M2M Ships Cargo in the Sky


Soon enough, flight attendants may no longer be telling passengers to turn off all electrical devices prior to takeoff. With the official announcement of Cargo Companion, Southwest Airlines Cargo takes M2M (machine-to-machine), in the form of asset tracking, to the sky.

While it’s not quite for commercial airline travel (sorry, you still have to stop playing Words with Friends prior to takeoff), what this service will provide is commercial freight customers with 24x7 visibility regarding the location and environmental status of high-value and time/temperature-sensitive items shipped on Southwest Airlines Cargo.

In fact, this is not the first time we have seen an airline work with M2M technology in order to enable cargo tracking in the air. Earlier this year, Delta Airlines came on The Peggy Smedley show to discuss a tracking solution that monitors cargo on a flight.  

Currently the system, which is enabled by remote monitoring and freight intelligence technology provider OnAsset Intelligence, www.onasset.com, is just sending location alerts. However, Colin Rogers, senior manager specialty sales with Southwest Airlines, sees future alerts coming in the form of temperature or pressure. To be clear, currently customers are able to see such conditions on their cargo, but only through the Web portal, www.swcargo.com. What Rogers is referring to is the ability to have such events sent to the customer as email alerts to their smart devices. Currently this is only being done to alert customers when their shipment crosses predefined checkpoints, arrives at its destination, or if any potential issues arise during transit.       

Global priority shipping and logistics provider Quick International was among the initial test-customers for the program, using the service to ship organs for transplant, and temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products. The company’s Vice President of Marketing Marie Vigliarolo says they work with Southwest because the airline not only provides the company with a high level of visibility regarding the status of shipments, but they also present alternatives that help facilitate a plan-B or a plan-C, should the need arise.

Addressing the issue of why now with such a service, Rogers believes it is the next step to enabling high-tech tracking for freight tracking. He notes how options like truck and ocean freight and rail transportation have the means to offer GPS tracking on shipments. While airlines offer a speedier means of transportation, it can also be a more expensive option for customers. A service like Cargo Companion could go a long way towards leveling that playing field.

The technology from OnAsset serves as a strong backbone to the system, providing the network assistance and strong services, bundled with the software platform, which includes a comprehensive set of business rules. This platform can be incorporated with other business functions and systems within Southwest in order to further enhance the offering in the future.

As M2M technology continues to move further into all aspects of our daily lives, this serves as a prime example for how the possibilities seem endless.

Connected World Issue
June/July 2014
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