IoT transportation: Hanhaa – a richer picture

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IoT transportation: Hanhaa – a richer picture

Every month, €13 million of packages go missing. Solving this thorny global logistical issue is a lucrative Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity – one that businesses and entrepreneurs around the world are scrambling to address. And time is of the essence in this competitive space, as the number of large-scale IoT transportation projects doubled in the year 2017 alone.

by Tim Cole

Azhar Hussain, CEO of London-based IoT transportation innovator Hanhaa, had a small business with a big mission: to enable businesses to monitor their global shipments at massive scale – meaning, tens of thousands of parcels – and make detailed information more easily accessible. Where was the parcel? Was it within the allowable temperature range?

Had it got wet? Had it been tipped, dropped, or opened? What’s more, Azhar wanted to make his product, the smart parcel solution ParceLive, operationally feasible for a broad range of customers. “By offering it as a tracking service, our customers can stay focused on using their IoT data to improve their business without worrying about the up-front logistics and expense,” he said. “Customers won’t need to buy the trackers, or charge them, or test them, or ship them around the world. We look after all of that while providing near-realtime data about their parcels.” This startup founder’s promising vision hinged on one small, yet surprisingly complex, piece of technology: the parcel tracking device itself.

Tackling technology complexity of IoT Transportation

At first glance, the ParceLive device sounded straightforward: it was based on individual pieces of proven technology, from GPS and other sensors to the wireless communication equipment.

IoT Transportation - Avnet and Hanhaa

Right combination: ParceLive combines various proven technologies such as GPS and other sensors and combines them with wireless communication equipment.

“It was when we started combining these different capabilities that things quickly become more complex – especially the antennae. A small tweak to one part of the design had a big impact elsewhere,” Azhar said. The product simply wasn’t meeting the requirements. So, he turned to Avnet for a solution.

The team faced challenges on multiple levels. For one, the MCU architecture was not performing at the required levels; battery life was proving too short for international tracking; and the existing chip antenna would not allow ParceLive to track with the granularity required for the product to reach its full potential in the market. The solution for the first problem was to migrate to STMicroelectronics for a significantly enhanced performance with full design support. The battery problem was solved with the help of VARTA’s certified solution to increase battery life from seven days to more than 20 days. And finally, engineers from TE Connectivity were brought in to upgrade from a chip antenna to an embedded antenna that could offer a far greater granularity of data and a tracking performance that was previously unattainable.

IoT Transportation Hanhaa and Avnet - Tracking

Worldwide service: Near-real-time parcel tracking as a service without the need to buy, charge, or test tracking devices.

Paul Jones, Business Development Manager at Avnet Abacus, has worked with many startups at this same point in their product development process, when they’re beginning to grasp how complex and challenging it is to recognize and mitigate design risks. “In IoT especially, a small mistake early in the design process can cost vast amounts of time and money further down the line,” he said.

TE’s engineers reviewed Hanhaa’s designs and highlighted issues that could affect the tracker’s performance or battery life, working in tandem with Avnet’s experts to balance both the requirements of the overall device and those of global markets. “TE helped us refine the designs and tune the performance so that the tracker delivered the level of accuracy we needed,” Azhar said. Among other things, ParceLive’s passive antenna arrays enable GPS readings from inside a building. “Global product development is one of the most complex and resource heavy endeavors you can take on – especially for IoT entrepreneurs,” Paul Jones says. “We’re committed to helping startups succeed because nobody can do it alone.”

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