As technology continues to develop, more and more people are embracing the spirit of IoT, finding new ways to create networks of devices to facilitate the collection and exchange of information. Part of discovering these new methods is daring to find ways to connect mundane objects that you usually wouldn’t consider part of an IoT platform. Or if you do, you wouldn’t consider them the lynchpin of the network

Trailers, traditionally seen as passive assets, can now be transformed into IoT platforms through the integration of IoT technology. This integration allows businesses to gain valuable insights into trailer location, conditions, and utilization, leading to enhanced security, improved maintenance, and streamlined logistics. Find out if your trailer is already an IoT platform, and if it isn’t, learn how even mundane trailers can undergo an IoT transformation.


 

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IoT Devices vs. IoT Platforms

What we are examining in this piece is whether your trailer is an IoT platform, not an IoT device. Although having your trailer function as either can help improve your operation, making your trailer an IoT platform will inspire more robust, lasting benefits that go well beyond the trailer itself. But in order to ensure you’re asking the right questions and taking the right path, we must first establish the difference between IoT devices and IoT platforms.

IoT devices are the components that combine to create IoT platforms. These devices promote connectivity, and often consist of asset tags, sensors, and other devices used to collect and transmit information about individual assets. Some people will also consider something an IoT device if it is affixed with an IoT device, since it then becomes part of the larger network. With this understanding, your trailer might be considered an IoT device if you simply attach a tracker to it.

An IoT platform, on the other hand, serves as a central hub for data collection, management, and analysis. It comprises the aforementioned IoT devices: tags, sensors, anything those tags and sensors are affixed to, and more depending on your business’s wants and needs. At the same time, an IoT platform is more than the sum of its parts. It’s the component devices, the data they collect, and the way that data is transmitted and organized. A well-constructed IoT platform compiles data in such a way that it can be used to answer questions beyond, “Where is asset A located?” and “What is the current temperature of asset B?” Rather, it can combine data about individual assets and their relationships to each other to answer questions about the effectiveness of the operational system as a whole. Simply stated, if your trailer is an IoT platform, it will function by collecting data about its associated assets so that it can answer these more complex questions to further promote operational efficiency. It goes beyond just tracking the location and condition of the trailer itself.

Why You Should Want Your Trailer to Be an IoT Platform

But why should you specifically seek to make your trailer into an IoT platform, anyway? While it is doubtlessly true that simply tracking your trailer as an IoT device or relying on your telematics system might be easier, neither of these solutions offer you complete control over your logistics and trucking operations. They’ll always be limited to specific functions, with little room left to account for the unique needs of your company’s specific fleet.

By making your trailer into an IoT platform, you’re embracing IoT technology in its most customizable, most flexible, most comprehensive form. All of this means that you will have more control over your fleet than you would with any other solution used on its own. It will provide you with more data than trailer tracking alone, and the type of visibility it offers fills in the gaps that telematics cannot account for. In doing so, you can make better decisions about daily operations, trailer utilization, route planning, and more, all while maintaining a comprehensive, hands-off record of the use and transportation of every single mobile asset and product to bolster company reliability and reputation.

Your Trailer is an IoT Platform If…

Now that you know what an IoT platform is and what the benefits are of having your trailer act as an IoT platform, we can start to determine whether your trailer is already an IoT platform, or at least, on its way to becoming one. Some solutions may provide these benefits without using the same vocabulary, so it’s important to look at the defining features to see which ones you have and which ones you lack so that you can make a decision about how to move forward with a smarter solution.

You have access to its location when it is not connected to a running truck.

If you have access to the location of your disconnected trailers, your trailer might be an IoT platform. This means that you do not lose location visibility when the trailer is removed from an active power source, and that you can account for where they are even when they’re sitting in a lot or waiting to be picked up. Most trailers do not have this capability and instead are only visible to operators when they are attached to a powered-on trailer, enabled by their telematics systems. The telematics systems are not to be blamed – their purpose is to provide visibility to the transportation process, and in that, they succeed – but their shortcomings mean that other concerns cannot be addressed without IoT asset tracking.

Maintaining visibility of disconnected trailers can provide value in a number of different ways. For instance, it allows you to know the location of trailers that are not in use so that you can quickly mobilize them for better utilization. Outfitting trailers as IoT platforms can also let you know when trailers leave a location with authorization, allowing you to respond to both theft and mix-ups in a timely fashion. Theft can also be prevented by including tamper alerts in your installation, which alert you when the trailer’s doors open and close between destinations, even when the truck is turned off for the night.

Your tracking data accounts for every valuable asset traveling with your trailer.

If you can individually and collectively account for the location, condition, and movement of every valuable asset contained within your trailer, your trailer might be an IoT platform. These valuable assets include cargo, pallets, containers, and any other equipment that travels with your trailer. Even if you track your trailers, chances are that you don’t track their contents. After all, what’s the point if the larger unit carrying them is already being tracked? Simply stated, the point is to obtain more information for more complete records and more informed decision-making.

There are many facets to the benefits of these more complete records. For instance, it paints a fuller picture of what is traveling within a trailer and what that trailer is doing at any given time. You can confidently say which trailer is delivering products for companies A and B and which one is delivering products for C and D. This information can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of shipping decisions and to keep customers apprised of the movement of their products. Also, by accounting for equipment, you can prevent that equipment from being forgotten on location. If a trailer moves away without them, you’ll be able to see that the equipment isn’t moving with them and instruct the driver to go back for retrieval. This level of tracking is also more conducive to condition monitoring, letting you ensure that products are delivered at the right temperature and without damage.

