Brussels, 03 Mar 2005
A successful Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) project has developed a novel system that provides real-time, intelligent, end-to-end tracking and tracing for items and parcels being transported around the globe.
The European Commission provided 2.5 million euro to enable the IST project ParcelCall to develop a system that operates across all borders and carriers, regardless of which mode of transport is being used.
As the partners in the project explain, although many carriers in transport and logistics have tracking and tracing systems in place today, these are typically proprietary solutions, which means they only cover the individual carrier. Yet supply chains are becoming more and more complex, involving multiple carriers and multiple transport modes.
'ParcelCall focuses on interoperability, open interfaces, and standardization in order to allow seamless tracking and tracing across the entire logistics and transportation chain,' state the partners.
The system developed by the project involves RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, a Mobile Logistic Server (MLS) with GPS (Global Positioning System) and 'Thinking Tags' that measure and monitor environmental conditions - particularly important when transporting perishable goods.
The MLS, fitted with GPS receivers for accurate and secure tracking and tracing, keeps track of items being transported either by vehicle or container.
'The MLS makes its information available to a network of fixed servers via mobile communication networks on demand and on a real-time basis. It can actively alert the owner of the goods or the transport operator if, for example, the goods deviate from a predefined route, a delay occurs, or an alarm has been generated,' explain the partners.
Detailed tracking and status information will be available in real-time and for each complete transport cycle; even if a single item out of a large shipment gets lost, damaged, or takes a different route to the rest of the shipment.
Furthermore, in case of perishable or high-risks goods such as pharmaceuticals, whose temperature needs to be monitored continuously, or sensitive electronic devices, the products will be equipped with 'Thinking Tags'. These devices can monitor the environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity or shock, record a history of status information, including location, and measurement data, and actively send alerts or messages and generally provide seamless end-to-end surveillance of status, location, and environmental conditions.
'So, with its open and scalable system architecture, a small trucking company could adopt the ParcelCall tracking and tracing services just as easily as a large national or international carrier,' says Robin Williams from the University of Edinburgh, one of the partners in the project. 'ParcelCall could also be extended easily by adding new server components.'
According to Professor Williams, the opportunities provided by the technologies developed and demonstrated by ParcelCall extend well beyond transport. The whole area of logistics and product life-cycle management, and ultimately the so-called 'Internet of things', will benefit, he believes.
For further information on ParcelCall please visit: