Tracking deliveries with satellite enabled IoT

Tracking deliveries with satellite enabled IoT

Delivery of goods by road transport is common but it does present some major challenges for logistics managers. One of the most significant is theft in transit. According to a 2021 report, by far the most common form of theft is to hijack vehicles or gain forcible entry into containers while in transit – at 71%, this easily beats thefts from facilities (25%).

There is also the growing problem of people stowing away in vehicles or containers. As well as increasing insurance costs, this can lead to loss of goods. Another danger is perishable goods arriving at the destination in an unusable state, most often due to temperature sensitivity.

These risks can all be mitigated by tracking deliveries with satellite-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Any company that transports or distributes goods can use IoT solutions to track the location, condition, and status of those goods, potentially dramatically improving their operational efficiency.

For example, theft of cargo can be prevented using IoT-enabled locks that can send an alert when they detect tampering. Similar technology can prevent unauthorised persons from gaining entry to the vehicle.

Tracking deliveries with satellite-enabled IoT helps improve driver safety, while also giving the recipient of the goods a better idea of arrival time to help plan their unloading activities.

Data on the temperature condition of sensitive goods can also reduce the cost of wastage. By detecting an unexpected temperature change, the chance of good being spoiled on arrival is greatly reduced, saving on replacement costs and boosting the sustainability of the delivery operations.

A good overview of the actual route taken by the truck can aid in optimizing the route to save fuel, while data from sensors can also be used to detect wear, allowing maintenance issues to be addressed before they pose a significant problem.

Achieving these benefits for logistics companies requires a connectivity solution that is both reliable, low-cost, and flexible.

A prime candidate for this connectivity is LoRa ®. Short for Long Range, this is a low-power, terrestrial wireless platform for IoT. Based on a series of integrated circuits developed by Semtech, transceivers configured with these LoRa devices are embedded into end nodes or sensor devices. These capture data and transmit it to gateways, which in turn send it over the air to the network.

Compared to terrestrial connectivity technologies such as 4G, LoRa offers rapid deployment over a wide area, cutting both capital costs and operational costs. Advantages over cellular technologies such as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) include low power operation, allowing devices to work for extended periods, several years in some cases, without the need to replace the battery.

For logistics applications, the greatest benefits come from combining low-cost terrestrial connectivity such as LoRa, with the wide geographical access of satellite systems.

An example is EchoStar Mobile, which chose to deploy LoRa and LoRaWAN-compatible technologies as central elements in its pan-European satellite IoT network. The EchoStar Mobile LoRa Transceiver can operate on terrestrial LoRaWAN networks as well as connecting to EchoStar Mobile’s satellite network.

This gives a highly flexible connectivity system. For example, a vehicle tracking solution would use a terrestrial network when the vehicle is in an underground car park. However, when the vehicle is on a remote delivery route, a terrestrial service might not be available, and the tracking solution would switch to the satellite network.

This ensures data from LoRaWAN devices is transferred to data processing or control centres in a reliable and timely manner.

With this solution, users have complete, uninterrupted access to data across country borders. Two-way communication allows both the uploading and downloading of data and commands to vehicle-mounted sensors.

Using a solution that combines the best of terrestrial and satellite-based technologies, logistics managers will know where their vehicles and cargos are at all times and ensure they are always delivered as expected, with minimum risk and cost.