Cont-Trak offers reliable container tracking via satellite

Jun 17, 2011
Whether at sea, on rail, stacked or stored, shipping containers can now be tracked worldwide via satellite with Cont-Trak, developed through ESA’s telecommunications program. Credits: Regien Paassen | Dreamstime.com

Whether at sea, on rail, stacked or stored, shipping containers can now be tracked worldwide via satellite with Cont-Trak, developed through ESA’s telecommunications program.

Field trials have been carried out at a depot in Halifax, Canada to test different stacking situations, and during shipping from Europe to North America. Containers were fitted with Cont-Trak terminals, set to provide reports every four hours, and sent on their normal routes.

These tests achieved seamless coverage between the North American and European systems. Transmissions were made from ships, in harbor, on lorries and on rail, and all the time the system was able to receive and process polling commands.

“Cont-Trak can track containers in remote locations where no terrestrial communication networks are available,” explains ESA’s Norbert Hübner, “such as the transit of containers via rail, road, ships in the middle of the ocean, or storage of containers in remote locations all over the world.

“The major challenge was to solve the problem of container stacking, which typically represents a major obstacle for the requirement of line-of-sight communication with satellites. This challenge was met.”  

The Cont-Trak solution consists of a satellite terminal on the outer hull of the container, with two distinct elements. The first is the GPS and satcom terminal that provides location information as well as the link to the satellites.

The second element is the new Container Tracking Interface Module (CTIM). This communicates with the satellite terminal, container sensors and other containers that do not have a line-of-sight to a telecom satellite, via a UHF wireless inter-container link. The data are collected and transmitted via an L-band satellite to the Cont-Trak server.

For the trial, an Inmarsat I-3 satellite was used over Europe and the Mobile Services Venture MSAT-01 over North America.

“The CTIM will connect to the container that has line of sight to a communications , thereby autonomously setting up a communication network between all containers equipped with Cont-Trak,” says Norbert.

“One big advantage of this solution is that it can be applied globally, as the frequency of the CTIM was chosen to be 2.4 GHz, which has no utilization restrictions worldwide, compared to other frequencies.”

For more information about the project and companies involved, see the links in the column to the right.

Explore further: Bright points in Sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

When a bus becomes a satellite

Mar 18, 2011

Alphabus has met Alphasat. Europe's largest telecom satellite is taking shape with final assembly and testing ready to begin in Toulouse, France.

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

13 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

14 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

14 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Apr 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...