Special | Report
LPWA Modules, Sensors Power Remote Monitoring System
Designed for the logistics industry, the IoT-enabled tracker device developed by Alps Alpine promotes cost reduction from conventional systems Due to its long product life.

n its bid to reinforce solutions for remote monitoring, Alps Alpine Co., Ltd. has developed the Smart Tracker, an internet of things (IoT)-compliant device for the management of physical distribution materials. Alps Alpine’s long-life Smart Tracker remote monitoring system combines various sensors and low power wide area (LPWA) communication modules, targeting the logistics industry.

Durable Tracking Device
The Smart Tracker, which is distributed under the product name Lykaner, manages position information of physical distribution materials through the combination of Sigfox technology and Wi-Fi technology. It can operate continuously for more than 10 years without charging. The company is conducting trial demonstration of the product in Europe, and aims to put it to commercial production on full scale soon.

This device allows logistics service providers to manage position information of physical distribution materials, such as cage trolleys and pallets, at low costs. Through the combination of Wi-Fi and Sigfox LPWA communication, it transmits obtained position information to perform seamless position information management indoors and outdoors. This allows logistics personnel to get a visual picture of the physical distribution condition.

Smart Tracker
Photo 1: Smart Tracker
The device incorporates a temperature sensor and a three-axis acceleration sensor, and is equipped with a detachment detection function. As a precision positioning accuracy of several centimeters is not required in normal physical distribution materials management, the device has a positioning accuracy of about 50m. It has low power consumption and allows continuous operation of more than 10 years when a material is moved three times a day, thus bringing down the cost.

The device uses Sigfox Atlas Wi-Fi, a position information technology that combines Sigfox and Wi-Fi access points, to enable its use indoors and outdoors, and achieve expandability, low power consumption, and low cost. Compared with a conventional system, which combines global positioning system (GPS) and 3G, Lykaner can lower costs for terminals and communications. It measures 4(L)×2(W)in. It has dust-proof and waterproof performance equivalent to IP67, allowing maintenance-free operation, and has an operating temperature range of -20 to +60°C.

Powers Power Network Supply Chain
Lykaner was developed by ALPS ELECTRIC EUROPE GmbH, the company’s European local unit located in Dusseldorf, Germany. The company has conducted initial trial demonstrations of the device on logistics operations in the European market ahead of other markets.

In Jun. 2019, Alps Alpine announced that DHL, a leading logistics company in Germany, ALPS ELECTRIC EUROPE, and Sigfox, a leading IoT services provider, entered into a partnership toward the optimization of the parcel network supply chain, which DHL is deploying in Germany. The group will use the Smart Tracker IoT device for logistics.

As a logistics leader in Germany, DHL transports 5 million units of goods per day. In order to securely process this volume of goods, a systematic logistics network is necessary. DHL has several thousand cage trolleys, which transport individual goods, such as parcels, as one of the facilities to support the network. It has 35 DHL parcel centers across Germany and neighboring countries and customers’ warehouses, making it necessary to maintain and managed a certain number of cage trolleys. In order to improve efficiency, DHL has installed about 250,000 smart trackers, enabling the grasp of information on individual cage trolleys, including their locations and transport status.

Sample installation of the Smart Tracker
Photo 2: Sample installation of the Smart Tracker
With the information that it obtained through the use of smart trackers, DHL intends to further improve the quality of its customer service and to reduce operation costs through superior facility management.

Flurry of IoT Solutions
At CEATEC 2019, which was held in Oct. 2019 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, Alps Alpine introduced tracking solutions for logistics cargo trolleys, which use smart trackers. The company highlighted the cost reduction from using the smart tracker compared with the conventional system, which combines GPS and 3G.

Aside from logistics solutions, Alps Alpine has also strengthened its proposal of various IoT solutions that combine compact, high-performance sensors, various wireless communication modules and algorithms, including LPWA communication modules.

Alps Alpine has also been providing a development kit for IoT smart modules, which enables users to readily achieve IoT, since several years ago. An IoT smart module incorporates a multitude of environment sensors, which detect various environmental information and data, and a wireless communications device in a compact chassis. Through linkage with cloud-related companies, Alps Alpine supports companies to enter new businesses using IoT technologies or to provide new services using data.