Jettainer and Lufthansa Industry Solutions test next-generation smart ULD

Written by: Felicity Stredder |
(L to r) Holger Schlüter, Associate Director IoT/industry 4.0, Lufthansa Industry Solutions, Arnd Trapp, Director IT & Operations Jettainer and Martin Kraemer, Head of Marketing & PR Jettainer
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ULD management company, Jettainer, and IT experts from Lufthansa Industry Solutions have revised their original smart ULD to present the next generation of digital air freight container.

Coined the "container with soul", the latest device is equipped with new functions, with a focus on registering and recording shocks and damage as well as temperature changes.

“The digitisation of containers opens up almost infinite possibilities for us,” says Arnd Trapp, Director IT & Operations Jettainer. “The big questions are: What do we want to achieve? What data do we need? And how do we get this data? This is not always a direct path, but rather a process." This is why they redeveloped the first-generation container, he explains. “We no longer attach so much importance to the real-time location of our containers... the focus is now on recording sensory events in order to obtain information about damage and to improve our repair processes accordingly.”

Special challenges included enabling the container to transmit data without disturbing air traffic and to distinguish normal turbulence from damage-induced vibrations, relates Holger Schlüter, Associate Director IoT/industry 4.0, Lufthansa Industry Solutions. Another special feature is the unit’s energy efficiency. “The device developed by us is designed to fall into an extreme energy-saving mode in the "uninteresting" times, only to "wake up" in real time when relevant processes are recorded,” Schlüter says.

So – how does it actually work? “The sensor-based IoT solution is a kind of "black box" for ULDs,” Schlüter says. “The sensors measure acceleration, temperature, air pressure or the position of the container, for example. The innovation lies in the intelligent combination of sensor data, which creates a special digital signature. This is used to determine whether a container is moved normally by a forklift truck, for example, or is accelerated unnaturally quickly if it falls off the forklift truck,” he adds.

Initially, 100 units will be equipped with the new device for test operation in order to verify functionality and data quality. The main objective is for the incoming sensory information to provide reliable information about whether damage is present and the nature of said damage. This allows the maintenance and repair processes to be more efficient.

Managing Director of Jettainer, Carsten Hernig, commented on the development. "The technical possibilities of the digital container enable us to reduce the time and financial expenditure for repair measures. With our 90,000 units in use worldwide, this has enormous potential," says Hernig. "At the same time, the new containers also increase our ability to identify the originators of the damage. And that helps us to motivate people to implement a more responsible handling of the ULDs."

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