Generally speaking, which is also valid for the transport and logistics domains, we can differentiate the necessary ICT standards into standards for communication – how to actually communicate – and standards for information – what to actually exchange. This article refers to “technology standards” as those addressing the communication aspect, while standardization of the information exchanges content will be addressed in other articles.
Much of the work on communication standardization appropriate for the transport and logistics sectors has been summarized in the European Communication Architecture (ECA) by ETSI (ETSI, 2010). ECA is the result of work in projects and activities like COMeSafety, CVIS and GeoNet, and specifies a framework targeting multiple user and application requirements. Other standards within this field can easily be included under the ECA for compatibility with other layers; e.g. the 5.9 GHz standard CALM M5 from ISO may provide the connectivity (ISO, 2010), while mobility is handled by IPv6/NEMO.
Container identification and security is another area in which there is a lack of technological standards that urgently has to be solved in order to optimise the information flow. From an optimisation point of view, standards need to be accepted and implemented throughout the supply chain. This requires:
- Container RFID tags, containing container identification information like container number, capable to transmit the respective data wirelessly to a respective readout device without human intervention;
- Electronic seals, being a combination of traditional high-security bolt seals and RFID technology, capable to transmit the seal number and the seal status wirelessly without requiring human intervention;
- Container security devices (CSDs) which are affixed to the containers’ doors, containing sensors measuring the door status (open/closed) and possibly further parameters like temperature, humidity, g-shock etc. and being able to transmit these data using cell phone or satellite communication;
- Intelligent containers (or Smart containers), being containers with built-in CSD technology.
Research projects were performed and technological solutions developed in all the above-mentioned areas. Nevertheless, none of the developed solutions are in use on a large scale in worldwide intermodal container transport, indicating that either the solutions are not applicable in real life or that there are other obstacles on an organizational level, for instance unsolved return of investment questions. Standardization can surely help in this by removing barriers between the different devices and solutions, now running on proprietary platforms. Wherever technological problems are identified, for example concerning the power supply of CSDs, emphasis has to be laid on research concerning optimized solutions and innovations in that area, leading to an improved applicability of the solutions in real life scenarios and thus to the acceptance of the technology by the logistics industry.
The road transport faces some equal problems. In vehicles the numbers of ICT units are increasing due to lack of
standardization and cooperation between the ICT tool developers. The situation of the vehicle operator is becoming more and more complicated as the investment costs for the ICT solutions are increasing for the vehicle owner. Consequently, the standardisation of the Vehicle and Goods devices are a necessity for a future manageable situation for all affected actors. Standards would enable interoperability of both systems and services and improves the inter-changeability of systems components suppliers.
The core on-board ICT systems that the vehicle operators use are fleet management systems (to communicate transport assignments, geographical location and status between the vehicle / driver and the transport manager). These are typically connected to supporting systems like AutoID readers, trailer / container tracking devices, load weighing systems, temperature loggers etc. to collect further data about the goods and the transport assignment. Other ICT onboard systems that can give supporting information for a transport assignment are typically tachographs (driver work / rest hours), navigation systems (for traffic information and to adapt the route guidance to constraints like vehicle size, goods characteristics, maximum driving time until rest etc), road tolling systems (to link the road tolling cost to the specific assignments). Suppliers of fleet management systems (OEMs or 3rd party) typically work vertically to supply a complete solution for the transport company, with own components or specific partner components. This creates stovepipe solutions with little or no possibility to exchange parts of the system.
Even though there is a strong need for standards, there is currently no clear drive among system and component suppliers to harmonise / standardise interfaces. Several European projects, e.g. CVIS, SAFESPOT, PReVENT etc., together with different ICT forums are giving input to European Cooperation standardizations such as ETSI and CEN which in turns have an international cooperation with global standardisation organizations. The “CEN/TC 278 Road transport and traffic telematics” is responsible for the development of technical specifications and European standards in the ITS domain and describes a reference architecture that can be used by different stakeholders and with different needs. The discussion of an Open Platform for ITS / ICT (as pointed out in the ITS Action Plan) may be a driver to standardise the access to vehicle and goods related information in an on-board system for use by third party suppliers. Further standardisation of Tachograph and Road Tolling devices may also have an influence, since these devices could be candidates for realising the idea of an open platform. .
Harmonizing standards in a complex and wide domain as freight transport requires time, given the different technologies and organizations involved on a global level. Therefore it is foreseen that will focus on further R&D activities will be carried out until 2016 to finalize architectural specifications taking into account the needs of the different stakeholders and sub-system developers. Then, around 2018 the architecture will have to be tested in large scale working environment, leading to adoption by technology providers and global promotion of the standards by 2020.