Envirotainer's cold-chain air containers will use OnAsset Intelligence's tracking technology

Leading cargo container vendor links with a leading tracking service

OnAsset Intelligence (Irvine, TX) will now be the supplier of temperature- and condition-sensing electronics and communications for Envirotainer (Upplands Vasby, Sweden), whose e1/e2 and t2 containers are widely used in air freight to deliver pallet-size shipments of pharmaceuticals. The agreement brings a global communications network to Envirotainer: OnAsset is partnered with AT&T’s Global Business Solutions service, a cellular (GSM) network that can provide near real-time tracking of assets. OnAsset has its own cloud-based information service, the Vision Platform, to present condition and location data to clients, but the Envirotainer service will include its own information service, according to Matt Groppe, VP sales at OnAsset.

Groppe notes that the OnAsset device, a small box called Sentry FlightSafe, has been tailored to the Envirotainer application; a 500-series generation of the product will soon supersede the current 400-series.

How does all this fit with the pharma supply chain manager concerned with moving temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals from one continent to another? First of all, Envirotainer pioneered the concept of active temperature control—using what the air cargo industry calls a “unit load device” (ULD) for transporting temperature-sensitive products. Envirotainer has a “Qualified Envirotainer Partner” program that includes 23 airlines and logistics providers (in addition to a comparable number of airlines that will accept the ULD); it also has its own network of a dozen or so stations globally. Now, with the OnAsset agreement, it will be able to provide real-time tracking of those shipments, including details on the temperature of the products and the status and location of the container. Meanwhile, OnAsset has its own agreements with dozens of air cargo carriers to allow its devices onboard.

These capabilities are not themselves new: various air cargo companies have their own real-time reporting services (and some, like FedEx’s SenseAware and Southwest Air’s Cargo Companion have their own electronic boxes for sensing and communications). Additionally, other asset-tracking electronics providers, including Sensitech, Elpro and others, have their own comnmunications networks (Sensitech has gone a step farther with the acquisition of FreightWatch, a tracking and response service.) Logistics providers like UPS, DB Schenker and others also provide real-time tracking. The marketplace will decide whether one or another company’s service will become industry-standard, or that pharma clients will be able to freely mix and match container, cargo carrier and tracking service. At the outer edge of all this, many industries, including healthcare, are moving to a “M2M” (machine-to-machine) communications structure for tracking assets and conditions, making temperature and location just a couple of many bits of information to collect.