While many carriers in transport and logistics have tracking and tracing systems in place today, these are typically proprietary solutions. At the same time, supply chains are becoming more and more complex, involving multiple carriers and multiple transport modes. There is a high demand for accurate and up-to-date information exchange across the different carriers and modes of transport.
The RTD project ParcelCall has focused on interoperability, open interfaces, and standardization in order to allow seamless tracking and tracing across the entire logistics and transportation chain. Owing to its open and scalable system architecture, the ParcelCall system can be easily extended by adding new server components. A small trucking company can adopt the ParcelCall tracking and tracing services as well as a huge multinational integrator.
The objective of ParcelCall was to realise a scalable real-time, intelligent, end-to-end tracking and tracing system for transport and logistics applications – to operate across all border, carriers and transportation modes. It draws on emerging technologies, e.g., radio frequency identification (RFID), and public data communication networks to develop the system and verify the application in a realistic business context. Standard mobile phones are used, any time and anywhere, to get near real-time tracing information along the complete logistic chain.
The approach distinguishes three levels with increasing performance, flexibility, and scalability:
Development of an open tracking and tracing architecture across the complete logistic chain.
Integration of active sensors, providing the means to monitor and control environmental conditions and quality status of transport goods.
Incorporation of communicating sensors providing alert messages directly to the goods owner if environmental conditions deviate from their default ranges.
The ParcelCall project is driven by two scenarios, 2003 and 2008. In scenario 2003, passive radio tags are attached to individual transport items. Static information like identity, sender, and destination address is transmitted to a tag reader upon transshipping. In scenario 2008, active radio tags are combined with sensors to measure environmental data like temperature, humidity, or acceleration. Independent of transportation mode or carrier the ParcelCall system can notify a freight owner when unexpected conditions occur. Such properties are achieved by building a distributed system, where the constituents are the intelligent packet objects that communicate with each other and with the backbone system via invocation messages. More advanced, economically well-suited networks have contributed to the communication subsystem such as Bluetooth for short-range and the cellular GPRS (General Package Radio Service) for long-range communication.”