Dis­rup­tion comes first from the cold

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS HK - By OSWALD CHAN in Hong Kong [email protected]­nadai­lyhk.com

Ris­ing dis­pos­able in­come around the globe is gen­er­at­ing greater de­mand for qual­ity food, health­care prod­ucts, cos­met­ics and per­ish­able prod­ucts like flow­ers. This is where cold chain lo­gis­tics comes into play as a low-tem­per­a­ture en­vi­ron­ment is es­sen­tial for trans­port­ing re­frig­er­ated and frozen goods.

In­stead of ap­ply­ing the “ra­dio-fre­quency iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (RFID)” tech­nol­ogy which re­lies on ra­dio waves to track the vis­i­bil­ity of goods dur­ing the lo­gis­tics process, Neosen En­ergy has de­vel­oped the NeoS­mart — the long range (LoRa)-en­abled sen­sor that fa­cil­i­tates ac­tive track­ing of the trans­porta­tion process.

LoRa per­mits in­ex­pen­sive and long-range con­nec­tiv­ity for in­ter­net of things de­vices in ru­ral, re­mote and off­shore in­dus­tries. They are typ­i­cally used in min­ing, nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment, re­new­able en­ergy, transcon­ti­nen­tal lo­gis­tics, and sup­ply chain man­age­ment.

Con­tain­ers of per­ish­able items from wine to chem­i­cal liq­uid are em­bed­ded with Neosen’s sen­sors that can trace any changes in tem­per­a­ture, mois­ture, leak­age and hu­mid­ity in the con­tain­ers dur­ing the trans­porta­tion process.

If there are changes, the data will be recorded as log­ger and be up­loaded through cloud con­nec­tiv­ity to the trans­ceiver from 10 kilo­me­ters be­fore reach­ing the ar­rival port. If there are any faults de­tached, ex­porters can speed up the in­sur­ance claim process.

This trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied for de­tect­ing whether the con­tain­ers are tilted, shocked, opened or bro­ken.

Be­sides ship­ping cargo, the tech­nol­ogy can be adopted by air­lines to de­tect the sta­tus of pas­sen­gers’ lug­gage dur­ing the en­tire travel process. Air trav­el­ers will be more re­lieved if they’re kept in­formed of the sta­tus of their lug­gage.

“The IoT tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tion rev­o­lu­tion­izes the city’s lo­gis­tics in­dus­try by giv­ing lo­gis­tics oper­a­tors lon­grange cov­er­age, plus cost-ef­fi­cient and ac­tive cargo ship­ping mon­i­tor­ing ser­vices, whereas the RFIDen­abled tech­nol­ogy is pas­sive and more ex­pan­sive,” Neosen founder Kelvin Wong told China Daily.

The other LoRa-re­lated tech­no­log­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion is called “geo-fenc­ing” — a type of sen­sor used to trace whether goods ob­jects are miss­ing by con­nect­ing with an­other type of trans­ceiver. Lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies can track the sta­tus of con­tain­ers as this tech­nol­ogy can trans­mit the in­for­ma­tion through the com­puter in­ter­face or alert mes­sages on mo­bile phones.

Ac­cord­ing to Wong, one care cen­ter for the el­derly in Hong Kong has adopted this tech­nol­ogy to check whether el­ders are still on the premises. Care cen­ters may find the tech­nol­ogy use­ful in lo­cat­ing el­derly peo­ple with de­men­tia.

Wong, along with two oth­ers, launched Neosen five years ago in the United States, and set up the Hong Kong branch in 2016. Neosen En­ergy HK is cur­rently an in­cu­ba­tee startup at Hong Kong Science Park, hav­ing more than 10 re­search and devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­als to pro­pel busi­ness devel­op­ment in Asia, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese main­land, Hong Kong and Tai­wan.

The startup has plat­forms to show­case its core tech­nol­ogy to po­ten­tial clients, such as third-party lo­gis­tics oper­a­tors and freight for­warders. So far, it has raised $2 mil­lion in cap­i­tal to meet com­pany ex­penses. A US chip man­u­fac­turer has in­vested in Neosen, hop­ing to at­tract more ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vestors to the com­pany.

