CeBIT: Satellite asset tracking goes dual mode and solar powered

CeBIT revealed fine points in satellite communications for asset-tracking development as two service providers introduced new dual-mode equipment. Dual-mode communication modules offer GSM connectivity to pure satellite communications, which is expensive and can have latency issues, and are quickly becoming standard in the logistics sector, especially when perishable cargo is involved.

CeBIT revealed fine points in satellite communications for asset-tracking development as two service providers introduced new dual-mode equipment. Dual-mode communication modules offer GSM connectivity to pure satellite communications, which is expensive and can have latency issues, and are quickly becoming standard in the logistics sector, especially when perishable cargo is involved.

Orbcomm (Rochelle Park, NJ, USA), with the world’s largest base of connections for satellite services, unveiled the prototype for its new dual-mode satellite, AssetTrak, at the show. The unit is rechargeable and operates on solar power and includes GPS as well as GSM and satellite. It is more expensive than the company’s current, standard modules, but it is expected to find broad application in the logistics sector.

The unit is designed to fit into corrugated ridges of cargo container exteriors, and has been tested extensively at Orbcomm’s recently acquired StarTrak shipping subsidiary for monitoring refrigerated food shipments for major American fast-food chains. Like most modules in this class, the AssetTrak contains sensor I/Os for monitoring of simple parameters, such as temperature or “door-open”, and features Bluetooth connectivity for wireless communications.

At the same time, Russian Navigation Technologies (Moscow) joined the dual-mode fray at CeBIT with its new AT-10 module, base on Glonass standards. The unit also carries two SIM cards, one for Western Europe and one for CIS countries, for less expensive roaming, and it has been extensively tested in trucks for Russian oil providers. The company offers subscription plans as well as direct, full-sale payments schemes.

According to the startup company (which held its IPO in 2010), it already has 150,000 units in the field, and has made a name for itself providing Glonass connectivity to CIS countries, as well as hard-to-monitor areas like Afghanistan and Dubai, but independent industry observers confirm that Glonass is fast becoming a competitive standard in Western Europe, as well.