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7 Keys to Preparing for the Future of Real-time Tracking

Matthew Neidlinger | Director of Product Management,

Digital Solutions, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

Over the next several years, 2G and 3G cellular networks will become obsolete and potentially impair the ability for real-time trackers to help provide in-transit monitoring of perishable shipments. These legacy cellular networks have provided the technology infrastructure that enabled real-time trackers to deliver live location and temperature data throughout the global perishable cold chain. But as these networks are phased out, end users will need to make the transition to cargo-tracking devices built to utilize next-generation networks.

It’s a complicated landscape, but Emerson will help you navigate this important industry evolution. Here are seven keys you need to know to ensure a smooth transition to next-generation, real-time tracking devices.

    1. Why are 2G and 3G cellular networks being phased out? The quickly evolving mobile device industry has outgrown both 2G and 3G networks. As 4G and 5G technologies roll out globally, 2G and 3G networks are becoming obsolete. Specific turndown timelines are dependent on carrier and geographic regions.
    2. What does this mean to the cargo tracking industry? Real-time trackers help end users monitor food quality and safety by providing access to location and sensor data such as temperature, humidity and much more. As 2G and 3G networks turn down, cold chain stakeholders will begin to experience gaps in their coverage, which could impair their abilities to help monitor food quality (freshness) and safety in real time.
    3. How do you know if you’re impacted? If you are currently using 2G and 3G real-time trackers, you may already be experiencing the impacts of cellular network turndown. Pay attention to your data; be on the lookout for increasing blind spots in your visibility to shipment location/temperature data.
    4. What’s taking the place of 2G and 3G networks? Real-time trackers transmit small packets of data that require relatively little memory, battery power and bandwidth. Next-generation, low-power, wide area (LPWA) 5G network technologies — such as Category M (Cat-M) and Narrow band IoT (NB-IoT) — will deliver similar performance characteristics to 2G and 3G while keeping the cost of real-time trackers affordable.
    5. When will these new networks roll out? New Cat-M 5G networks are already in the process of rolling out, and major U.S. network providers are allocating infrastructure and technology investments toward these next-generation technologies. While this trend will continue, in some countries and shipping regions, 2G will remain viable well into the future due to its installed base and cost-effectiveness.
    6. When will the next generation of real-time tracking devices be available? To minimize gaps in real-time coverage due to the 2G and 3G turndown, we are actively developing the next generation of real-time trackers that utilize multi-network technology and redundancy. These new devices will help eliminate real-time dead zones by providing global coverage for shipments that travel between regions covered by both 2G and emerging networks.
    7. How is Emerson helping the industry make this transition? The cellular landscape will be in flux for the next several years, and Emerson is doing everything we can to help prepare the cargo tracking industry for this transition. In addition to developing the next generation of GO real-time 4G/5G tracking devices, we are advising customers about which real-time trackers work best for their shipping routes and working closely with network providers to understand the timing of 2G and 3G turndowns.

Wherever your business ships its perishable cargo, we’ll help you navigate the cellular transition. For additional details on how you can implement these steps, please download our infographic.

Introducing the Next Generation of Real-time Cargo Tracking Devices

Matthew Neidlinger | Director of Product Management,

Digital Solutions, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

The global rollout of 4G and 5G cellular networks will deliver the high-speed, high-bandwidth capabilities preferred by the mobile device industry. But for those stakeholders in the perishable supply chain, this transition also will phase out legacy 2G and 3G cellular networks and usher in a technology shift that will impact their abilities to track in-transit temperatures and locations of shipments. Fortunately, Emerson has developed the next generation of real-time tracking devices that will bridge the gap between 2G and the next generation of low-power, wide-area (LPWA) 5G networks to ensure continuous tracking of perishable shipments.

What’s the alternative to 2G and 3G networks?

Most of the real-time trackers in use have been designed with cellular connectivity protocols that utilize 2G or 3G SIM cards. In many ways, these networks ideally are suited for the data requirements of the cargo tracking industry, which just need to transmit small packets of data periodically — such as live location and temperature information. Simply put, tracking devices don’t require the same bandwidth, memory and data transmission requirements of high-end mobile handsets.

That’s why Emerson’s GO real-time trackers were originally designed to utilize 2G and 3G cellular network technologies. Thus, these devices can be manufactured and sold at accessible price points without compromising their ability to perform their critical functions. With the sunsetting of 2G and 3G networks, real-time tracking devices will need to transition to the next generation of cellular network technology (i.e., 5G). But rather than utilizing expensive bands designed for mobile handsets, our new GO real-time Trackers will leverage emerging LPWA 4G and 5G network technologies that evolved from 4G LTE:

  • Category M (Cat-M), where “M” stands for mobile
  • Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT)

As the logical successors to 2G and 3G, these 4G/5G networks will allow the next generation of real-time trackers to transmit valuable sensor data while helping to keep real-time trackers cost-effective.

