4

I was reading about the tracking of parcels and other shipments, being a primary example of IoT applications. But I'm wondering about how reliable and precise the positioning would be. I have the impression that those tracking devices would not get any GPS signal in shipping containers, trucks or buildings, where they would be most of the time.

Also, I see the same issue regarding the connection to a cellular network or alike, especially in regions with bad network coverage.

So, how reliable is location tracking of shipments?

closed as off-topic by Bence Kaulics, 10 Replies, anonymous2, bravokeyl, Dom Dec 7 '16 at 5:07

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about Internet of Things, within the scope defined in the help center." – Bence Kaulics, 10 Replies, anonymous2, bravokeyl, Dom
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    In practice, you don't need to know where the shipment is, if you know where the truck, building, or container it's in is. – Mark Dec 6 '16 at 22:45
7

I am not certain that this is an IoT question.

I have the impression that those tracking devices would not get any GPS signal in shipping containers, trucks or buildings, where they would be most of the time.

Also, I see the same issue regarding the connection to a cellular network or alike, especially in regions with bad network coverage.

I have developed tracking systems, and can tell you the following - for package tracking, you do not get the current location.

You package is tracked at "gateways" along its delivery route. It is collected or handed over to the shipper, then it goes to a depot, from there, possibly, to an airport or ship, reaches a destination (air)port, gets loaded onto another truck, goes to another depot, onto a another truck, and heads towards you ...

... but, at every step along the way, it is scanned & updates the database which provide you with tracking info. You are NOT (currently, this year, or any time soon), going to see "it is on the high street; it just passed the crossroads; it is turning into your street; your drive way".

In short, packages are not GPS tracked, just checked off at waypoints,


I have also tracked trucks and shipping containers (outdoor stuff).

Where a 'phone network is available, we periodically get a GPS fix & send it by SMS (which is generally cheaper than using TCP (although Singapore is a special case, with almost complete free wifi coverage)).

Out of network range, we use cheap (US $500) low data rate satellite modems, such as those from SkyWave.

Note that we pros tend to prefer GPS for accuracy, but you can also use Google Maps, which will traingulate on cell towers, with less accuracy.

Indoors, it gets really tricky & you can choose between having some sort of scanner in doorways, or or having your device traingulate on the signal strength of wifi routers, etc

But, I am digressing here, so feel free to ask further quesitons, if intersted, for more detailed answers.

  • 1
    So there would be no difference to today's mainstream tracking systems for parcels (say bar code scanning)? Which would really raise the question whether shipment tracking is an IoT application.. Then why is it described a such everywhere? – Floern Dec 6 '16 at 23:01
  • There would, indeed, be no difference. Whether it is a human or a machine scanning a barcode or something similar (I have tracked shipments with RFID & NFC), it's much the same. Why is it described as IoT everywhere? This year's thing, sounds cool, share price, venture capital ... "with enzymes" ;-) Technically, IoT is just M2M (machine to machine), so bar code scanner to database to browser just about qualifies – Mawg Dec 6 '16 at 23:06
2

You'd track on several levels.

You track the truck with GPS, not the products. You track the individual shipments with zigbee or RFID. Those technologies are a lot cheaper. Thus, it's affordable to put them in or on less expensive products. Between commercial end points both sides can verify each product by the WPAN technologies on arrival or on packaging the truck.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.