Growing season is fast approaching for many fruit producers in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere’s Australia and New Zealand. “Whether you are a farmer of cherries, avocados, citrus or durian, the ability to track the location and temperature of in-transit domestic and/or export shipments is critical to your quality control procedures,” says Matthew Neidlinger with Emerson. “However, rapidly evolving cellular network technologies are impacting real-time tracking devices used throughout the cold chain, and growers need to be vigilant for signs of data gaps as they track shipments along their routes,” he added.
2G and 3G cellular networks have long provided the technological backbone that enables real-time trackers to transmit live location and temperature data on in-transit perishable shipments. Combined with a cloud-enabled data infrastructure and supporting software, this solution gives perishable supply chain stakeholders live access to in-transit shipment location, temperature, humidity and other available sensor data. These tools have become essential for ensuring shipments arrive at their destination on time and at the ideal holding temperatures that maximize freshness and shelf life.
But as 4G LTE and 5G technologies become more widespread, cellular providers in the Asia-Pacific region have been among the first to sunset 2G and 3G networks in favor of more robust 4G and 5G technologies. As this transition continues, end users of real-time cargo tracking devices may experience gaps in their live shipment monitoring and tracking capabilities.
Transition to 4G LTE and 5G tracking technologies
“With the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks, operators of real-time trackers will need to transition to the next generation of cellular networks powered by 4G LTE and 5G technologies,” said Neidlinger. “It is important to remember that cargo tracking devices do not have the same data, memory and battery requirements of modern mobile handsets; they just need to transmit only small packets of data periodically.”
4G LTE and 5G cellular providers are also offering low-power, wide-area (LPWA) alternatives to the high-speed, high-bandwidth variants designed for modern smartphones. To help perishable produce stakeholders make this transition at an accessible price point, Emerson is developing its next generation of real-time tracking devices to utilize these new networks.
"We launched the first of these new devices at the Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin earlier this year," shared Neidlinger. Because some carriers are still supporting 2G networks in certain regions, our new GO Real-Time 4G/5G devices are designed with multi-network capabilities that “fall back” to 2G connectivity as needed. This will provide coverage for shipments that travel between legacy 2G and emerging 4G/5G networks.
Closely monitor in-transit shipping data
Most growers have neither been informed about the ongoing cellular network transition nor have they been watching for disruptions in coverage. As coverage will likely vary throughout the region for several years, companies should monitor their shipping routes closely for blind spots in visibility to shipment data. Today, Emerson is working with their Asia-Pacific customers to help them maintain robust monitoring programs and provide a consistent data experience, regardless of their shipping routes.