The performance of any communications infrastructure has far reaching implications, but perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in the processing of international shipping containers. Efficiency is key at every stage of port logistics, so maintaining and improving that efficiency within a globally competitive landscape demands an approach that leaves nothing to chance. Often modernisation is a necessary investment but one that needs to be managed carefully in order to achieve the desired objective without incurring unwanted complications. As downtime can represent lost revenue and potentially lost contracts for a container terminal, selecting the right solution and the right partners is a critical phase in any modernisation programme.
A modern problem
The demand for ubiquitous internet access isn’t just about changing a status on a social network or checking the weather; the major driver for greater connectivity is productivity. This is reflected in two major trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data. In many ways, the former is driving the latter, as more devices generate more information, its analysis is enabling industries to improve systems and increase efficiency which leads to higher productivity and, in turn, lower unit costs for customers and consumers. The IoT is a catch-all title that includes machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and Industry 4.0 (a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government which promotes the computerisation of the manufacturing industry). These terms are used to describe the interconnectivity of everything, at any point, in a supply or value chain. The ‘Things’ in IoT are often thought of as being small and discrete, like room thermostats, occupancy monitors such as those used in alarm systems, or personal medical devices. But it is equally applicable to big things such as shipping containers, the cranes that unload them, and even the ships that move them around the globe.
Micro and macro
Although not established as an industry ‘buzzword’, a model including the micro and the macro could justifiably be referred to as the Internet of Big Things, and connecting them is just as important as enabling someone to set the temperature in their home from their office. In order for the IoT, M2M and Industry 4.0 to really work it will require seamless interconnectivity of all devices large or small, mobile or static.