An electronics prototype to track missing cargo during lorry transport. This was implemented by the Sustainable Living Lab (SL2) at the Raitong Organics Farm in Northeastern Thailand. The whole process from ideation, iterative development, testing and deployment spanned about two weeks, including three days at the Raitong Farm in Thailand.
About 5 out of 750 boxes of packaged rice occasionally goes missing during the weekly 10 hour lorry journey to the sea port in Bangkok. This was affecting the farm’s financial bottomline as well as harming its reputation with clients. Due to strict security measures at the sea port, it was ruled out that the boxes went missing at the port.
It was suspected that the thieves carefully removed the tarp and put it back after removing a few boxes at a location where the truck stopped for a while, somewhere during the lorry journey. The farm needed proof of this.
SL2 came up with the idea of using a GPS system combined with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tracking of tags placed on the boxes. The reason why we chose RFID was that the tags were cheap enough, in the order of a few cents per tag, to be “fire and forget”, and we needed a lot of these. Also, we had to pick the UHF frequency range, which has a detection range of up to 10m, because the usual RFID that we are familiar with, which is in the KHz frequency range, only had a range of a few centimeters. The cargo truck measured 6m in length, 2.45m in width and 2m in height.
The theory was that once any of the boxes goes out of range of the RFID reader (a couple of metres), it could be assumed that the box was being stolen. Once this happened, a Short Message Service (SMS) alert would be sent out indicating that particular time and location. The mobile GSM system also allowed real time commands to be sent via SMS to the electronics box to ask for updates. In addition, all tracking activity would be logged onto a micro SD card for post-mortem data analysis.
Please see this blog entry for more details.