On 11JAN21, Descartes Systems Group announced that it was offering a new standard of interoperability with its Open Network Initiative (ONI) to support the expansion of its Descartes Core BLE network. CFG asked Scott Sangster , Vice President, Global Logistics Services Providers at Descartes, to elaborate a little on what this initiative means, and what Descartes’ aims are for 2021.
Descartes Core Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)™ tags enable the intelligent tracking of air cargo, mail, and parcel shipments across the Descartes Core BLE network, both in the air as well as on the
ground, and the data is used by freight forwarders, airlines, ground handling agents, and express carriers. CargoForwarder Global reported in depth in MAR20: https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2020/03/29/ble-tracking-getting-to-the-core-of-the-business/. The
Open Network Initiative allows users to integrate their own BLE-compatible devices and own IT into the network, and thus provides greater flexibility in tracking.
"The air cargo ecosystem operates as a network and it is to everyone's advantage to maximize coverage and transparency and to improve visibility. Our Open Network Initiative facilitates this and makes participation in the IoT-based solution more accessible and more cost-effective for airlines, GHAs and freight forwarders alike," Scott Sangster explains.
ACL approves and endorses the ONI
ACL Airshop LLC which operates a large inventory of ULDs for lease across more than 50 major cargo hubs on six continents, and thus has a vested interest in accurate and comprehensive tracking functionalities, tested the ONI.
Steve Townes, CEO at ACL Airshop LLC, had this to say: "We've tested the compatibility of the Descartes CORE BLE network with our FindMyULD app and a third party BLE tag and, with minimal development effort, data is flowing seamlessly between the tag and our application servers. In addition, we can better control the content, timing and volume of data transmitted by the tag and maintain security over the messages."
CFG: Scott Sangster. Could you tell us what is "new" in the new standard of interoperability with ONI compared to before?
SS: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based real-time air cargo tracking is an emerging technology, and something that Descartes is spearheading in the air cargo industry. Descartes is also a leader in global cargo tracking with the Descartes Global Logistics Network™, and understands the importance of an open network to create the scale that benefits shippers, forwarders, carriers, ground handling agents (GHA), etc. It has been our intention to open up the Descartes CORE BLE™ network to other BLE device providers. For example, those who have customers who need more customized tags, but want to use the network to track movement and status. Similarly, customers such as ACL Airshop want to use the data provided by the network in their mobile apps. We are now able to provide communication standards to allow that interoperability.
The press release explains: “The Descartes' Open Network Initiative expands the value of the Descartes CORE BLE network to air cargo industry participants by allowing third party, BLE-compatible devices to communicate over the network,” and goes on to list the following benefits:
- Encourages other equipment manufacturers (OEM) to develop their own BLE tags by lowering the cost of entrance, as there is no need to build network infrastructure or invest heavily in network technology and staffing;
- Provides greater choice in BLE tags to address a wide range of requirements for diverse applications; and
- Creates an ecosystem to accelerate the digitization of logistics processes in the air freight industry.”
CFG: How did Descartes experience the year 2020? Did 2020 accelerate the interest and acceptance of the BLE network?
SS: The last year and pandemic have certainly accelerated the deployment of BLE technology because of its applicability to track high value goods and their condition in transit. We have customers like innoAviation, a leading unit load device (ULD) leasing and services provider, using the solution to help its airline customers track critical PPE shipments. Due to the chaotic airline schedule in the early days of the pandemic, the solution proved invaluable in tracking ULDs so airlines would know their location and could rebalance them across their networks to be able to ship critical goods. Others, such as GHAs, are using the solution to eliminate visibility blind spots at airports. In 2020, four of the world’s leading GHAs—Swissport, dnata, Menzies and WFS—signed agreements to continue to roll out the Descartes CORE BLE network at a combined 350 airports across the globe.
CFG: "Freight forwarders, airlines, ground handling agents and express carriers" are listed as BLE users. What about e-commerce players or cargo drones?
SS: The BLE technology is definitely applicable to e-commerce companies as well as companies moving high value or delicate goods such as electronics or pharmaceuticals. These companies are either working with their logistics partners to use the technology or using it in their own logistics operations.
CFG: What are Descartes’ main goals and challenges for 2021?
SS: In 2021, Descartes is focusing on expanding the network to track more equipment (ULDs and ground handling equipment) and shipments globally. This expansion includes “door-to-door” shipment visibility, adding real-time location and condition tracking to road and other transportation modes. In addition, we are working on tracking more types of goods and demonstrating the value of our solution’s ability to track the condition of a shipment, such as temperature, shock, light, smoke, and others.
Thank you, Scott Sangster!
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