During a trial for Royal FloraHolland, Babbler devices were placed inside reefer containers with flowers bound from Kenya to Europe. The flowers are transported at low temperatures to ensure they arrive in good condition. A major worry for shippers such as FloraHolland is how their cargo is treated during international transport. Low-value goods like food or flowers are not at much risk from theft. But improper handling by workers along the transport route can diminish the value of the cargo or cause it to perish. Because of the opaque nature of todays supply chains, it is difficult to know where a problem arose. Which leads to complicated legal disputes if anything goes wrong.
Supply chains are vulnerable to fuel theft
A reefer container was loaded at the flower farm and driven by truck to the port, to be loaded onto a ship some time later. During the long and bumpy truck journey, the reefer container relies on a diesel generator to power the refrigeration unit. If the generator runs out of fuel, the temperature in the reefer quickly rises, causing the cargo to be lost. Because of this, trucks carrying reefer containers take a lot of fuel on a trip. With 100 liters of diesel equal to several Kenyan days wages, many drivers are tempted to liberate some 'surplus' fuel. Even if there is no malicious intent, the opportunity for bad things to happen due to human or mechanical error is ever-present.
Babbler: valuable insight for on-site workers
Luckily in this instance, a Babbler was present in the container. A routine inspection of the container upon arrival at the port showed puzzling data. The inspector waved his smartphone in front of the closed container and could see that the temperature had suddenly risen for a few minutes and then dropped back to normal, while the doors had remained closed. Had the generator or reefer container failed? Had someone started a bbq next to the container? Puzzled by the data, the inspector asked around. The exact time of the temperature spike was known, so he could pinpoint who had access to the container. Quickly it turned out that during the truck journey, the driver had stolen diesel fuel, for which he needed to turn off the generator. This kind of theft happens on a regular basis, but it is hard to pinpoint the involved parties. Data from the Babbler has allowed the process to be improved structurally.
From IoT data to Big Data
Gathering raw data and presenting it to end-users is the first part of the IoT revolution. The data described above was simply not available without IoT. In this case the data was relevant to the inspector so that he could interpret it properly. However if the inspector viewed the data after several weeks, the temperature spike would not stand out, and would no longer be actionable. Currently humans can interpret the IoT data to improve business processes. But it is only a matter of time until the interpretation can be carried out automatically by big-data systems.
Babbler is an end-to-end monitoring solution for supply chains.
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