Tracking Cargo, On-Demand

A domestic airlines offers cargo-location and -condition tracking, package by package.

After accepting cargo employing OnAsset asset-tracking devices for more than a year, Southwest Airlines Cargo has built a tracking service around the devices to offer 24×7 shipment monitoring. The service will be available through Southwest’s high-frequency schedule in 48 states, tracking cargo in the air and on the ground for door-to-door service.

Called Cargo Companion, Southwest’s new service features wireless OnAsset SENTRY 400 FlightSafe devices that monitor the location, shock, light, temperature, pressure, and humidity of cargo during transit. Tracking through air waybill capabilities allow shippers to track cargo status at E-mails alert shippers as cargo reaches predefined checkpoints and destinations as well as when other issues arise during transit.

OnAsset SENTRY 400 FlightSafe devices that monitor the location, shock, light, temperature, pressure, and humidity of cargo during transit.

“We scan cargo at its origin, destination, and pick up, but in general the transportation industry does not have complete visibility in between those points,” says Wally Devereaux, director of cargo sales & marketing for Southwest Airlines. “It also hasn’t had an easy way to capture other data on package conditions.” Such information will improve operational efficiencies and minimize the impact of delays within the supply chain,” he explained in a company announcement.

Southwest reports that it is the first airline to offer such a service on a transactional basis. “Customers using our Next Flight Guaranteed Service simply call us one day in advance of their cargo shipment, and we order the device from OnAsset Intelligence. OnAsset then ships it directly to the customer, who can activate the device to track the cargo as it leaves its origin through to its destination.”

FAA approved for use on commercial and passenger airlines, the OnAsset SENTRY 400 FlightSafe device can be placed inside the package or affixed to the outside using a Southwest-provided carton. Southwest also provides pre-paid Fed-Ex labels for returning the devices to OnAsset. The self-contained devices use the cellular network as they sample and report data every 10 minutes, explains Adam Crossno, president and CEO of OnAsset Intelligence. “While in the air, the device automatically suppresses its cell signal and stores all data in its on-board memory. It then automatically senses when it lands and begins transmitting. And that on-board memory is deep enough to store data from multiple shipments.”

In addition to a temperature sensor, the wireless device also features sensors for light, humidity, and pressure as well a 3-D accelerometer to measure shock. “There are no complex requirements for use,” says Crossno. “The only special requirement is that if you want the device to detect light, you need to place it near the package opening.”

“The OnAsset SENTRY 400 FlightSafe is a fantastic GPS,” adds Devereaux. “It provides timely information and helps shippers know where packages are and make decisions about any anomalies.”

Having shipped cargo with the devices for more than one year, Southwest has done “quite a bit of testing” of the devices with a courier company,” says Devereaux. Marie Vigliarolo, vice president of marketing for Quick International, a priority transportation and logistics provider, issued the following statement: “We were one of the initial test-customers for this program, shipping organs for transplant, and temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products that need to be used the moment they are received. We work with Southwest because they not only provide us with a high level of visibility regarding the status of our shipments, but they also have next-flight-out alternatives that enable us to enact a plan-B, and even a plan-C if necessary.”

Because the devices work globally, shippers can use the tracking technology beyond the Southwest network, until it is received by the consignee.

Southwest expects Cargo Companion to interest both small and large couriers, as the devices can be ordered as needed. Observes Crossno: “It is a unique business model given the way Southwest has bundled our system and their service. It is a use-as-needed program.”

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