The next generation of real-time trackers is here

Our Digital Solutions business is committed to helping the perishable cold chain industry make this transition. To bridge the gap between 2G and emerging technologies and ensure uninterrupted tracking and help monitoring, we are developing the next generation of real-time tracking devices that utilize 5G and the new Cat-M and NB-IoT networks. The first of these new devices is already available: the GO real-time 4G/5G Tracker.

This release is part of our efforts to expand our suite of 2G and 3G real-time trackers with new devices engineered to enable multi-network compatibility. In doing so, these new devices will help eliminate real-time dead zones by providing coverage for shipments that travel between 2G and emerging 5G networks. Like our previous generation of devices, the GO real-time 4G/5G tracker provides the following key functionalities:

  • Help to monitor in-transit conditions such as temperature, location, light and humidity for up to 20 days of continuous operation.
  • Notify users in real-time via text or email if any adverse conditions arise during shipment (when configured with our Oversight software portal).

In the coming months, Emerson plans to release additional 4G/5G models that offer an expanded in-use life of up to 60 days and a reusable device platform. Our next generation of devices will be available in dual- and tri-mode network capabilities.

From 2G and 3G to 5G (Cat-M and NB-IoT) — Sunset and roll-out timing

As the evolving mobile device industry transitions to 4G LTE and 5G technologies around the world, our industry will see more 2G and 3G networks become obsolete. This transition is already taking place but will be in flux for the next several years, with specific turndown timelines dependent on the cellular carrier and global or regional preferences.

From a cargo tracking industry perspective, it’s important to realize that coverage zones may vary and there may not be worldwide conformity for some time. This variability will create complexity when trying to ensure real-time coverage of perishable shipments around the globe. Emerson is doing everything we can to help prepare the cargo tracking industry for this cellular network transition. Read our informative white paper to learn how you can ensure uninterrupted real-time cargo tracking of perishable shipments.

 

 

Prepare for the Future of Real-time Cargo Tracking

Matthew Neidlinger | Director of Product Management,

Digital Solutions, Emerson’s Cold Chain Business

The real-time cargo tracking industry is changing. For years, 2G and 3G cellular networks have enabled real-time trackers to deliver live location and temperature data on shipments traveling throughout the global perishable cold chain. But in many parts of the world, the mobile device industry is outgrowing the use of 2G and 3G; many of these legacy networks are turning down to make room for newer 4G and 5G options. As this transition takes place over the next several years all around the globe, end-users of real-time cargo tracking devices may experience gaps in their live shipment monitoring and tracking capabilities.

What the 2G turndown means to perishable cold chain stakeholders

In recent years, real-time trackers have become essential tools for helping to monitor food quality and safety in the perishable supply chain. For many cold chain leaders, Emerson’s GO real-time trackers are viewed as essential, cost-effective devices for protecting their valuable shipments. Combined with a cloud-enabled technology infrastructure and supporting Oversight software, this solution grants growers, logistics companies and food retailers live access to in-transit shipment location and sensor data they need to help monitor food quality and safety — such as levels of temperature, humidity, light exposure and much more.

But as 2G and 3G networks become obsolete, end-users of these real-time tracking devices may experience data gaps in their in-transit shipment coverage, which could result in:

  • Inability to help monitor food quality (freshness) and safety in real-time
  • Missing real-time alerts (emails/text messages) of temperature excursions
  • Incomplete data for prompt resolution of shipment disputes
  • Potential risks to brand reputations

If your company is currently using 2G and 3G real-time trackers, you already may have experienced the impacts of cellular network turndown. However, if you’re not closely monitoring in-transit shipment data, you may not even be aware of gaps in your real-time data. Moving forward, it’s important to be vigilant of any disruptions in coverage. Look for the following signs of network connectivity issues:

  • Increasing blind spots in visibility to shipment location/temperature data
  • Intermittent brownouts of real-time access
  • Gaps in historic trip coverage and data points

What is Emerson doing to help you navigate the cellular transition?

The cellular network transition has created a complex landscape that will be in flux for the next several years. As cold chain experts and cargo industry stewards, Emerson is doing everything possible to help prepare the cargo tracking industry for this ongoing transition. We’re addressing this challenge on multiple fronts by:

  • Working closely with our customers to determine which real-time trackers work best for their shipping routes
  • Communicating with cellular companies to get a better understanding of the specific timing of 2G and 3G network turndowns
  • Developing the next generation of real-time trackers that utilize emerging low-power, wide-area (LPWA) 4G and 5G network technologies

Wherever your business ships its perishable cargo, Emerson is committed to helping you navigate this cellular transition. Our subsequent blog will discuss the timing of the 2G network turndown, emerging cellular technologies, and the next generation of devices designed to bridge the gap between 2G and 4G/5G networks. Read our informative white paper to learn how we’re helping the industry achieve uninterrupted real-time cargo tracking of perishable shipments.

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