Smart containers and smart tracking: How the IoT is transforming shipping

13 September 2019


Shipping is becoming smarter, more efficient, more adaptive and more responsive. Artificial intelligence, telematics and the Internet of Things (IoT) is proving transformative for the container shipping world, with huge implications for the way the industry operates.

Artificial Intelligence

With frequent headlines invoking HAL 9000 and Terminator’s Skynet, Artificial Intelligence seems to have become a frightening concept to many people. But the opportunities AI presents container shipping are huge, particularly for autonomous control and cybersecurity – the latter is increasingly important as shipping firms gather more and more data.

For instance, in 2017, Maersk fell victim to an enormous cyberattack that cost the company as much as $300 million. New AI platforms that can learn what ‘normal behaviour’ within an organisation’s computer systemlooks like could be the answer to threats like these, developing the ability todetect and counter any anomalies.

Something Maersk has already taken advantage of is anAI-driven situational awareness technology produced by Sea Machines Robotics. Sea Machines predicts such a system can reduce Maersk’s operational costs by 40%.


Container shipping can also benefit from improved telematics systems. Telematics is any technology that measures, sends and receives information about movement, speed and performance of vehicles, such as GPS. Shipping is already taking advantage of cheap, reliable and globalsatellite communications system.

But using Big Data, telematics systems can make more accurate and usable measurements of weather and sea conditions, fuel consumption, speed, idle time and more to better optimise the route a vessel is taking, predict maintenance and significantly reduce operating costs.

Telematics allows humans to make better decisions by collecting and analysing data quickly and reliably. It can provide better data about maintenance and operations, thereby paving the way for even less human intervention, and eventually entirely autonomous shipping.

The Internet of Things

All of this ties into the ever-ubiquitous Internet ofThings, which is set to play a big role in smart containers and set to add significantly more adaptiveness and responsiveness right down the supply chain. 

This includes capacity sensors in warehouses and ports,systems that detect and analyse events to allow for more accurate deliverydates, route optimisation tools, and energy management monitors and fault detection systems that can monitor fleets of ships for faults and maintenance.

More importantly, the IoT will make cargo tracking much easier. Firms can make use of tools that detect unauthorised openings of shippingcontainers and track the exact location of individual items. For sensitivecargoes, an IoT-enabled device could manage the environment of a shippingcontainer, with remote temperature monitoring allowing users to adjust heat and humidity according to the cargo’s requirements.

As a result, firms will be able to offer a more efficient, more reliable, more cost-effective and far smarter service than ever before.

Get the full low-down on smart containers at Intermodal Europe

Taking place in Hamburg, 5-7 November, Intermodal Europe 2019 presents the free-to-attend IoT and Smart Container Forum. These sessions will bring together experts for an all-day discussion about the opportunities posed by these new technologies. Intermodal thought leaders will engage with monitoring, tracking, and smart containers at this exclusive forum.


Sign up for your free ticket today and make sure you’ll be there