Expect that new technology will require modifications before it is useable.
A Washington State experience with testing of electronic container door seals (E-seal) through a freight supply chain.
Made Public Date
09/16/2005

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Washington
District of Columbia
United States
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Identifier
2005-00082

WSDOT Intermodal Data Linkages Freight ITS Operational Test Evaluation Final Report Part 1: Electronic Container Seals Evaluation

Background

In 1999, under a U.S. DOT Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Intermodal Freight Field Operational Test Program, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) entered into a partnership with a number of public and private organizations to test an operational prototype system to track intermodal cargo containers with disposable electronic seals (E-seals). Disposable E-seals were chosen for this test because of their potentially low mass production cost. The primary goal of this test was to follow a seal through the supply chain of a container shipment. The validation process included determining the integrity of the E-seal and recording the time and place of each seal transaction (i.e., each location where the E-seal was “read” by a device). This was accomplished remotely by reader antennas or by humans with hand-held readers. The use of E-seal technology was expected to facilitate border clearance activities and commercial vehicle enforcement, as well as streamline operations for both regulatory agencies and private sector transportation companies.

This lesson learned is based on a 2002 evaluation of the border truck crossing ITS project by Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) and on input from the WSDOT project manager.

Lessons Learned

A field operational test (FOT) attempted to apply a new technology, E-seal, to existing freight movements. While the seal worked in tests, when applied to containers in a real world environment on roads, at ports, and at borders, it required re-engineering. This application of a disposable E-seal transponder demonstrated that new or prototype technology may require additional development before it is a viable system.

The project suggested the following lesson:

  • Expect that new ITS technology may need considerable re-engineering before it is usable in a real world environment. For example, as the project began, the original E-seal design faced challenges because the broadcast speed was too slow to read moving trucks. The system was successfully re-engineered to broadcast at a sufficiently increased rate to support roadway speed conditions. The hand-held seal readers also proved difficult to operate because users had to navigate through a cumbersome series of menus and because of a short battery life.

Over the course of the test, a number of technological problems with the E-seal were resolved. After the seal was re-engineered several times, the test demonstrated that the concept of the E-seal was valid. The seal read rate during the test improved from poor in the early months of the test to approaching a 100 percent read rate toward the end. The lesson here is that existing ITS technology may need considerable modification before it is usable.

WSDOT Intermodal Data Linkages Freight ITS Operational Test Evaluation Final Report Part 1: Electronic Container Seals Evaluation

WSDOT Intermodal Data Linkages Freight ITS Operational Test Evaluation Final Report Part 1: Electronic Container Seals Evaluation
Publication Sort Date
12/01/2002
Author
M. Jensen, M. Williamson, R. Sanchez, A. Newton, C. Mitchell
Publisher
U.S. Department of Transportation

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