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RFID Tracking Fuel Trailers to Prevent Theft in Chile

April 18th, 2018 Logistics - Energy - Transportation - IOT News
By Claire Swedberg
Technology provider GPS Chile is offering its fleet-management solution to the oil company using Agorabee active RFID technology to link each trailer with a truck, identify the location of the truck and trailer, and gain visibility into when the vehicle leaves its expected route or stops.

Truck-fleet and asset-management technology company GPS Chile has deployed an RFID-enabled solution for a national oil company to manage the location and security of its loads, using RFID technology from Switzerland-based Internet of Things (IoT) technology firm Agorabee. Since being taken live last summer, the system has enabled the company to view where fuel tank trailers, loaded with its product, are located, based on an RFID link between each tagged trailer and a reading device, coupled with GPS, on the truck.

The system is designed to accomplish several tasks, the company reports. First, it tracks which tractor is linked to each trailer, and whether that tractor-trailer match is incorrect (meaning that a driver might be taking the wrong trailer). It also provides visibility into the oil-filled trailer's location via the truck's GPS coordinates, linked to the unique ID number on the trailer's RFID tag.

Lastly, the system can help the company to detect if someone is attempting to access the oil in the trailer, by matching the location data for that trailer with data from wired sensors regarding the particular valve being opened. If the location for that opening valve does not match that of approved customers, the system can issue an alert to managers. Overall, the firm indicates, the solution is intended to prevent fuel theft, as well as manage logistics as the tank trailers travel across Chile.

GPS Chile, a solutions provider for fleet management, provides GPS-based data to monitor the performance of vehicles, as well as their location and when a traffic accident has occurred. In some cases, a company needs RFID technology to track not only a truck, but also the trailer it is pulling. In such a scenario, GPS Chile works with Agorabee, which provides active RFID tracking systems.

The oil company, which has asked not to be named, provides fuel to more than 285 gas stations across the country. It contracts out to five different trucking companies throughout Chile that deliver fuel to the stations. Trucks travel, on average, about 200 miles daily.

Before installing the GPS Chile solution, the oil company had no way to monitor the trailers and the fuel loaded into them. Once the trailers were dispatched to a customer, or to multiple customer sites, says Toms Gantes, GPS Chile's innovation and product manager, the fuel company could not view specifically where a particular trailer went, whether it had ever left its intended route or whether any fuel was unloaded from it. Therefore, fraud occasionally took place, which could range from one trailer being swapped with another to some fuel being siphoned from the trailer before it reached the customer.

In June 2017, the Agorabee solution provided by GPS Chile was installed on 100 trucks and 120 trailers. Each trailer has a battery-powered AgoraBee Krypton+ tag attached to it, which transmits its own unique ID number at either 2.4 GHz or 868 MHz (UHF) frequencies, explains Louis Harik, AgoraBee's head of research and development. GPS Chile is using the active UHF 868 frequency for the fleet-management solution. Tags are made with Nordic Semiconductor's nRF24L01+ chips, and also include motion detector and temperature sensors. However, these features are not being used in the oil company deployment.

Each tractor is provided with an AgoraBee IXCODE IoT reader, with internal antennas, which is mounted on the dashboard inside the cab. The device begins to capture RFID transmissions from the trailer tags once the reader come within about 10 meters (33 feet). Therefore, as a tractor backs up to a trailer, it begins capturing that trailer's tag ID.

The firmware built into the IXCODE reader device filters read data to identify any stray tag reads that might be from neighboring tags. The reader is connected to a telematics box built into the vehicle that sends its own GPS positioning data, along with the reader data, to GPS Chile's software (hosted on a server), via a cellular connection. The RFID data then integrates with GPS Chile's Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) software.

With a simple GPS system, Gantes says, the company could track the vehiclebut with the addition of RFID, it can also manage the movement of the trailer itself. "We are using the tag to recognize the truck with the trailer," he explains, "so any truck can connect with any trailer and we have the information in the AVL software."

Additionally, the company has a separate wired sensor system to detect when the trailer's oil tank valve is opened. That data is also transmitted by the vehicle's onboard system at the same time that the location data, linked to the trailer's RFID number, is forwarded to the software. There, the software can determine whether the valve is being accessed in an authorized area. If not, it can issue an alert to management or local police authorities that a theft is taking place. The system, Gantes says, "alerts every event that occurs in a prohibited zone, or if the event occurs with speed over zero."

The oil company has no statistics yet regarding the benefits realized from the system, Gantes notes. However, he says, it expects to gain a reduction in fuel loss and better efficiency of drivers. Some of the contracting truck drivers have quit their jobs since the technology was installed, he reports, presumably because they knew they would no longer be able to fraudulently access the product.