Tracking Shipping Containers by:Paul Burke
Security is something that is present in every aspect of our daily life, from locking our front door to being searched at an airport check in, and it is not always a precise science. If you build a large wall around your house you may be able to keep out the opportunist intruder, however to the professional thief you are advertising that there may be something of value behind the wall and this itself may draw unwelcome attention. If you install an intruder alarm in your home are you going to deflect an attack or make a burglar think there are valuables being protected? The situation in every case has to be assessed and the appropriate security deployed. Where asset tracking is required, it is always advisable that the tracking units are concealed to prevent them from being disabled or draw unwanted attention. It is extremely important that a container with a tracking system installed should look no different from the container that has a low value cargo such as waste paper. Security products that are overtly fitted to the container doors (or any external surface) unfortunately make it easy for criminals to identify the containers that have a valuable cargo.
Theft and Fraud from shipping containers was estimated to be in excess of $185 billion USD in 2007, and with some consignments having a value of over $20 million USD this figure is quite believable. There is also concern that terrorists have used shipping containers in the past and will no doubt use them in the future to move weapons and explosives around the globe.
Pear Track Systems Ltd manufactures a covert container tracking system with a 10 year battery life, specifically designed for shipping containers. This system uses The Global Positioning System GPS to locate the container and then transmits the location information using the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM). Battery life of the PT-1000 has been optimised for the normal service life of a typical shipping container (10 years) and is able to send multiple position reports every day for the entire life cycle. The unit can also be fitted with a movement sensor so if the container is place on trailer or moved to another part of the port the device will wake up and give alert information and more frequent position reports. The system also has a capability to send an alert message when the container doors are opened, providing geocoded proof of delivery information to the consignee, along with the comfort of knowing that the shipment has reached its destination, and that there has been no unauthorised opening of the container doors.
The alerts can be sent by the web-based system via e-mail and Short Messaging Service (SMS) to the user's mobile phone. The user can then view the position of the container and the nature of the alert. The system allows users to find the position of the Pear Track tracking devices to within a few meters anywhere in the world by using a multiple mapping solutions via our web-based tracking portal. The each user has unique user name and password to access the advanced tracking system; this allows you to find both real-time and historic locations of the unit.
In as little as 30 minutes, the container tacking system can be covertly fitted inside the shipping container, with the GPS and GSM antenna's fitted covertly to the outside of the container, protecting it from damage and prying eyes. If a container does not need to be permanently tracked, we have a magnetically mounted self contained container GPS tracking system, ideal for a temporary asset tracking solution. The GPS/GSM device is covertly fitted on the outside of the container in a few seconds and has a 90 day rechargeable battery, there is an anti tamper facility that will alert the user if the unit is removed. The device can be attached to the container upon dispatch and then retrieved when it reaches its destination. The same unit can then be sent back to the originator to be recharged and reattached to another consignment. The PT-030C is ideal where random containers are used by the shipping agent.
Pear Track is working closely with a company that provides high security containers. The system is capable detecting a hole of only a few millimetre's being made in the wall or roof of the container, this advanced intrusion detection system uses the Pear Track device to signal an alarm and position. The secure container system is capable of detecting both physical breaches and the presence of nuclear material within the container. Many leading industry experts believe nuclear material detection will become mandatory for all shipments entering a USA port.
Pear Track is also working with a manufacture of light weight pallets to develop a secure Unit Load Device (ULD) for air cargo. This will utilise the Pear Track range providing tracking for very high value air cargo such as diamond shipments. The airline industry's definition of high value cargo is a shipment in excess of $15 million dollars. The new ULD will not only be extremely light which is critical for air cargo, it will have a facility for authorised personnel to temporarily deactivate the tracking unit before loading the ULD into the hold of an aircraft.
Another version of the 10 year tracking product is the Pear Track trailer tracking system for use on road trailers and rail rolling stock. This unit uses the same long life battery technology and can send an alert if the trailer or rail wagon / van (box car) is hitched or moved. All permanently fitted units report the ambient temperature inside the container or trailer and actively monitor the battery condition. An imaginary perimeter called a geo-fence can be set from 100 meters to 1km around the units via the Pear Track web portal; this will send an alert if the unit travels outside the selected geofence. The reporting intervals can also be remotely configured from the Pear Track web portal and an activity report can either be viewed on maps or downloaded in text form giving time, date, location, and temperature of the asset along with any alerts that were active at that time.
Pear Track offers a complete range of battery powered GPS tracking products, from the 10 year PT-1000 to a small personal match box size product called the MiniTrack. The MiniTrack has a 30 day rechargeable battery and can be carried by lone workers or security personnel; it can even be fitted to search and rescue dogs. The Pear Track range also included compact pallet tracking devices with a 1 to 2 year battery life and both 5 and 7 year products that are typically used for tracking a variety of non-powered and powered assets, including trailers, portable buildings and plant.
Although Pear Track Systems Ltd is a new company it has a long history in GPS tracking and communication systems. Pear Track was formed by Paul Burke and John Macey the originators of Minorplanet Ltd that went on to become one of the principle GPS tracking companies in the World, and to this day is regarded by many as the market leader in Vehicle tracking systems with many thousands of units operating globally. The GPS vehicle tracking industry grew rapidly in the early nineties and the Pear Track team was indeed pioneers, being instrumental in the development of the techniques and systems from which many modern GPS tracking systems are still based.
The Pear Track products are designed and manufactured in the UK to exacting standards using state of the art production and quality control facilities. Pear Track products are rigorously tested before leaving the factory, ensuring the highest quality and trouble free service 'out of the box'. As a world leader in long-life battery powered GPS and GSM tracking products, we are continually developing our product base, our R & D team have been developing and producing 'best of class' GPS, communication and security products for over 20 years.
About the author
Paul has been involved with the GPS tracking industry for over 15 years and was one of the founders of Minorplanet PLC.