IBM Plans GMM Supply Chain Security Initiative

By Jacqueline Emigh  |  Posted 2005-09-21

IBM Plans GMM Supply Chain Security Initiative

IBM and ocean shipper Maersk Logistics have jointly launched Intelligent Trade Lane, a new wireless supply chain security platform that will serve as the first plank of the soon-to-be-announced Global Movement Management, a wider supply chain security initiative now under development at IBM.

IBM and Maersk, a division of the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group, have already started land-based testing of Intelligent Trade Lane, a platform aimed at providing security as well as supply chain efficiencies to customers shipping products beyond national borders.

The technology combines tamper-proof smart cards; wireless sensors for measuring such things as location and temperature; and satellite, cellular and mesh wireless networks for worldwide communications with customers over the Internet-based epcGlobal network, said IBM officials during a press conference on Tuesday at the Maritime Security Conference in New York.

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Future plans call for starting a technology pilot in November, to be followed by a much larger test with retail, manufacturing and CPG (consumer packaged goods) distributors in March of next year. Commercial availability is set for the second half of 2006.

In the pilot later this year, the non-RFID wireless tracking technology will move from land-based testing to deployment aboard ocean vessels, trains and trucks, according to Mogens Roedbro, partner and vice president of IBM Business Consulting Services.

Specific technologies to be implemented include the Iridium satellite network; Zigbee wireless mesh networks; smart-card encryption from IBM; and, on the epcGlobal network, RSA authentication and directory services from Verisign Inc.

The World Customs Organization will act as trusted authority for RSA authentication.

Next years commercial test will move beyond the technology evaluation stage into measuring supply chain efficiencies felt by customers, Roedbro told journalists at the press conference.

Along the way, the partners will work on overcoming technical issues in the wireless industry that have contributed to high false positive rates.

IBM will also work with national customs agencies throughout the world to seek standardization of the Intelligent Trade Lane technology.

Intelligent Trade Lane also represents the first implementation of GMM, an initiative IBM expects to unveil over the next few months.

Under the upcoming GMM framework, staffers from various divisions throughout IBM will be brought together to work together on vertically focused supply chain security teams, said W. Scott Gould, vice president of IBMs Public Sector Strategy & Change division, in an interview during the press event.

Next Page: Securing more than just goods.

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The IBM framework will seek to secure not just goods, but other "key flows," including people, conveyances, money and information.

As one example of a target vertical market, Gould cited the travel industry.

IBM and Maersk are not the only companies to be working on intelligent shipping lane technologies. Also this week, for example, Savi Networks announced SaviTrak.

But Intelligent Trade Lane differs from the other initiatives in a number of ways, Roedbro said, in another follow-up interview. For example, unlike SaviTrak, which is RFID-based, IBM and Maersk will use a mix of wireless approaches.

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"With RFID, you could only track packages at ports, as they passed through RFID readers. Instead, well be able to track packages in transit, wherever they are in the world," Roedbro said.

Satellite-based communications will be used for tracking containers aboard ships, whereas cellular and mesh wireless networks will come into play for packages in transit on trucks and trains.

Intelligent Trade Lane will revolve around cigar box-sized devices, dubbed TRECs (Tamper Resistant Embedded Controllers), which will attach to shipping containers.

Each TREC device will house a full-fledged computer, smart card and sensors. Identification and location environment will be stored in the smart card and secured with the use of IBMs encryption technology.

IBM and Maersk expect to use about 20 TREC devices in this years pilot, and 1,000 TRECs in next years larger commercial test, according to Roedbro.

Some experts in the logistics and port security arenas are upbeat over IBMs new steps in the shipment tracking industry.

"IBMs presence will be good for the market," said Lani Fritts, chief operating officer at Savi Networks, during another interview.

"This [initiative] will give Maersk an added level of granularity in data collection, while also allowing communications to customers in real time or near real time," said George Feitel, vice president of feasibility and assessment at Wavera, a Chicago-based venture research and development firm.

"But to make this work, Maersk needs a partner of IBMs caliber in the areas of global presence, technical prowess and consulting expertise," according to the industry analyst.

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