, including a unique model developed for extendable ‘flex’ chassis.

reefer genset on chassis

Genmark’s innovative new genset units are optimized for swift mounting and dismounting from road chassis, including a unique model developed for extendable ‘flex’ chassis.

 

As part of the design, Genmark has opted to include ORBCOMM wireless telematics technology as standard, helping the company and its customers to track and monitor units in the field.

chassis and genset tracking device

Genmark chose ORBCOMM’s XT 4760—a rugged, compact ‘plug-and-play’ device that enables two-way monitoring and control of chassis, gensets, flatbeds and other powered assets.

From tracking the precise location of gensets on the move and on the ground in ports and other facilities, to monitoring fuel levels and usage, remotely detecting and controlling whether units are on or off, whether they are connected to a reefer container, and if there is any equipment malfunction, telematics deliver multiple benefits and return on investment (ROI) in improved asset utilisation, operational efficiency, M&R management and regulatory compliance.

Read the full Case Study here

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

ORBCOMM Helping J.B. Hunt Become a “Technology Company”

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Talk Business & Politics recently reported on how J.B Hunt is exploring augmented reality, mobile applications and other innovations as part of a $500 million technology investment over the next five years. Earlier this year, J.B. Hunt selected ORBCOMM to equip its 90,000-plus intermodal and over-the-road (OTR) trailing fleets with end-to-end tracking and monitoring.

J.B Hunt telematics solution

J.B. Hunt selected ORBCOMM to equip its 90,000-plus intermodal and over-the-road (OTR) trailing fleets with end-to-end tracking and monitoring.

Leveraging our solar-powered GT 1100 devices with integrated cargo sensors, ORBCOMM is providing J.B. Hunt with a comprehensive telematics solution that gives full visibility to multiple classes of trailing equipment. With installation in under 15 minutes on either loaded or unloaded trailers, the solution is designed to increase operational efficiency, reduce cargo theft, and decrease unauthorized use.

trailer tracking device with cargo sensor

The solar-powered GT 1100-LTE devices with integrated cargo sensors are designed for installation outside a loaded or unloaded asset in less than 15 minutes, significantly reducing installation costs, resources and asset downtime

“Each unit will be equipped with a solar-rechargeable GPS tracking device and a full-length sensor to determine the presence or absence of cargo inside the trailing unit,” said Tracy Black, Senior Vice President of Information Systems for J.B. Hunt. “These comprehensive telematics solutions will decrease cargo theft, increase operational efficiency, decrease unauthorized use of assets and offer J.B. Hunt control over every facet of its fleet operations.”

The trailer sensors will ensure on time shipment delivery, and ensure that drivers are properly paired with individual trucks, by helping makes sense of vast of amounts of data around fuel, traffic and more.

JB Hunt trailer tracking solution

An instagram user recently reported back on the durability of the J.B. Hunt telematics solution: “”GT1100 took a direct hit , and the damn thing still works. Trailer’s toast. GPS has zero problem”

Read the full article to learn more.

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , ,

The Latest Innovations in Dry Van and Reefer Telematics: in.sight 2017 Preview

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transporttopics_300x250Next week you’ll find us at the in.sight User Conference hosted by PeopleNet and TMW, where you can see first hand how our versatile applications integrate with top Transportation Management Systems for a centralized view of asset location, temperature, sensor readings, alarms and more.

Visitors to in.sight 2017 will see the latest innovations in dry van and reefer management, including our PT 6000 which enables comprehensive fuel and temperature management, maintenance, logistics and regulatory compliance for refrigerated transport assets.

On the compliance front, ORBCOMM’s CargoWatch application now makes it even easier to comply with new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations around temperature management, reefer control, trailer precooling, certification, data collection and more. (Learn more about how ORBCOMM can help you get FSMA-compliant)

in.sight User Conference
When: August 13 – 16, 2017
Where: Gaylord Opryland, Nashville, TN
ORBCOMM Booth 507

Going to be there? We’d love to meet with you. Schedule a Meeting with us and visit ORBCOMM Booth 507 to learn why the world’s top fleets trust us for reliable tracking, monitoring, control, safety and compliance.

orbcomm booth

We’re here to help, so please feel free to contact us anytime to discuss how you can take advantage of these new innovations in connected transportation.

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Posted in 1. Transportation Tagged with: , , ,

AIS is for the Dogs: Satellite Tracking Keeps K9 Veterans Memorial in Sight

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Marine-Satellite_2017_300-x-250This June, over 200 veterans from far and wide gathered in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin for the unveiling of a K-9 Veterans Memorial honoring military dogs and their handlers, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice in combat.

While many in attendance were unaware just how far the granite for the Memorial had travelled, project coordinator Mabel Schumacher tracked its exact route all the way from India, thanks to vessel tracking technology powered by AIS data.

The monument was built with the help of donations from the community of Fort Atkinson, veterans groups and others who helped raise $63,000 for the memorial. According to Schumacher, tracking the granite shipment provided a concrete way for the memorial committee and community to stay engaged and to see daily progress toward their goal.

K9 Veterans Memorial

The memorial includes a bronze statue of a military K9 and a granite monument with etchings of quotes and photographs.

“It’s easy for a committee or a community to lose sight of a goal if they don’t see progress,” says Schumacher. “Besides, it was fun!”