You can use collected data provided to make informed decisions in real time. 

If the data you collect from your tracking system is complete enough and accurate enough to make effective decisions to solve operational problems in real time, your trailer might be an IoT platform. While your trailer tracking system can provide immediate benefits such as knowledge of the location and condition of your assets, the most valuable and most far-reaching benefits are in how you analyze and use the data you collect. When applied properly, collected data can be used to inform decisions about asset utilization, route optimization, maintenance schedules, fleet spending, and more. If your trailer is an IoT platform, the data you can collect will be far more complete than most other trailer tracking models. This means you can use both historical and real-time data to support your decisions, and you can apply that data quickly if the situation calls for it.

For example, let’s say a given trailer has broken down and cannot continue on its route, but it contains a time-sensitive delivery that needs to be made. Sending a new trailer would likely take too long, so you need to make a decision about whether there are any trailers currently on the road that could retrieve and deliver the cargo without causing disruptions to other schedules. If you only have standard trailer tracking, you’ll need to look into what trailers are nearby and then contact the drivers to see if they have room and time in their schedule. But if your trailer is a platform, you can locate nearby trailers and also see what cargo they already have aboard. With this information at your fingertips, you can quickly distinguish which trailers have space for the cargo, who they’re already delivering for, and who has enough flexibility to make an additional stop. All you need to do is call the driver with the corresponding trailer and inform them of the situation, no extra calls and explanations needed!

You can trace, in detail, every stage of your trailer’s journey.

If you can reliably trace every stage of your trailer’s journey and account for every stop it makes before reaching its final destination, your trailer might be an IoT platform. Companies that rely on telematics alone cannot do this. They know when the trailer’s connected to a truck and when the coupled trailer is moving, but they cannot account for what happens to the trailer before it’s hooked up or when the truck is shut down. This makes it impossible to obtain location and condition data when your trailer is waiting in the lot and when both scheduled and unscheduled stops are made.

Having this full visibility of every stage of your trailer’s journey is incredibly important if you want to optimize your logistics and trucking operations. For example, when you have the complete picture of each trailer’s journey, you can make better decisions about utilization. If one trailer only just returned yesterday, you know that there’s probably another trailer that’s been sitting for a while; if all your trailers are out but you have a delivery to make, you know when the next trailer will be back and can provide a prediction for when you can make that delivery. Tracking your trailer’s journey can also help you keep records of dwell times at each stop, making sure that time is being well-managed and fees aren’t being accrued from extended stays.

Your tracking system is centered on your trailer, not your truck.

If your tracking procedures are trailer-centric rather than truck-centric, your trailer might be an IoT platform. Again, telematic systems are the most widely known and utilized forms of tracking in the logistics industry. These systems – and as a result, many supplemental tracking systems – are centered around the truck’s location and condition, not that of the trailer. When a tracking system is centered around the truck, it limits the system’s ability to provide insight into the trailer and its contents. Arguably, however, this should be a supplemental asset tracking system’s main concern, and it is indeed the concern addressed by making your trailer into an IoT platform.

The reason it’s important for a supplemental asset tracking system to be trailer-centric is because the trailer is what contains your most valuable assets. The trailer is what carries the cargo and much of the high-value equipment traveling with the driver. It is important that these assets are not damaged or stolen, as either can result in more costs for the company. Trucks are often included in a trailer-centric system, providing a record of which truck has hooked up to which trailer, but they are reported based on their relationship to the trailer rather than the other way around. Besides, telematics systems are required by law, so truck-centric information is already accounted for; the priority should be filling in the visibility gaps where the existing system simply cannot.

How to Transform Any Trailer into an IoT Platform

Based on the provided information, you should now know whether or not your trailer is an IoT platform. More to the point, you should understand the benefits of having a trailer that is also an IoT platform. Lucky for you, you don’t need to purchase brand new trailers to achieve this goal. Any trailer can be affordably transformed into an IoT platform with the right solution and the right team behind it.

Link Labs helps companies transform their trailers into IoT platforms with the use of our AirFinder Everywhere system, which is equipped to provide asset visibility to mobile assets as they move and change location. To transform your trailer, we affix one of our patented SuperTags to a trailer and then provide a variety of asset tags that can be used to tag your cargo, pallets, equipment, and more. We also place a tag on your trucks and provide the option of personnel tags for drivers. Each of these tags reports back to the SuperTag on the trailer, providing a record of which truck is traveling with the trailer, who’s driving the truck, and what assets are traveling with them. It also records any relevant condition data about the cargo and whether or not the trailer has been opened at any given location. The SuperTag then transmits this data to the system, where it is reported based on association with the trailer to paint a complete picture of how that trailer’s being used.

These benefits aren’t limited to standard trailers, either. Whether you’re dealing with dry vans, reefers, flat beds, tankers, or chassis, your trailer can be an IoT platform. We work with you every step of the way to understand your fleet’s visibility needs and find a way to help you achieve your goals with your budget. If you’re ready to embrace the future and transform your trailer into an IoT platform, book a demo today!

Is Your Trailer an IoT Platform?

Written by Makenna Dudley

Makenna Dudley is a Marketing Associate for Link Labs, with practical experience in written communications, media writing, and additional forms of content creation. She has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication.

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