Using Cargo Monitoring Security Technology

There are many important aspects to ensuring the security of your high value cargo. These include securing the perimeter of both your shipping and receiving warehouses, background checks of all employees and contractors with access to the goods (including drivers), access control systems to ensure that only those who should have access do and also to create an audit trail of all access, locks and security seals to protect the goods as well as provide assurance that no tampering as occurred in transit. All of these measures are very important to proper security and there are many others as well. One of the most important for high value goods in transit is cargo monitoring technology, which we will explore in this article.

Cargo Monitoring Technology is a High Tech Experience in Today's Supply Chain

Cargo Monitoring Has Gone High Tech

Let’s take a look at some key aspects of your business and supply chain to consider when weighing your cargo monitoring needs:

Weigh Value vs. Risk

One of the first things to consider in your cargo monitoring strategy is: how much do you have to lose? This is a very important consideration as it informs how much should be invested in security measures such as cargo monitoring technology. High value shipments which are typically very desirable to thieves such as pharmaceuticals, expensive semiconductors or electronics demand a more rigorous and expensive approach than shipments of paper, for example.

For high value goods, a “layered” approach to cargo monitoring may be appropriate, since theft can take many different forms. Some unsophisticated thieves take a brute force approach and simply break into a shipping container or truck trailer. More sophisticated approaches may entail stealing the entire truck including the cab, or some thieves may steal just the trailer portion by detaching it and using their own cab.  Lastly, some thieves might attempt to surreptitiously break into a cargo container or trailer for the purpose of embedded contraband such as drug or arms into the legitimate shipment, for the purpose of transporting them across borders.

To cover all of this potential instances the layered approach may be desired. For example, there may be a GPS-equipped device in the cab, one hidden under or somewhere on the trailer, another embedded in the cargo, and finally a GPS enabled lock/security seal protecting the container or trailer from unauthorized entry. The OpticalLock System is a good example of a state of the art GPS-enabled Lock and Security Seal. Not all of these layers may be necessary in every instance, but some combination may be desirable, depending upon the importance and value of the cargo.

Important features of cargo monitoring technology

Cargo monitoring devices come in many form factors with a variety of features, depending upon their target function. The basic feature offered by all is that they are GPS-enabled. The GPS functionality is critical, but past that what else do you get with each product – and what exactly do you need? Choosing a product starts with evaluating you needs. Good security-oriented GPS products come with software to track the location of your cargo in real-time on digital maps such as Google Maps.

In addition, another important mapping-related feature is called “Geo-fencing”. Geo-fencing enables the shipper to designate geographic areas for a route. Deviating from that route should set off an alarm in the software to alert the shipper that something may be going wrong so that they can quickly investigate, if necessary. It’s also possible to set a Geo-fence around the arrival location, where the alarm would then notify the shipper that the cargo has arrived at the designated location.

Other products may have sensors that monitor various aspects of the cargo’s condition, such as the humidity or temperature inside the trailer or container. Finally, GPS-enabled security products such as the OpticalLock provide the physical security of a traditional padlock, the tamper-evidence of a high tech version of a security seal (via patented fiber optic technology) and a wide array of alarms which are triggered if there are any tampering attempts with the lock.

Cargo monitoring data provides rich security information

In addition to the very important real-time tracking and alarms that GPS-enabled cargo monitoring technology provide, another additional important function is available in some products. Products such as OpticalLock’s SaaS management console also collects and stores a broad variety of historical information such as location data, deviations from routes, break-in attempts and other alarm data, assurance that there has been no tampering, as well as a rich assortment of other data. This rich data-set can be used to improve operational and security procedures as well as provide an audit trail to verify the lack of tampering of with the high value cargo, which can be quite important in many industries and applications.

Layers of Security are important, but don’t be afraid to start small

Even today many trucks and containers have little or no protection, maybe just a security seal or remarkably often nothing at all. This is generally ill-advised. If you have a full truck trailer or shipping container of goods, even if they aren’t considered “high value” the loss of this cargo would still be quite expensive and painful to the owner. In addition to the actual loss of the monetary value of the goods involved, there is often an even larger “opportunity cost” such as out-of-stock retail outlets or the stopping of a manufacturing line due to a critical parts shortage. In addition, in some cases the existence of cargo monitoring technology can reduce the cost of supply chain insurance rates.

So for even the most mundane shipment we recommend some level of cargo monitoring. If you can afford just a single security layer, the  OpticalLock system is a great choice due to its modest cost of ownership and the bundled lock/seal/tracking functionality it provides to shippers and transportation vendors.

You can learn more about OpticalLock and our product line using these links. Please contact us to to explore how OpticalLock products can enhance your cargo monitoring and security strategy today!

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