After a full week of meetings and panel discussion about innovations in the air cargo arena – many of which focused on the management and tracking of unit load devices (ULDs) – IATA’s 13th World Cargo Symposium (WCS) ended with the announcement that ULD management firm, Unilode Aviation Solutions, was named the winner of this year’s Cargo Innovation Award for its Bluetooth-based “internet of things” (IoT) tracking system.
The Unilode team – which beat out two other ULD-related projects – accepted the US$20,000 grand prize last Thursday after each finalist gave a 10-minute presentation during the symposium’s Closing Plenary Session in Singapore.
Unilode’s “Digital Transformation” entry was created to increase transparency throughout the supply chain, enabling customers to use the ULDs themselves to track cargo and transmit status updates about temperature, humidity, shock and light via IoT technology. The Bluetooth-powered ULDs also can be used to improve inventory control and reduce incidents of damage to the ULD fleet.
Check out a Unilode video here, describing the winning entry:
The two other runners-up, which each earned $2,500 prizes, included Air New Zealand’s thermally insulated ULD, called “aeroTHERM,” which uses a fabric door and curtains that can provide 25 times the insulation of regular ULDs, and the “Smart ULD,” co-developed by SITA, French aerospace firm Safran and CHAMP Cargosystems, combining mobile, IoT and blockchain technologies to digitally track and monitor ULDs during their transport.
Unilode was selected by an independent jury of industry experts, academics and executives of leading logistics companies, “based upon their assessment of the ideas’ potential to become the basis of a viable new venture, its potential for value creation, and the likelihood of achieving success,” IATA said.
IATA also took time at the Singapore WCS to mark the 60th anniversary of the invention of the ULD in 1959, primarily by American Airlines, which built the first “Paul Bunyan boxes” in 1958 to protect and insulate cargo. These simple boxes later went on to widespread adoption throughout the industry the following year and later became standardized into the familiar ULD shape seen today.