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New Sigfox tracking deal

Jan 24, 2024

South Korean supply-chain pallet-pooling company AJ Networks has fitted 10,000 plastic pallets in its home country with Sigfox and WI-Fi combination trackers. The deal is with local Sigfox operator AMO-SNet; the IoT hardware units are by Japanese electronics manufacturer Alps Alpine, a Sigfox stalwart. AJ Networks rents pallets, together with logistics management services, to large consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, electronics, chemical, petrochemical, and machinery manufacturers in South Korea.

It claims to own 17 million plastic pallets and produce one million new plastic pallets annually – as a consequence, in part, of lost pallets in the supply chain. Its pallets, for hire in a "closed-loop rental system", are used by the likes of Costco, Coupang, CJ, Emart, GS, LG, Lotte Mart, and Samsung. Unabiz, which owns the Sigfox technology and issued the announcement, stated that 10 percent of pallets go missing around the world – presumably each year. It said the deal between AJ Networks and AMO-SNet is a "first-of-its-kind asset tracking system in South Korea's pallet pooling business".

The solution, it appears logical, uses Wi-Fi for indoor tracking and Sigfox for outdoor tracking. A statement said: "Traditional asset trackers that rely on 3G and GPS are usually not suitable to track returnable assets such as pallets as 90 percent of them are usually found indoors, out of reach of GPS signals…. The ALPS tracker that relies on Sigfox and Wi-Fi is a great alternative for AJ Networks to track their pallets over the entire useful lifespan, of up to seven years."

It explained: "The explosion of e-commerce globally has led to freight being transported on tighter deadlines, increasing the need to transport efficiently… Freight volumes vary with the seasons and logistics players must be ready to keep pace with demand fluctuations of logistics assets. A shortage of pallet assets during peak seasons would delay deliveries, while redundancy means higher storage costs… [This solution] is the perfect balance between both to boost both profit and business efficiency."

Sung-Woo Ko, manager at AJ Networks, said: "We have established a long-term plan to work with AMOS-Net to integrate this new asset tracking system in our company. Our goal is to optimize our pallet rental system and improve overall logistic service competitiveness through data insights that will help us efficiently manage inventory, storage and delivery status, along with return and collection requests of customers, so that they can get the right pallet they need in the right quantities in the right places, at the right time."

Seung-Hwan Song, sales director at AMO-SNet, said: "We are pleased to support AJ Network on their journey to transform the pallet pooling industry in South Korea. As a key telecommunication business operator, AMO-SNet is providing Sigfox 0G Network nationwide. It provides stable Sigfox 0G Network quality to customers with high coverage of about 91% of the population, and based on this, AJ Networks’ Pallet Tracking business is expected to be carried out smoothly."

Jae-Chul Chung, senior manager at ALPS Korea, said: "The asset tracker deployed by AJ Networks employs the Sigfox Atlas Wi-Fi service combining low-power wide area (LPWA) communication technology with position information from Wi-Fi access points. The solution goes beyond the limitations of the existing RFID pallet (incoming and outgoing tracking management) system and tracks the real-time location and movement route without a separate reader installed on the site to monitor the status information of their plastic pallets."

Loic Barancourt, chief commercial officer at UnaBiz, said: "The pallet rental market is an essential part of the logistics business, which means companies can make savings and increase efficiency by making the right choice of pallet system. As supply chain and logistics players around the world struggle with rising costs, UnaBiz is pleased to offer ultra-low-cost solutions that can help companies manage resources and assets more efficiently and achieve their ESG Goals."

Asset tracking in closed-loop regional supply chains is one area in which Sigfox has found success. It has a number of deals in the postal and delivery sector, in particular, notably with German courier company Deutsche Post DHL, most significantly, plus Austrian postal services company Austrian Post, Ireland-based An Post Mails & Parcels (An Post), and Post of Slovenia, among others.