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Pallet Alliance expands IoT-enabled wooden pallet tracking capability

Pallet Alliance, a developer of pallet management programs for multi-site manufacturing companies, has added the LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN connectivity protocol to its internet of things-enabled IntelliPallet platform.

Pallet Aliiance describes the protocol as “efficient, flexible, and economical”, and says its IntelliPallet platform is the industry’s first supply chain managed service to be integrated into wooden pallets.

The new capability is the result of Pallet Alliance’s collaboration with Semtech, a supplier of high performance analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms, and Viaanix, an IoT integration firm.

Pallet Alliance was the first third party pallet management and logistics provider to offer IoT-enabled location and environmental sensors to be integrated into wooden pallets, which comprise more than 90 per cent of the worldwide palletized shipping market today.

The company’s IntelliPallet platform was introduced in November 2019 with both AT&T mobile (cellular) and CalAmp Bluetooth connectivity options.

Mike Jones, principal at Pallet Alliance, says: “Expanding Pallet Alliance’s IntelliPallet IoT platform to include LoRa capability provides a flexible and economical solution for wireless connectivity in both rural and indoor applications that cannot be cost-effectively addressed using traditional cellular/GPS and Wi-Fi/BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)-based networks.

“One of the primary advantages of Semtech’s LoRa technology is that it enables sensor data communication over a long range with extremely low power consumption, it functions well in indoor environments, and it can be implemented at lower cost.”

These three IoT connectivity protocols complement each other’s capabilities:

  • Mobile/cellular systems provide precise in-transit data for point-to-point location for high-value shipments in outdoor environments, but require adequate network coverage and have higher power consumption.
  • WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity can deliver higher bandwidth and function well in indoor environments, but may have limited range.
  • The LoRaWAN protocol delivers secure, long range connectivity for tracking high volume shipments with low cost sensors and devices, with low power consumption, but may have limited data packets and frequency of reporting.

Jones says: “Having this range of connectivity options enables the IntelliPallet system to implement optimum pallet tracking options tailored to each use case, giving us a unique ability to deliver a custom end-to-end IoT connectivity, location, and data analysis platform for each customer.

“More importantly, the ability to integrate this platform into customers’ existing wooden pallet systems eliminates the expense and disruption involved in converting to plastic or composite pallets.”

Pallet Alliance’s ability to integrate advanced IoT connectivity technology into wooden pallets has the potential to transform the logistics industry.

Wooden pallets are significantly more economical and sustainable than engineered alternatives, and can be easily configured for specific customer requirements.

Developed through extensive laboratory, field testing, and real-world use, the patent-pending IntelliPallet integration is virtually undetectable when installed.

To extend the LoRaWan open protocol to the IntelliPallet platform, Pallet Alliance collaborated with leading LoRa device technology manufacturer Semtech and custom LoRa IoT solutions provider Viaanix.

Semtech provided high level guidance on capabilities and infrastructure, while Viaanix supplied devices and integration services, and assisted in establishing the effectiveness of LoRa technology in the IntelliPallet platform.

Marc Pegulu, vice president of IoT in Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group, says: “With LoRa devices, Pallet Alliance will be able to create a flexible IoT platform that successfully monitors and reports pallet status, including while in transit. Integrating LoRa-based solutions for geolocation and logistics monitoring enables customers to reduce inefficiencies and optimize processes.”

Jatin Talreja, CEO at Viaanix, says: “Millions of reusable pallets/assets are lost or stolen at great cost to businesses.

“Working together with Pallet Alliance, Viaanix developed a solution that validated the use of LoRa-based connectivity for active indoor and outdoor tracking of pallets to provide not only the location of the pallet, but also activity, impact, and other sensor information such as temperature, humidity, and so on.

“This pallet tracking systems delivers total visibility of customer assets, as well as automatic notifications by text or email. Based on open APIs, the platform seamlessly integrates with SAP/ERP systems, enabling custom dashboards for different levels of users.”

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