ULD and
Technology

For decades, ULD operations seemed to miss out on technological advancements. However, recent advances in technology are making tracking air cargo equipment more possible and easier. There are number of new developments showing the potential to automate tracking and hand-off of air cargo assets.

  • Bluetooth Low Energy  (BLE) tags – allows asset owners to see ‘Where is my ULD’ in real-time with an increasing degree of accuracy.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – Performs the same function as BLE but using a different technology. IoT systems use the existing mobile phone networks to transmit data from tagged ULD to a central processor.
  •  Smart Phone Apps – Replacing the paper based ULD Control Receipt with an app-based  data capture is now technically achievable. Replacing the 50-year-old paper based process with a digital capture and sign off greatly improves accuracy and timeliness.

Example of an app generated ULD Control Receipt

  •  Blockchain has shown great promise in many industries, including cargo and shipping. ULD CARE collaborated with SITA recently to build a proof-of-concept blockchain-based platform that would replicate the functions of the IULDUG system, while expanding its capability to handle transactions involving non airline entities, such as freight forwarders. This proof-of-concept met all expectations, producing reports that mirrored the same transactions on the current IULDUG system. 

  • Application Program Interfaces (APIs) enable easy and instantaneous transfer of data between systems, allowing the potential integration of a demurrage platform into third parties IT systems. 

Technology and Demurrage

These new developments in technology are making the possibility of an automated tracking and transfer platform more realistic. However, the elements fundamental to an effective demurrage system in air cargo have always existed. The application of that system is where the industry has fallen short and, at this point, technology may not solve the issue if the asset owners do not enforce demurrage rules. 

Any technological solution also comes with some important considerations:

  • The cost to develop and implement the technology must be feasible 
  • The technology must be easily integrated into existing industry practices

Nobody likes to pay a fine or a penalty, but this can be made far less painful with the intelligent application of technology. For airlines to enjoy these benefits requires that:

  • There be an industry level acceptance that demurrage for ULD be a standard practise.
  • That a single common platform be established to process ULD transfer transactions, avoiding a multiplicity of airline-by-airline approaches, offering transparency to shippers and delivering a pain-free process for all involved.