Cathay Pacific Cargo is introducing Ultra Track, its multi-dimensional tracking product, to 25 ports across its network. This represents a significantly enhanced offer for forwarders and shippers, and demonstrates the way in which Cathay Pacific Cargo is working with IATA to take the lead on new digital standards for the air cargo industry.
‘Ultra Track provides real-time multi-dimensional tracking, such as temperature and location, and we can provide other data to customers on request,’ says Calvin Hui, Cathay Pacific Cargo Digital Manager – Transformation.
The system, which uses the Descartes Core Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)™ Network, Tags and Readers data-loggers and transmitters, offers greater visibility to Cathay Pacific Cargo and customers, who can now monitor shipments in near real-time across the airport-to-airport leg of the air-cargo journey. This includes all of the shipment ‘milestones’ as specified by IATA’s Cargo IQ initiative, which seeks to bring more transparency to this part of the air cargo journey.
Ultra Track has already been used on most of the COVID-19 vaccine shipments carried by Cathay Pacific Cargo to date. And what makes it suitable for essential vaccines also makes it ideal for other pharmaceutical, perishable and vulnerable shipments.
Along with GPS location and temperature – and depending on the type of shipment – accessible data can be extended to include light, humidity (used, for example, for cut flower shipments), and vibration, which is important for sensitive specialist cargo such as stepper machines, the printing presses for microchips.
While some shippers are already using their own data-logging tools, what makes Ultra Track different is that it is linked to the OCC (Operations Control Centre): a dedicated team of cargo professionals who not only monitor shipments but can also instruct ramp and cargo terminal staff to take proactive steps and corrective actions. Customers can also communicate with the OCC team directly using live chat.
‘If something happens, like a temperature excursion, the OCC can investigate and implement the right actions to put things right,’ says Frosti Lau, Cathay Pacific General Manager Cargo Service Delivery. ‘It means that Ultra Track is both a damage-prevention and service-recovery process in one.’
To use Ultra Track, agents place the Bluetooth device on individual shipments. As shipments are delivered to the terminal, they will be tracked, and customers will get visibility of the data as with the current Ezycargo system or on cathaypacificcargo.com, by entering the air waybill number for the shipment.
The inflight segment of the journey is not currently covered, but collated data from the flight is transmitted as soon as the Bluetooth device comes into contact with a reader on arrival, and Ultra Track will show a flight’s progress using data from Flightradar24.
The investment in Ultra Track and the OCC reflects Cathay Pacific Cargo’s commitment to digitisation and new technologies for the benefit of customers and the wider air cargo industry, by setting new standards in quality of service and products while bringing greater transparency to the shipment journey.
The next stage is to integrate communication between stakeholders’ systems, so that all the actors in the shipment journey – shippers, forwarders, airlines, warehouses and airports – are able to access the same information in a secure ‘single version of the truth’. This is the purpose of the IATA ONE Record standard.
In June, IATA is making use of Ultra Track for a pilot for its Interactive Cargo initiative – which aims to ‘equip airlines and the air cargo supply chain with responsive air cargo services based on intelligent systems’.
Calvin Hui says: ‘What is in the pipeline is about communication. We have already implemented live chat, so customers can go to our platform and talk to the OCC, but starting from June we will be able to connect our system to customers’ systems if they are using the IATA ONE Record standard. This integration for a single point of truth is what the market is asking for. So from June, we will be looking to integrate APIs (application programming interfaces) using the IATA ONE Record standard.’
For Frosti Lau, it’s all about creating the best possible industry-leading offering. ‘Ultra Track is a cost-effective way of maintaining quality for perishables and will enable us to strengthen our processes,’ he says. ‘We want to take the lead on the industry’s technological development, using the best technologies to keep abreast of customer needs so we can serve them better.’