“We’re not tar­get­ing pure fi­nan­cial in­vestors alone. We hope our in­vestors can un­der­stand R&D trends in the IoT in­dus­try and that Neosen’s hard­ware prod­ucts are not soft­ware prod­ucts,” said Wong.

The prospects for tech­no­log­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion in the lo­cal lo­gis­tics sec­tor are bright, he be­lieves, as tech­nolo­gies save time and money in trans­porta­tion.

With the aim of launch­ing its core LoRa tech­nol­ogy hard­ware prod­uct (like an orig­i­nal brand man­u­fac­turer) next year, Neosen En­ergy will also pro­vide tai­lor-made tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions to clients, just like an orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer, to boost its rev­enue streams.

An­other en­ter­prise, Ar­win Tech­nol­ogy, has built a nar­row­band (NB)-IoTpow­ered sen­sor, Nano S, to de­tect ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the cold stor­age process. The tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied to biotech­nol­ogy lab­o­ra­to­ries, lo­gis­tic trucks and cold stor­age fa­cil­i­ties.

The sen­sor is com­pact, al­low­ing it easy and con­ve­nient de­ploy­ment, and no wires are needed to con­nect it with wire­less sen­sors, re­sult­ing in min­i­mum la­bor cost and in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment. It also has the at­tribute of low power con­sump­tion, spar­ing the need for run­ning power or sig­nal ca­bles for up to three years.

It can also per­form sys­tem­atic dat­a­col­lect­ing and data-anal­y­sis re­gard­ing mois­ture, leak­age, mo­tion, tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity and en­ergy of the cold stor­age premises. Through cloud con­nec­tiv­ity, the data are sent to an on­line dash­board for record­ing and dis­play­ing. Data log­ging al­lows daily re­ports for anal­y­sis and op­ti­miza­tion. If there are ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties de­tected in the cold stor­age premises, alert no­ti­fi­ca­tions will be sent to clients.

This tech­nol­ogy can be ap­plied in the food de­liv­ery process. Food de­liv­ery com­pa­nies can in­stall Nano S in de­liv­ery truck­ers to mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture to en­sure that the food is still in good qual­ity when de­liv­ered to cus­tomers. Food com­pa­nies can no longer rely on man­ual la­bor to mon­i­tor food qual­ity, en­hanc­ing pre­ci­sion in the mon­i­tor­ing process.

“There’s huge po­ten­tial for tech­no­log­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion in Hong Kong’s lo­gis­tics in­dus­try, as var­i­ous tech­nolo­gies can be ap­plied in dif­fer­ent seg­ments of the trans­porta­tion process,” Ar­win Tech­nol­ogy Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Wil­liam Tse told China Daily. “Cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence can be hugely en­hanced when the de­liv­ery process can be made seam­less.”

“IoT ap­pli­ca­tion in Hong Kong’s lo­gis­tics busi­ness is still in the devel­op­ment stage. The sec­tor should has­ten the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal adop­tion,” said Tse.

Lever­ag­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of the three founders in the semi-con­duc­tor in­dus­try, Ar­win was set up three years ago to bring in more tech­nol­ogy el­e­ments to the lo­gis­tics in­dus­try.

With suf­fi­cient funds on hand, the startup cur­rently em­ploys 10 R&D staff, and plans to re­cruit more busi­ness mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als with deep knowl­edge of the cur­rent trend of the IoT in­dus­try.

As an in­cu­ba­tee at Hong Kong Science Park, Ar­win hopes the gov­ern­ment can fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter busi­ness match­ing for star­tups by know­ing star­tups’ tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and busi­ness needs si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

“The learn­ing curve of lo­gis­tics play­ers in Hong Kong con­cern­ing tech­no­log­i­cal uti­liza­tion is not so fast at present. The in­dus­try must cul­ti­vate an ag­gres­sive spirit to em­brace tech­no­log­i­cal adop­tion. If that spirit takes root, then in­dus­try trans­for­ma­tion can kick-start very rapidly,” Tse en­vis­aged.

AN­THONY KWAN / BLOOMBERG

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