Tracking and cybersecurity for intermodal freight

Delivering accountability helps to provide peace of mind to customers

by Mark Barfield, Channel Manager—Industry Solutions

Intermodal companies can help deliver greater peace of mind to customers about their freight through edge-to-edge technologies and cybersecurity. While moving products to market, there are many opportunities to use technology to help provide peace of mind regarding a product’s condition in transit. Technology can provide accurate information on freight locations, details about the conditions a product is in as it is being moved or stored, and technology can help provide security around the data associated with each load. Companies can then provide accountability while freight is in their chain of custody, helping to establish trust and strengthen customer relationships to build a stronger customer lifetime value.

Asset tracking is a powerful tool used to help protect a business and the customer relationships it depends on. Through the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge-to-edge technologies, intermodal companies can reduce the amount of manual work required to search and locate their assets and freight. This may free up valuable human capital that can be used for optimizing operations. Such optimization may include coordinating freight pickup to have fuller containers, thereby maximizing container volume per mile for improved revenue. 

IoT asset tracking solutions provide another layer of information to monitor that freight is on schedule through checkpoint scanning and comparing the time and distance from a previous checkpoint. This can be an added layer to tracking the estimated time for arrival for a load, but also for monitoring the safety and security of the crew and their freight. GPS-based monitoring can also enable a faster response in the event an unexpected incident should occur. 

Effective asset tracking goes beyond tracking and tracing freight location. It can include information about the valuable items being moved through the supply chain. Since many items such as food products, perishable goods, and industrial chemicals require varying degrees of sensitivity monitoring, a combination of IoT, a highly secure network, and video technology enables a company to “see” inside of a container while en route, which is critical to protect freight integrity.

Creating alerts for thresholds related to temperature, vibration, humidity, light sensitivity, and other critical measurements empowers companies to proactively detect an issue. And in the unfortunate case of a load being damaged by another party during the chain of responsibility from the source to final delivery, a company may have more information to help protect itself and save costs that may be associated with defending against a claim.

The more exchanges a load experiences during its supply chain journey, the more vulnerable it may be to hacking and other cybercrime. Increasingly, the transportation and logistics industry is becoming more of a soft target from cybercriminals. As data is in transport, any number of points along the route can facilitate a potential breach opportunity to customer manifests, or to connected systems where ransomware may be installed bringing operations to a halt unless the company relent to the demands. 

Like many industries and technology roles, the lack of qualified cybersecurity employees in a field with high demand further complicates the need. In a survey across industries, fifty-percent of IT professionals felt as though “[their] security policies were ad hoc, not risk-driven, and not integrated with [their] overall security goals.” An ad-hoc or reactive approach to cybersecurity often means that companies choose to delay action until absolutely necessary. However, even if the financial damage can seem to be absorbed in the short run, the long-term repercussions with customers and the company’s reputation can be longstanding.

It may feel as though cybercriminals stay one step ahead of the technology meant to stop them, but there is action a company can take. A good first step is conducting a basic cybersecurity assessment. This can provide insight into where the business is to date and enable the business to begin having conversations about cybersecurity needs. Then, the business can consult with a quality cybersecurity professional to make a plan to identify the vulnerabilities, what needs to be addressed right away, and how to plan for the future of the business. And because cybersecurity is a perpetual challenge, consistent threat intelligence and monitoring can help provide the security that intermodal companies need, no matter how many miles they log every day.

Edge-to-edge tracking and security can establish layers of protection for both an intermodal business and its customers to help provide greater peace of mind and protect the customer relationship, mile after mile.