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RFID for Air Cargo Operations: Real-Time Asset Tracking in Air Cargo Logistics

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • May 03, 2024
  • RFID
RFID for Air Cargo Operations: Real-Time Asset Tracking in Air Cargo Logistics

“RFID tags, sensor tags, BLE beacons, and GPS tags, etc. can help with real-time tracking and visibility of cargo at a global scale, allowing for order fulfillment and delivery accuracy in air cargo operations.”

Leveraging technology to transform transportation and logistics is the way forward in this dynamic world where the transportation and logistics industry faces multifaceted challenges. The challenges not only include the management of transportation networks like aircraft, buses, trains, or ships but also running the day-to-day operations as well. The RFID technology has been a crucial addition to a long list of steps taken to streamline aviation and airport operations, right from access control and security, ticketing, baggage claim, etc. to providing real-time tracking to flyers. 

As the trade expands, and businesses in the air cargo industry strive to stay ahead of the curve, the need to have efficient, streamlined air cargo operations was never higher. Businesses require complete visibility on air logistics and the movement of air cargo, not just for their own sake but for the clients as well. As technological advancements reshape the entire logistics industry, the integration of RFID and real-time tracking technologies like GPS, BLE, and other IoT sensors and devices can not only enhance profitability but it can also enhance asset and resource utilization and ensure delivery accuracy. 

In the logistics industry, asset visibility and order fulfillment are two of the most lingering issues and with the help of RFID and other real-time tracking technologies, businesses are trying to meet these goals. Global carriers like Emirates SkyCargo and Delta have already implemented RFID and GPS tagging for efficient air cargo operations.

Why track Air Cargo?

In recent years, the global air cargo industry has witnessed a significant increase in demand due to the rise of e-commerce, global trade, and the need for rapid and efficient transportation of goods. As a result, there is a growing need for advanced tracking and monitoring systems to ensure the security, safety, and efficiency of air cargo operations. 

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, combined with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Global Positioning System (GPS), Ultra-Wideband (UWB), Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN), and other cutting-edge technologies, has emerged as a promising solution for real-time asset tracking in air cargo logistics.

RFID for Air Cargo Operations: Real-Time Asset Tracking in Air Cargo Logistics

RFID Technology in Air Cargo Operations

RFID technology has revolutionized asset tracking and inventory management across various industries, and its application in air cargo operations is no exception. RFID tags equipped with microchips, containing unique identification codes, can be attached to cargo, containers, and assets, enabling automated data capture and real-time visibility throughout the cargo handling process. 

These RFID-tagged assets can be quickly scanned and verified using a single handheld RFID scanner at the time of loading and unloading the cargo as well as by walking down the aisle inside the aircraft. The RFID technology thus brings operational efficiency, minimizes human error, and provides accurate, up-to-date information about the location and condition of assets in transit. 

Leveraging BLE for Enhanced Proximity Tracking of Air Cargo

In conjunction with RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology offers enhanced proximity tracking capabilities within cargo facilities and aircraft. Integrating BLE beacons with RFID tags allows air cargo operators to monitor the movement of assets within predefined zones, track loading and unloading processes, and ensure compliance with safety and security protocols. 

Moreover, BLE-enabled mobile devices can serve as gateways for asset data collection, enabling seamless communication between RFID tags and centralized tracking systems. This level of data capturing and data processing unlocks real-time visibility which can be accessed on a smartphone screen as well. 

Enhanced Positioning with GPS and UWB

Global Positioning System (GPS) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technologies also play a crucial role in providing accurate location data for air cargo assets during transit. GPS tagging of assets facilitates outdoor positioning, enabling real-time tracking of cargo across a global scale. Since GPS works through satellites and offers accurate positioning down to a few meters, it is extremely beneficial in the real-time tracking of cargo positions globally. On the other hand, UWB technology offers precise indoor positioning, allowing for tracking within cargo terminals, warehouses, and aircraft holds. 

The integration of RFID with GPS and UWB ensures comprehensive asset identification and visibility, enabling air cargo operators to monitor the entire journey of the cargo, from origin to destination, with unparalleled precision.

Long-Range Connectivity through LoRaWAN

Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN), a low-powered wide area network technology, offers extended connectivity for asset tracking in air cargo operations. Leveraging LoRaWAN infrastructure, RFID-enabled cargo can transmit data over long distances, enabling seamless communication with centralized monitoring systems throughout. Such long-range connectivity is particularly beneficial for tracking assets in remote or expansive cargo facilities, as well as during transit between airports, ensuring continuous data transmission and real-time monitoring capabilities.

Integration of IoT Sensor Technologies for Condition Monitoring in Air Cargo Operations

In addition to location tracking, RFID technology, in conjunction with BLE, GPS, UWB, and LoRaWAN, can facilitate the integration of IoT sensor technologies for condition monitoring of air cargo. Temperature, humidity, shock, and pressure sensors can be embedded within RFID sensor tags, providing real-time environmental and security data. These sensors are extremely cost-effective and efficient by design.

The use of IoT and RFID Sensor tags enables air cargo operators to proactively address issues such as temperature excursions, humidity fluctuations, and physical impacts, ensuring the integrity of sensitive cargo and compliance with industry regulations. This is particularly helpful in healthcare, where vital organs are often airlifted for transplant or blood banks move their inventory on an as needed basis. 

What are the challenges that one must consider?

While the integration of RFID, BLE, GPS, UWB, LoRaWAN, and sensor technologies offers immense potential for real-time asset tracking in air cargo logistics, several challenges and considerations must be addressed. These include interoperability of different technologies, standardization of data formats, power management for battery-operated devices, data security and privacy, as well as regulatory compliance with aviation and transportation authorities. Once these challenges are sorted out, which is quite easy to do given how standardized these modern technologies are, the implementation becomes seamless. 

To summarize, the use of RFID technology has transformed how we manage air cargo operations. The combination of RFID technology with BLE, GPS, LoRaWAN, and other IoT technologies presents a compelling solution for real-time asset tracking in air cargo logistics operations. Integrating these cutting-edge technologies allows air cargo operators to enhance operational efficiency, ensure the safety and security of cargo, and provide customers with transparency and visibility throughout the supply chain. It effectively solves the two most challenging issues namely asset visibility and order fulfillment, in the logistics industry.

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  • Created on May 03, 2024

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