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New IBM Software Uses Sensors to Speed the Movement of Shipping Containers

Enables Intelligent Systems for Governments, Parts Suppliers and Manufacturers, Cutting Container Inventory Costs by 40 Percent

ARMONK, N.Y. - 10 Nov 2009: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today unveiled new software that will enable businesses and governments to extract new business information from sensors to determine the whereabouts and conditions of millions of returnable shipping containers used to transport goods around the world. Using the software, massive amounts of sensor data can be gathered in real-time, providing supply chain transparency and reducing inventory costs by as much as 40 percent.

The new software is one of many technologies IBM offers to bring a new level of intelligence to the way in which people, businesses, organizations, governments and systems interact

Sensors are quickly becoming a part of our everyday lives. They are being used to monitor and manage water flow rates, highway traffic, seismic activity, air quality, the flow of energy across power grids, and much more. By 2010, approximately six billion of these tags will be in circulation. 

Today, IBM is announcing it has enhanced IBM InfoSphere Traceability Server with a new capability called Returnable Container Management, which was specifically designed for governments, businesses, automotive manufacturers, parts suppliers and other businesses to track the exact location of containers and other reusable assets used to move parts and products. 

This technology is aimed at improving the performance of the millions of shipping containers that form the foundation of international shipping and trade. Containers, which move millions of parts and products every day, represent a major investment for clients in many industries. For example, many automotive original equipment manufacturers maintain container inventories in excess of $100 million. The containers are shipped by manufacturers to suppliers, who fill the containers and send them back with components and sub-assemblies to the manufacturer. 

Even in this age of heightened security concerns, returnable containers in every industry are often lost or misplaced, creating shipping delays and increased costs. IBM's new Returnable Container Management offering allows container owners to use sensor data to protect their investments in shipping containers and other mobile assets. By affixing a sensor with a unique serial number to each container, manufacturers and their trading partners can use a Web browser to track the exact location of a particular container as they move along the supply chain. 

IBM Software Now Tracks Both Small Items and Reusable Containers 

IBM's software was designed to enable government organizations and businesses in a wide range of industries to track and authenticate items as they move through the supply chain, from farms and manufacturing floors to factories, distributors, retailers, and governments. In the public sector, it is being used in a pilot project launched by the Vietnamese State Agency for Technological Innovation and the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers to track the country's seafood exports -- a market worth more than $4.25 billion in 2008. 

In the healthcare arena, the software is now being used to make it easier for hospitals, doctors, and patients to keep track of the medical devices implanted in individual patients. Implanet, which sells medical implants such as hips and knees, affixes RFID tags to the packaging of medical devices so that before a surgical procedure takes place, a hospital can scan the tag and store information on the implant with the patient's records so the information on the implant can be retrieved if needed in the future. 

Clients using IBM's Returnable Container Management capability affix sensors such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to each of their reusable containers. Through the use of both standing and mobile devices that read the tags, all relevant data is captured, including place and date of manufacture, serial number, and other necessary details. IBM's software, based on industry standards, allows clients and their trading partners to use a Web browser to determine where each container is at any given point. If a container reaches the wrong location, the system will alert management.  

For example, an automobile manufacturer using the software can track containers filled with parts from suppliers to their manufacturing plants and ultimately back to container storage facilities. In doing so, they can expect to improve container turnaround time by as much as 20 percent; reduce container loss by between 5 and 15 percent, reduce container inventory by 10 percent; realize a 30 percent savings in container carrying costs; and reduce the need for one time packaging and expedited shipping costs by 80 percent. 

The new offering provides companies with a complete platform for tracking and analyzing the movement of these valuable mobile assets. Through the previously unavailable insight provided by this application, container owners can optimize business processes, asset inventories and in turn, gain a competitive advantage. In particular, clients can expect to eliminate as much as 40 percent of their container inventory by minimizing losses, optimizing utilization rates, and detecting and preventing unauthorized diversions. 

IBM's Returnable Container Management offering was developed through expertise IBM gained by creating similar systems with major automobile manufacturers. The product was developed in IBM's Silicon Valley Lab, drawing on the analytics capabilities of IBM Cognos. 

InfoSphere Traceability Server is the only product available that is standards based, includes enterprise serial number management and embedded enterprise grade reporting and analysis tools. The software works seamlessly with IBM's WebSphere Sensor Events software. InfoSphere Traceability Server is fully compliant with industry standards such as GS1 EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Sharing (EPCIS), standard, which allows trading partners to share information captured using sensor and other serialization technologies such as barcodes. 

Among the other IBM software products that enable the Internet of things are WebSphere Sensor Events, Cognos 8 BI, WebSphere Business Events and Business Process Management, ILOG software for supply chain management, Tivoli Netcool and Maximo Asset Management. 

About IBM  

A pioneer in sensor technology and a leader in IT and business strategy, IBM offers sensor solutions that unlock new business value and help drive new insights and innovation. For more information, visit http://www-306.ibm.com/software/data/masterdata/rfid/ and www.ibm.com/solutions/sensors.

Contact(s) information

Nancy Kaplan
IBM Media Relations
914-766-1848
nkaplan@us.ibm.com

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