How Smart Are the Pallets You Use?

packagingUp until now, most pallets were little more than a few scraps of wood nailed together to provide a durable platform to accommodate materials handling.

But some pallets used in warehouses and docks today are much, much smarter than that. Many are embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that allow global positioning systems to keep track of their payloads as they make their way through the supply chains.

But RM2 International, a Luxembourg-based pallet leasing company, has taken pallet tracking a step further into the future.

Pallets that Monitor Their Payloads

Officials at RM2 teamed with AT&T to create futuristic pallets that can communicate with each other, as well as with a centralized dispatcher. Using AT&T’s LTE-M new global wireless network that is engineered to support Internet of Things (IoT) machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, sensors embedded in the pallets can keep track of such things as temperature, water intrusion, unusual jolting, and more.

Plus, new sensors — which are called RM2ELI0T, which stands for “Electronic Link to the Internet of Things” — also leverages existing cell towers to pinpoint the pallets location to within a few feet anywhere on the globe.

This information can be critical to users like food and beverage manufacturers that need to ensure the quality of their products as they make their way from production facilities to the ultimate consumers.

Real-Time Data 

The information gathered by the RM2ELIoT sensors is Cloud-based, which means that businesses leasing the pallets can access it using a user-specific online portal and application program interface (API). Or RM2 also offers the option of providing regular reporting directly to its clients.

The bottom line is that the new pallet technology will help businesses understand what is going on with their products at all times, according to Chris Penrose, president of AT&T’s Internet of Things Solutions division.

“Our work with RM2 during our LTE-M pilot will show how this new technology can help the packaging and supply chain industries increase their efficiency and sustain the integrity of their products,” Penrose said in a news release issued when the system was first being tested. “This is a prime example of how innovations like LTE-M will help bring the IoT to more end points than every before.”

Enabled by Technological Developments

Just a few years ago, this type of global pallet monitoring would have been impossible. But thanks to recent technological advances — sensor batteries that can last up to 10 years without being replaced, for example — these “smart pallets” already are in use all around the world.