PORT EQUIPMENT & TECHNOLOGY - Tracking last-mile data

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Port of Oakland introduces system to streamline pickups and deliveriesBy Peter A. Buxbaum, AJOTIn a project touted as the first of its kind, the Port of Oakland, the Bay Area World Trade Center, and several private sector concerns have joined together to inaugurate the Advanced Transport Communications System. The system, which was tested for several months by a large shipping line and trucking company, is designed to provide “first and last mile” visibility of cargo containers as they are nearing the Port of Oakland and as they are delivered to retailers and distribution centers around Northern California.
The Advanced Transport Communications System (ATCS) is part of a series of technology innovations called the Port of Oakland Truck Tracker (PPT) designed to improve truck movement efficiency. PTT monitors truck movement by providing real-time tracking for more efficient cargo transport and is in use by over 200 truckers and two major shippers and ocean carriers.
ATCS combines Sprint mobile phones enabled with global positioning system (GPS) technology, tracking software from Xora, a mobile workforce software provider, and processing of container transactions from International Asset Systems (IAS). In test mode since 2006, ATCS became operational in late June 2007. The Port of Oakland, the fourth busiest container port in the United States, and the Bay Area World Trade Center, an organization that provides services and expertise to exporting and importing companies, are now actively rolling the system out to port users.
Among the other project partners, International Asset Systems, an Oakland-based company, is a developer of data-enabled solutions for equipment management and tracking in the container transportation industry. IAS management applications enable increased container visibility, improved asset utilization, lower operating costs, and improved customer service. Xora, headquartered in Mountain View, CA, provides mobile resource management software that can monitor workers, vehicles, and assets in real-time. This information leads to increased productivity and utilization, reduced costs, and the ability to provide better customer service.
Using ATCS technology allows truck drivers to enter container information that is automatically imported into carriers’ and shippers’ tracking systems. The truck driver presses a single button on a Sprint phone, confirming that the cargo has been picked up or delivered. The Xora software installed on the phone interprets the data entry and transmits the information via satellite to the IAS Hub, a platform for tracking container moves. IAS automatically translates the data to the format used by a carrier or shipper supply-chain visibility system, and transmits it to those systems. Carrier and shipper staff can view pickup and delivery data in real time by logging onto their systems.
“The port of Oakland saw a need for a new way to track cargo through the drivers who are responsible for moving that cargo,” commented Elihu Harris, chairman of the Bay Area World Trade Center.
The mobile phones’ GPS functionality enables port authorities to ensure that trucks are using only authorized routes in the port zone, keeping traffic away from residential areas. The point of the new communications system, from the port of Oakland’s standpoint, “is to help the flow of trucks near the port area,” said Omar Benjamin, the port’s executive director. “This system will result in fewer vehicle miles driven, less traffic congestion, and fewer emissions. The Port of Oakland is the first container port in the United States to offer this kind of service to its customers.”
Improving internal asset control and managementMitsui OSK Lines has been piloting ATCS since May, with live data passing between the ocean carrier and trucking company Central Cal Transportation. “Many of our customers are demanding more real-time information about their deliveries,” said John Gurrad, MOL’s vice president for business planning. “With these capabi

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Peter Buxbaum has been writing about international trade and transportation, as well as security, defense, technology, and foreign policy, for over 20 years. Besides contributing to the AJOT, Buxbaum's work has appeared in such leading publications as [em]Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Computerworld, and Jane's Defence Weekly[/em]. He was educated at Columbia University.