Logistics Startup of the Month: Globe Tracker

Globe Tracker
10 min read

Every month we select one logistics startup which represents a positive example of innovation in Logistics and Supply Chain and has the potential to alter the way the industry operates. This August, Transmetrics selected Globe Tracker, the industry-leading solution for remote monitoring and end-to-end supply chain asset management, as the “Logistics Startup of the Month” for its outstanding achievements in the development of Internet of Things (IoT) for logistics and supply chain.

In order to learn more about the company and what it does, we have talked with Don Miller, Vice President Global Sales and Marketing at Globe Tracker, about the startup’s journey and how IoT empowers real-time visibility in the supply chain.

Picture Credit: Globe Tracker

First of all, congratulations on becoming the Logistics Startup of the Month! Can you please briefly introduce our readers to Globe Tracker? What is the industry problem that you are trying to address with your solution?

Globe Tracker is a privately held Danish company with offices in Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Germany, Netherlands, USA, and Canada. Globe Tracker is focused on end to end cold chain visibility. We combine both cellular and other Internet of Things (IoT) technologies like Bluetooth and LoRa to address remote temperature monitoring, compliance, and visibility across the cold chain.

Our goal is to make the cold chain more reliable and efficient, to reduce waste and cargo claims, and to improve the quality of perishable transport globally. We provide technology that can bring operational and efficiency benefits while providing revenue-generating models and a means for our customers to build a stronger relationship with their end customers, the shippers or Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCO’s).

Could you tell us about the three types of solutions that you provide: for Reefers, Vessels, and Genset?

Our core solution is in the maritime sector for refrigerated containers (Reefers). We provide two-way communication to refrigerated containers for all brands and models – even for reefers that were produced over 20 years ago. In addition to that, we leverage IoT technologies to provide wireless sensors that can be placed in the cargo area or on the pallets inside the reefer. As a result, the wireless sensors provide a real-time picture of what is happening inside the cargo area.

On Vessels, we have partnered with Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) – the Global market leader in cruise passenger vessel communications. We have worked together to bring innovations such as the world’s first 4G LTE wireless vessel monitoring system for containers. We have also introduced the first fully portable wireless vessel system for monitoring containers on ships. This system can be moved from vessel to vessel in just a few hours and is very useful for charter and leased vessels. With this system, our customers can take the infrastructure with them and move it from ship to ship easily. With a single network set up on the bridge area of the ship, these systems allow shipping lines to monitor all containers above and below deck. We utilize 4G LTE as the band which has a deeper penetration into cargo holds to provide the best possible communication of containers – even for containers which are located more than 10 levels below deck.

On Generator Sets (Gensets) we are the only telematics provider in the world that has the protocols for 2 out of 3 leading maritime Genset manufacturers. This allows us to provide more data than our competitors as we are connected to the Genset controller. We can relay alarms, engine status, fuel levels, and we can even turn some of the Gensets off remotely in case of unauthorized use. We provide a lot of data that can be used for diagnostics which can save time on repair costs and even set maintenance intervals. 

Globe Tracker
Picture Credit: Globe Tracker

What makes Globe Tracker unique? Why did such companies as Samskip, Dole and Hapag-Lloyd choose you as their IoT device provider?

Globe Tracker, like many of the startups in various industries today, are successful because we are 100% customer-driven and focused. We have gone to market with maritime and telecommunications industry-leading partners as the nature of maritime shipping is dominated by very large companies. For example, Ericsson is our Global Logistics partner and they are responsible for almost half the world’s cellular infrastructure and are one of the best companies in the world in managing connections to millions of SIMs.

In addition, Globe Tracker had predicted a long time ago that the Global Supply Chain would become more integrated and that our customers, the shipping lines, would be aligning much closer with their customers over time. This means that the shipping lines will require solutions that can address their customers’ needs. We didn’t have to pivot toward that strategy as some other companies had to. We built our solutions to address all of the supply chain stakeholders so this put us further ahead in regards to the technology, experience, platform, and overall solution flexibility. Globe Tracker is an innovative company that customizes the solutions to meet the requirements of our customers. We do this quickly as we are smaller and more agile compared to our peers.

Last but certainly not least, we have an extremely talented team that has a vast amount of industry experience, knowledge, and passion which makes all the difference.

How would the end customers of the shipping line benefit when your devices are in place?

When a shipping line or container asset owner deploys our solution, they effectively become a communications provider of sorts. We provide them with infrastructure on their assets, containers, Gensets, reefers, and chassis. Once in place, the installed devices have an initial job to do –  to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and increase utilization. As soon as this is achieved and Return on Investment (ROI) is met, the companies can use the infrastructure and its capabilities to address end customers and commercial needs such as: door open/close events, loss of power on the equipment events, Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), damage impact events,  proof of delivery, and real-time in-cargo monitoring to name a few. 

