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Container Tracking Devices in Global Intermodal Transport


People have accustomed to the globalized world and its opportunities. The availability of potentially all products from any part of the world is not regarded as a privilege of the chosen. The development of international intermodal transport of goods contributes significantly to the availability of products as their cost and delivery time reduce. In its turn, international intermodal transport is constantly undergoing changes (or rather improvements) due to the development and use of new container tracking devices (Miler, 2015). Such devices as tags, sensors, ID cards, seals, and the like are becoming common. This paper focuses on the way these devices improve global intermodal transport.

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Sensors and Tags

Tracking, Controlling, Adjusting, Alarming

The use of sensors and tags is quite a new practice that is quickly becoming the norm. These devices perform different roles and improve cargos’ visibility and the overall transparency of the delivery process. One of the major roles of such devices is tracking. It is important for manufacturing companies, retailers, customers, delivery companies, authorities to be able to track down the cargo or a particular item. Sensors are often adjusted to one or all surfaces of containers. These sensors send signals that can be transmitted with the help of land systems or even satellites (when it comes to the maritime industry) (Laursen, 2016). Tracking is one of the most basic operations necessary to ensure effective logistics. It is essential to understand the location of the cargo to be able to control its safe delivery.

Another type of sensors and tags can provide information concerning certain features of items or the container. These features usually include temperature, humidity, shock, and even light (Miler, 2015). This option is important for many goods that require specific conditions. As far as the control of shock and light, this option ensures the container’s (and items’) safety as these features can detect any intrusions or damages of the container. Such sensors are especially valuable when transporting high-value products, fresh food, hazardous materials, and medicine or high-tech devices and equipment.

The alarm is another important feature of modern sensors and tags. If some disruptions occur (wrong location or damages of the container, inappropriate temperature within the container, and so on), sensors and tags send the corresponding signals. This alarm can help make correct decisions concerning the cargo and its delivery.


Before the discussion of the benefits of the devices in question, it is necessary to mention some drawbacks. First, such devices are costly, so many companies use them with high-value products only and tolerate losses when it comes to other types of products. Another peculiarity of the devices is the need to train the staff to use sensors and tags properly (Ames, 2017). Training is associated with additional financial investment that can be unavailable. The maritime industry faces another important challenge related to the use of these devices as they are often supported by communication channels that tend to malfunction. GSM and satellites may fail to provide real-time connectivity, which can result in the loss of the cargo.

Irrespective of these downsides, sensors, and tags are still widely used and constantly changing. These devices improve the overall international intermodal transport as every container can be visible controlled. The customer can obtain access to the data through the use of cloud-based systems and track their items, control the most important features, and so on. The visibility of containers can help companies reduce their costs due to the prevention of supply chain breakdowns that may lead to significant losses.

Latest Advances

It is necessary to add that sensors are becoming more efficient. First, companies develop new sensors and tags that are cheaper due to mass production (Ames, 2017). This trend improves the cost-effectiveness of intermodal transport operations. Sensors are becoming more advanced as they can collect and process more data. The connectivity is also enhanced through the use of more satellites and advanced information systems. It is anticipated that these devices will be used by different stakeholders (customers, producers, delivery companies, customs officers) involved in the process as different features of containers will be monitored and controlled.

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Other Devices

Apart from sensors and tags, seals are also valuable devices that can improve supply chain operations (Miler, 2015). These devices are mainly used as an addition to sensors. Seals ensure the container’s safety as in case of any intrusion, the corresponding signals are sent. Many companies also start using TWIC (“transportation worker identification card”) that monitors the proximity of the personnel to the container (Miler, 2015, p. 45).

Therefore, the safety of the container and items is enhanced. It is also possible to monitor whether all guidelines are followed by the staff. New systems are equipped with important devices that help manage the data. Relayers™ are placed in containers or even individual packages (Miler, 2015). These devices collect data from sensors, tags, and ID cards. These data are sent to central servers or can be potentially managed with the help of cloud computing. Finally, these devices can send some data through SMS or email notifications. These options can ensure cost-effective supply chain operations.

Implications for the Global Intermodal Transport

Apart from providing limitless opportunities to companies and individuals, the use of the devices mentioned above can improve the international intermodal transportation system. One of the major improvements will be associated with the ability to consolidate and centralize data. At present, various delivery companies, postal services, and other stakeholders have their own internal and quite fragmented systems (De Meijer, 2017).

However, the use of cost-effective devices (sensors, tags, seals, ID cards, and the like) can help these stakeholders develop a centralized system where vehicles (vessels, aircraft), as well as each container, can be tracked or even controlled to a certain extent. The use of cloud-based information systems can help manage and share big data. This centralized system could be beneficial for global intermodal transport as it could help avoid losses and disruption of delivery times. In case of emergency, different companies and agencies could interact, which would be beneficial for the customer who would receive their items promptly.


In conclusion, it is necessary to note that container tracking devices are becoming more sophisticated and can help locate and control the most important features of containers. These devices are becoming cheaper, which is associated with the reduction of costs. Apart from obvious, benefits for delivery companies, postal services, and the like, the use of such devices could improve the entire system. Centralized databases cold help different stakeholders interact effectively and address such challenges as safety issues, delivery time issues, and so on.


Ames, B. (2017). Honeywell launches freight-tracking tool for high value goods. DC Velocity. Web.

De Meijer, C. R. W. (2017). Blockchain and package tracking: A win-win situation! Finextra. Web.

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Laursen, W. (2016). Machine to machine in the container supply chain. The Maritime Executive. Web.

Miler, R. K. (2015). Electronic container tracking system as a cost-effective tool in intermodal and maritime transport management. Economic Alternatives, 1, 40-52. Web.

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