The Maule cargo ship

The Maule

The group first used a terrestrial-only AIS service to track the Maule cargo ship from the Port of Mumbai, India, past Singapore, up through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean. However, when the Maule passed Gibraltar and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean, terrestrial-based AIS data could no longer track the shipment.

A quick Google search for ‘satellite ship tracking’ led Schumacher to ORBCOMM. We put her in touch with our partner MarineTraffic, who was able to use satellite AIS data to track the Maule across the Atlantic to Halifax, Nova Scotia, en route to Savannah, Georgia before making it to its ultimate destination.

ais ship tracking across the Atlantic

MarineTraffic used satellite AIS data to track the Maule across the Atlantic Ocean, outside of terrestrial coverage

“This service allowed me to see exactly where the Maule was located, even down to the dock!” says Schumacher. “This really kept our committee in touch with the project and increased excitement regarding progress.”

The memorial, designed by Wisconsin sculptor Mark Dziewior, includes a bronze statue of a military K9 and a granite monument with etchings of quotes and photographs.

The Kennel Club of Fort Atkinson, who helped plan and fundraise for the memorial, say they were inspired by the memory of Terry Beck, a Fort Atkinson Marine K-9 handler and his dog Seato, who were killed in action in Vietnam in December 1967. Beck’s siblings said the memorial reinforces the companionship their brother had with his dog.

Watch the video of the memorial unveiling below:

k9memorial-video

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Posted in 3. Maritime / AIS Tagged with: ,

Smart Grid Monitoring Q & A: The Power of Satellite

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Utility companies are constantly seeking new ways to improve field data reliability and availability, so it’s no surprise that satellite is becoming the smart grid technology of choice where accurate, real-time information is critical, especially from remote sites. We sat down with Reinaldo Burian, ORBCOMM’s Application Engineer for Smart Grid, to find out what’s driving the adoption of satellite M2M  technology for monitoring reclosers and other smart grid infrastructure…

Smart grid informationHow is ORBCOMM’s technology used in smart grid applications?
Our solutions are currently being deployed to remotely monitor and control reclosers and protection equipment used in smart grid applications, particularly in areas where cellular coverage may be limited or non-existent. In these cases, ORBCOMM’s solution monitors the status of equipment around the clock, making it possible for electricity distribution companies to keep a good handle of operations, with satellite used as primary or backup communications. Any time there is an issue with field equipment our systems alerts the control center. ORBCOMM’s solution supports two-way communications, so users can remotely trip or close a recloser, and ping the device to get information such as voltage, power factor, current and more.

What are some of the pain points that drive electric utilities to implement telematics solutions?
Communication failures between field equipment and the utility’s operational centers are the primary drivers. To minimize disruptions to the service, energy retailers must receive timely notifications when things like storms, high energy consumption and tensioning of the electrical system are detected. In these situations, a reliable connection with field equipment is critical. Cellular-based monitoring systems are prone to signal, saturation and coverage issues, as well as service interruptions in bad weather. That’s where satellite systems developed for mission-critical operations come into play.

smart grid monitoring devices

What are some of the benefits associated with using satellite telemetry systems in this industry?
Satellite-based monitoring solutions allow electricity distribution companies to ensure proper operation of equipment in areas with limited cellular coverage, as well as add redundancy to important sites in urban centers. For energy utilities, some of the benefits include improved maintenance and quality indices, better allocation of protective equipment and lower investment and operational costs—monthly costs for competitive solutions are significantly higher. For the end user, it means fewer and shorter service interruptions.

Who is the ideal customer for this technology?
Our solutions meet the needs of big and small energy companies. The system can be used to monitor and control a small number of sites and is also versatile enough to accommodate a large deployment. Companies can expand the number of controlled reclosers as needs evolve, whether with satellite as a backup or as the main communication mode.

smart grid telemetry devices

ORBCOMM’s satellite telemetry device is the link among the areas where cellular coverage is completely unavailable.

What other competitive technologies are currently used to support this application? What are the advantages of ORBCOMM’s technology over those solutions?

  • Radio technologies provide dedicated coverage with the use of transmission towers. Initial costs, however, are high as a comprehensive infrastructure is required as well as a specialized team for installation and maintenance. Coverage is also limited and does not extend outside of the infrastructure. There is also the likelihood that an issue in one radio can affect a large number of reclosers in the network.
  • Cellular-based technologies offer low-cost data transmission rates but are not reliable. Interruptions in the cellular network are often common due to traffic congestion, network instability and bad weather. Energy utilities can simply not leave mission-critical processes in the hands of a connection that “may” work most of the time.
  • Fiber optic is also an alternative but deployment costs are high. As with radio, it requires a complex infrastructure and specialized technicians. Once deployed, it becomes cumbersome and expensive to expand coverage.
  • Regular satellite technology is more expensive and requires more maintenance that a technology developed specifically for unmanned, mission-critical applications such as the control and monitoring of protection devices like reclosers. Traditional satellite also requires a specialized team for installation and maintenance.

ORBCOMM’s telematics systems do not require a complex infrastructure. Remote devices (terminals) are deployed to recloser sites as required—and the installation process is quite simple. These environmentally-sealed devices require no maintenance and can be configured and updated remotely over the air. Whether satellite or dual-mode (satellite-cellular), ORBCOMM’s terminals deliver uninterrupted, satellite connectivity around in the world. With this technology, energy companies have peace of mind knowing any issues in the grid will be reported and therefore addressed in a timely manner, regardless of location.

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Posted in 4. Oil & Gas / Utilities, 6. Networks 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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