Globe Tracker
Picture Credit: Globe Tracker

With Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) representing more than 70% of the container shipping market, it is likely that they will approach the standardization of IoT data in the near future. According to Globe Tracker, what kind of standards should be in place for IoT devices in logistics and how can such standards be achieved?

Globe Tracker has been helping in creating standards for the IoT devices for the maritime industry by being committed to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) working group TC 104 for over 5 years now. Globe Tracker is also involved in UN-Cefact and their smart container working group as well as the Container Owners Association (COA) smart container working group. The aim of these groups is to get to a standard. We believe the standards should be data-driven and not necessarily device hardware-driven.

The reason for this is that all shipping lines have various ideas on what types of solutions they are looking for. Despite that,  there are some primary requirements which are largely based on getting specific data from the containers. The issue is that there are many ways to extract and transmit data from containers. It becomes even more difficult when we speak about vessels. There are already ISO standards in place for the communication of reefers at sea, but the market is for sure moving from the wired solutions to the wireless ones. 

The challenge is to figure out a way to get to new vessel standards. The goal is to “allow”  containers of any line to communicate with any ship from any other line that has the same standards implemented, no matter who produced the device. We need to work in that direction and it needs to happen pretty quickly because commercial deployments are outpacing the standardization efforts. The tens of millions of dollars that have already been invested by some of the lines certainly cannot be laid to waste.  We believe that the separate organizations need to combine their efforts in order to avoid replication and to take their combined efforts to the DCSA. This will be the quickest path to implementing a standard that should end up being a new ISO standard.

Based on your experience, how open is the maritime logistics industry to technology innovations?

If you asked us just a few years ago, we knew that the maritime industry has had a poor record when it came to technological innovation. But a lot can change in just a few years.

The rise of the digital forwarder, the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-ups and other technology has forced all the lines to perceive their digitalization as a whole strategy, not just one piece of their operations. Based on that, we believe that now, more than ever, maritime logistics is ready for more advanced technology. Maritime companies understand that improved technology can not only be of a huge benefit, but it is a necessity – it helps them stay “in the game” in some cases.

The issue is that historically there were never large budgets allocated for technological innovation or Information Technology within the shipping lines. This is a process of change which takes time especially when the financial climate still has profit margins at very low levels.

Globe Tracker
Picture Credit: Globe Tracker

In your opinion, in addition to the widespread use of IoT devices, what are the other technological trends that can improve maritime logistics operations in the next 5 years and how?

We see the rise of IoT devices really as level 1 innovation. Now that lines and the supply chains are moving away from old reporting structures to real-time data, it is a huge shift and we need to make the best use of the data. We have already started applying machine learning and AI at Globe Tracker and we suspect it is the same for our competitors. As we have all heard before: “DATA is the New GOLD”. There are so many ways to analyze, predict, and improve the supply chain using the data we gather. It is truly amazing.

10 years ago, very few would have thought that data from a smart container with the help of AI could assist you in determining the fastest route to get your freight from point A to point B. Smart containers are “aware”, they “know” when they are lifted, they “know” when they land at the port, go through a gate, get delivered at the final destination, and they map how they got there. Multiply that by millions of trips per year and it is easy to see how you can have a model that tells you which actions to take based on time of booking along with other factors including weather, customs clearance history, natural disasters, port strikes, type of commodity, etc. It can also calculate how long it would take to clear your destination port and even compare it to other ports in the area, including the average time taken when transferring modes from ocean to truck or rail. We are pretty close to getting to this today. As smart container deployments accelerate, this will be a reality.

Being a very successful and international young company, what kind of advice can you give to the other logistics startups?

Our recipe for success did not come easily. We tackled probably one of the most conservative industries in the world. Our best advice is that you must be prepared to work very hard for many years and become a student of your craft. Whatever it is that you are trying to do, no matter if it’s a product or a solution and which sector within logistics it affects, make sure that you and your team become THE authority on your subject matter and/or area.

Only once you are an expert at your craft, can you truly gain the confidence to convince others. Your customers will see your confidence and when you have more knowledge than your competition, that is when the battle for market share really starts.

What should we expect from Globe Tracker in 2019-2020?

Globe Tracker currently has 6 shipping lines under contract and over 30 customers. By the end of 2019 and into early 2020, we expect to have at least 10 lines under contract. We are looking to release some new innovative products by the end of 2019 and to continue the trend in 2020. Globe Tracker will also be growing its team and global footprint in this calendar year. Exciting times ahead!