HomeCarriersIrish delivery service An Post recruits Sigfox for “thousands” of logistics trackers

Irish delivery service An Post recruits Sigfox for “thousands” of logistics trackers

Irish postal company and fleet operator An Post Mails & Parcels (An Post) has contracted Irish Sigfox operator VT Networks to equip and monitor “several thousand” roll cages and containers for parcel processing and distribution.

The state-owned logistics firm said the move, to embrace connected IoT tracking, is part of its transformation strategy, to go from “the old world of traditional letters to the new world of e-commerce parcel logistics”.

The company runs the largest fleet of logistics and delivery vehicles in Ireland. It also claims to manage the country’s largest fleet of electric vehicles. It has just opened a fully automated sorting office (Dublin Parcel Hub) in the capital, which includes a large volume of roll cages and containers, to transport parcels to sorting offices across the country.

Roll cages and containers must be readily available every day, in the required quantities, it said. VT Networks has been tasked with connecting these units with Sigfox trackers, so their whereabouts can be monitored, even as they move in and out of their own supply chain. 

Sigfox has found a sweet spot with low-cost tracking, signing deals (fairly) recently with the likes of French automotive manufacturer Groupe PSA, German courier company Deutsche Post DHL, and Japan-based energy company Nippon Gas (NICIGAS). 

The arrangement with Groupe PSA is among the company’s largest, although the volume of trackers is unconfirmed; Sigfox joined the deal via IBM, which is providing the analytics via its IoT Watson platform. The initial deal with DHL, signed last July, was for tracking devices for 250,000 roll cages. 

The deal with NICIGAS covers 850,000 gas meters at its outset. Sigfox has also scored contracts for supply chain trackers with Posti in Finland in the postal sector, as well as with Dachser, Getrak, Michelin, NEC, Netstar, and Total in the automotive supply chain.

The French firm has also made good on its promise to deliver a sub-$1 IoT tracker, in prototype form at least. It has set an ambitious target to reach one billion IoT connections, mostly on its so-called 0G cellular-backup network, by 2023. It is at around 15 million, as of today.

The new deal with An Post, like these others, is geared towards low-cost tracking of cheap transport assets in the supply chain. Sigfox claims its narrowband technology is superior to rival solutions (“has eliminated barriers associated with traditional tracking technologies”), including LoRaWAN and cellular-based NB-IoT, in terms of price, battery life, and coverage. 

The coverage claim comes from the fact its network is ”borderless”, and works the same way in every market, doing away with roaming and interoperability issues that complicate the use of other technologies for international supply chain operations. 

Mark Bannon, chief executive at VT Networks, called the deal a “key milestone toward connecting billions of IoT devices globally on the Sigfox 0G network”. He said: “We are confident our solutions have the power to revolutionise the way logistics and supply chain companies do business, resulting in significantly reduced costs and increased efficiencies.” 

Mark Devine, national engineering maintenance and performance manager at An Post, said: “VT’s state-of-the-art solution has resulted in significantly increased transparency in our postal distribution network, ensuring world class quality of service for our customers and lower operational costs through improved containerisation efficiency.”

Glen Robinson, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sigfox, added: “We are delighted to support An Post in this new era of industry 4.0, where we are making the once untraceable now entirely visible to organisations. We continue to deliver benefits to postal organisations. This is a key vertical for Sigfox.”

VT Networks claims 95 per cent geographical coverage in Ireland. UK-based Sigfox operator WND said at the end of January it had reached 90 per cent coverage, in just 18 months, since launching in mid-2018. 

Sigfox IoT networks are now live in 70 countries. The French firm has claimed launches in three new markets in 2020, increasing its total country count by four and a half per cent, compared with the end of 2019. The three newest Sigfox launches are in Russia, Ivory Coast and Senegal. Sigfox operators have also launched networks in Greece, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand, towards the end of 2019.

Image: Lufthansa Technik
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