Smart Shipping: How smart, self-powered sensors and the IoT create greater value for you

Q&A with Paul Egan, VP Business Development, 8power

Presenting at Intermodal Europe 28th-30th November 2017 RAI Amsterdam

Can you provide an overview of your smart shipping conference topic/session?

“I want to share with the audience a vision of how 8power is solving a major problem for the smart shipping industry: that is to say, how to get near real-time data from “connected” (as in online) containers – and their associated transport – to drive better decisions, thus creating more value for operators and their customers.

8power’s end-to-end solutions provide location and condition monitoring data from custom trackers. The big difference compared to other solutions currently on the market is that we have developed our own “energy harvesting” technology. This innovation means that devices do not need a wired power supply – and they don’t require battery charging or replacing, either.  We literally capture energy generated by movement – small vibrations in the ambient environment – and channel this efficiently to power our sensors.

Some people think of us as a clean-tech or green-tech company and yes, that’s true, because our technology doesn’t require fossil fuels or generate nasty chemicals – which is obviously good news for our customers, minimising your carbon footprint and protecting your corporate reputation.  But mostly we like to think of ourselves as an asset intelligence company that provides you the best tools to manage your business more effectively and profitably. So, in essence, I guess you could say I am going to talk about how our products help smart shipping companies sleep better at night.”

Why is this an important topic to discuss?

“The Industry of Things (IoT) has made great inroads into many aspects of our personal and business lives.  Smart Shipping is now on the brink of a similar transformation.  Basically, as your readers know, the linking of physical assets to the web and mobile devices means we can achieve things previously unthinkable. Sensors are the key drivers in this world, as it is these tiny devices which capture valuable information at source in the form of accurate and timely measurements.  But sensors can be problematic – they require maintenance, or need batteries.  And then the sensors’ batteries need changing, or charging… Major headache!! Of course, none of this is a problem when you use sensors from 8power!!!

We are seeing increasing interest in using what we have termed “energy independent” (or self- powered) devices to provide real time GPS location and data over existing mobile networks and the next generation of low power wide area networks, such as NB-IoT & LTE CAT-M1.

By using our technology, 8power removes the need to change tracker units or have them charged. Our products massively reduce costs and simplify how to get data. In essence, 8power’s technology brings your dark assets online.”

What can attendees expect to learn and discover from your session?

“I will demonstrate our latest range of tracking products as part of my presentation and also at our Exhibitor Stand J40 throughout Intermodal 2017.  Specifically, and relevantly, 8power’s trackers have been designed to be a precise form factor ideally suited to intermodal containers. (We have actually spent a lot of time and effort targeting our research and development investment on understanding what it’s like to be a container!)”

What would you say is the biggest issue being faced/discussed in the smart shipping industry at the moment?

“Our partners and customers are leaders in their field – and they are telling us they want to track more containers in real time. Unfortunately for them, the solutions currently available are too expensive, require too much maintenance and don’t deliver the volume and accuracy of data needed. At 8power we relish this challenge.  Indeed, we believe we can solve all of these problems and continue to drive costs down as we progressively roll out our product range in full over time.  We are at the cusp of a very exciting journey!”

What do you think the biggest challenge for the industry will be in 2018?

“Globally I think the biggest challenges remain the speed of change and the increasing randomness and unpredictability of what’s happening across the world today.  Every day the news brings more shocks and surprises. In such an uncertain world, you naturally want to have as much relevant information as possible, as soon as you can sensibly act upon it.  For the intermodal industry this will increasingly mean treating your fleet like IoT devices and therefore managing this portfolio of valuable assets in real time. Of course, such an approach represents a paradigm shift from current systems, processes and procedures. But the initial feedback we are getting is that people want to understand and embrace this trend rather than ignore it.”

What innovative measures should the industry adopt in the next few years to ensure market sustainability and growth?

“Clearly business, like life in general, is getting much more specialised and inter-linked.  Managing these intricate and intertwined networks of relationships, transportation and cargo is a massive challenge. Optimising a complex and geographically scattered fleet of containers therefore becomes a mission-critical, core competency.  To do this effectively, knowing where your assets are and their condition is vital to remain competitive.”

Why do you think events such as Intermodal Europe are important for the industry?

“I think all industries need to share best practice and investigate new developments and events such as these are an ideal opportunity to do so. Intermodal Europe provides an essential meeting place for a fruitful exchange of ideas.

Certainly, 8power are thrilled to be supporting and participating in Intermodal Europe because it puts us at the heart of an industry that is very important to our business.  Being here means we get to connect with all the key market players within a broader ecosystem to which we are totally committed.

From our perspective, Intermodal Europe provides a neutral platform for the industry to assess market trends.  Moreover, we expect the event will offer insights to services companies who will create the next generation of products and services needed for smart shipping companies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.”