Friday 3rd December 2021

Hello smart cranes

Published on July 4th, 2019

In this article, Chris Mason director of business development, EMEA Market, at Rajant Corporation, discusses the latest trends and technologies which are emerging in the port industry to address the increasing demands of today’s global trade market. However, Mason will explain, if these emerging trends such as smart cranes, are to become widely adopted by the industry, they must be backed by a robust, highly-secure, mobile network.

As global trade increases at an exponential rate, ports are in turn thriving. However, some aspects of ports are stuck in the past, with most container ports still operating gigantic container yards manually.

For port container operators, finding the right container is like finding a needle in a haystack – especially in today’s ports, which can move around 11,000 cargo containers daily. But as the demand for goods rises, so too does the demand to move a greater volume of containers faster and more efficiently.

This is paving the way for smarter operations in ports across the world and is opening the door to automated port vehicles, including gantry cranes, trucks and straddlers. Nevertheless, if these are to become standard products across all ports, they must be backed by a reliable, robust wireless infrastructure – one that can transform a port’s network into a strategic asset by providing the port-wide access, reach, and mobility needed to support next-generation applications such as this.

Finding the needle in the haystack

Norfolk Southern Railway Company is one of the US’ largest premier transportation companies, which operates approximately 19,500 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern United States and providing efficient connections to other rail carriers.

As a major transporter of industrial products, it was only natural that Norfolk Southern required a solution which could transform its port into a strategic asset, enabling it to reap the benefits of next-generation applications such as smart cranes.

Following the purchase of two Rubber-tire gantry cranes – which are large port style cranes – for their landers yard in Chicago, Norfolk Southern decided they wanted to turn these cranes into smart cranes which could go beyond your average crane – creating a crane which could sense and see.

Thanks to its proven ability in delivering the robust, mobile-enabled connectivity ports need to fully capitalise on the opportunities of industrial IoT, Norfolk Southern chose Rajant’s technology to make its dreams become a reality.

Following this, Norfolk Southern equipment was outfitted with Rajant’s BreadCrumb® nodes and device-specific command software to allow port operators to communicate with and control remote equipment, such as its Rubber-tire gantry cranes and unmanned vehicles.

Chris Mason

Powered by the Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh software, InstaMesh, these nodes were then able to create an intricate, yet robust set of frequencies which could send and retrieve signals, whilst continuously shifting to provide the best route for the signal.

For instance, if a certain path became unavailable, a crane moves out of coverage, or an object moves in and obstructs coverage, the nodes were then able to identify and use an alternative route to redirect the data. This ensures that all of the web components are able to receive and transmit data reliably and in real-time, providing port operators with an end-to-end view of its operations to enable timely analysis and decision making.

In addition, cranes and reach stackers can be outfitted with position detection systems which use antennas, both moving and static, to track the position of equipment in real-time around the yard. This enables cameras to be attached to the crane to scan containers for their identification, allowing operators to easily identify containers and share container information into the database without manually having to enter them.

Not only does this drastically transform the operations of port operators, it ensures that truck drivers operating throughout the yard are able to efficiently receive their goods, without even leaving their trucks. Instead of truck drivers having to search for a container, they receive a ticket when they enter the yard which tells them which dispatch area to go to.

This information is then sent to and processed by the smart crane, which then lets the driver know where to go and wait for their container. The crane will then put the container onto the truck, meaning the driver doesn’t have to leave their vehicle.

Making ports smarter

From the operator to the crane to the mesh system to the container, from the simple moving gears of the crane, to the invisible frequencies of the mesh network – all of these parts work in tandem to increase efficiency and speed for both port operators and truck drivers. This ultimately ensures that both parties always know where the needle is, no matter how great the haystack.

The author is Chris Mason, director of business development, EMEA Market, Rajant Corporation

About the author

Chris Mason joined Rajant in June with responsibility for sales in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Working with distributors, resellers and end-users, Chris will seek to achieve further penetration of Rajant’s Kinetic Mesh technology into these key geographies.

With over 30 years ICT sales experience, Chris has worked for both small companies and in some of the largest global organisations finding IT solutions to business challenges. Over 16 years of this time was spent with British Telecom plc in a variety of sales, business development and management roles, across geographies and industry sectors.

Radio solution have been an integral part of Chris’ background, given his involvement with the UK’s TETRA network for the Emergency Services and the UK Ministry of Defence.

Prior to working for BT, Chris was responsible for worldwide 3rd party distribution for a leading Business Information organisation and has held various senior positions in the IT Industry, including some years working for Burroughs /Unisys.

Chris holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature followed by an MSc from University College London in Telecommunications Business and is a Member of the Institute of directors. Home for Chris is in the South West of the UK in a beautiful part of the country called the Somerset Levels.

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