GE, Partners Ready Wireless Cargo Security

By Jacqueline Emigh  |  Posted 2005-01-12

GE, Partners Ready Wireless Cargo Security

For fighting both terrorism and billions of dollars in annual cargo theft, General Electric Security and its partner CIMC on Wednesday will unveil test results on a new product touted as the first commercially viable secure cargo container.

GE Security and CIMC, the worlds largest producer of cargo containers, will issue the announcement about GEs Bluetooth-enabled Tamper Evident Secure Container, or TESC, at the Customs Trade Symposium in Washington, D.C., officials said in prebriefings with

GE foresees no immediate direct competition for TESC, said James Petrizzi, general manager and vice president of engineering for GE Securitys Container Security Initiative, in an interview. The supply chain industry has been working to drive costs for secure containers down to $50 per shipment. But TESC will result in substantially lower costs of only $10 per shipment, according to Petrizzi.

A supply chain group goes global to combat terrorism. Click here to read more.

GE Security is producing the wirelessly capable electronic seal (e-seal), using technology licensed from partner AllSet. China-based CIMC is providing the standard-sized maritime cargo container, which measures roughly 8-by-8-by-40 feet. CIMC is the largest player in the global cargo container industry, with a 50 percent market share. Unisys, another ally, acted as systems integrator and observer for the maritime wireless security test.

General Electric expects to ship TESC as a commercial product in the second quarter of this year. Target markets include freight carriers as well as big importers, said Scott Brown, general manager of the security initiative. In about the same time frame, the company will also release CommerceGuard, a similar tamper-evident seal geared for use with the worlds approximately 15 million legacy cargo containers.

Beyond the prevention of terrorism and cargo theft, the products will be positioned as tools for achieving ROI (return on investment) through better supply chain management.

"Importers will actually be able to find out where their goods are. So theyll be able to manage their supply chains more tightly. This will translate into billions of dollars [in] ROI," Brown told

GEs Brown also pointed to the prospect of so-called "green lanes," which would reward importers using secure containers with fast handling through U.S. Customs.

"We know [from experience] that although companies will pay for security, theyd rather pay for productivity," Petrizzi said.

Next Page: How TESC works.

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How does TESC work? The seal itself —known as the Container Security Device (CSD)—uses a wireless "Hall effect" sensor to tell whether anyone has attempted to open the container and, if so, whether that effort succeeded.

A subset of Bluetooth, known as "Bluetooth Lite," is used to transmit secure "challenge/response interrogations" between the CSD and two types of reader hardware: a handheld reader device and a fixed reader. The information travels at more than 3G bps. The fixed readers will typically be mounted in two places: at entrances to port facilities and on truck cranes at port exits.

"We tested 18 containers, and all 18 operated properly," Petrizzi said. GE and its partners actually opened one of the containers, to make sure the attack would be reported to the readers.

GE took its first steps into the cargo container business in the middle of last year, Petrizzi said. The company is entering this emerging security space from markets ranging from home protection to airport explosives detection.

GE asked Unisys to help out in the TESC testing, said Tom Conaway, Unisys managing partner of Homeland Security, during another interview. Unisys, a top player in cargo security, was already providing the IT infrastructure around reader hardware that GE has been using internally at port shipping facilities.

Whats in store for the supply chain in 2005? Read Jacqueline Emighs predictions here.

Along with customers such as Motorola Inc., Unisys recently took part in four projects conducted as part of the U.S. Transport Security Associations Operation Safe Commerce.

"One of the things were looking at is various types of sensors—for detecting hazardous materials, for GPS [geographic positioning systems] and so forth—and how these might be incorporated into secure containers," Conaway told

If Unisys does move into this particular market, it will probably be through partners, he said. But unlike the Hall effect sensors used in TESC, other sorts of sensor technologies arent quite ready yet for commercial deployment, according to Conaway.

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