No Nasty Surprises: AT&T and Maersk Use Asset Tracking Technology to Monitor Refrigerated Shipping Containers

Oct 09, 2015

Want to keep enjoying strawberries in the middle of winter? Then you have to trust that these and other perishables are maintained in good condition over vast shipping distances.

Last week, one of the world’s largest shipping companies announced it was using AT&T asset tracking technology to connect and monitor over 290,000 of its refrigerated containers.  Each cold shipping container is connected to the AT&T network and each uses a remote container device (RCD) that has a GPS unit, a 3G High Temperature SIM card, a ZigBee radio and antenna, and multiple interfaces for connecting into the container’s controller.  The RCD enjoys two-way connectivity “from just about anywhere in the world,” according to AT&T’s press release.1

With its Maersk agreement, AT&T can now boast that it tracks the location -- and monitors the conditions -- of almost one-third of the total refrigerated containers that exist worldwide.  30% market share with just one contract – an impressive feat.

At last week’s AT&T Analyst Summit, the carrier positioned mobile asset management as one of its four areas of IoT (Internet of Things) focus – in addition to smart cities, smart vehicles, and heavy equipment solutions.  Only a couple of years ago, mobile asset tracking was viewed as a slow-moving market beset by high priced devices, a fragmented set of providers and solutions, ineffective marketing, and customer concerns regarding backend integration and other deployment difficulties.  However, even at that time, AT&T was forging vendor partnerships and building a cutting-edge portfolio. 

The carrier’s current mobile asset management offerings fall into three categories:

  • Custom solutions for tracking and monitoring in-transit cargo.  These customized offerings are typically developed for very large enterprises, such as the solution created for Maersk.
  • Prepackaged, turnkey solutions that track and monitor in-transit cargo.  AT&T CargoView with FlightSafe® is an example.  This solution from OnAsset includes FAA-approved in-flight tracking and monitoring (in addition to other transport modes).  Mid-sized and large enterprise businesses are the typical customer for these more affordable turnkey in-transit solutions.
  • Prepackaged solutions that monitor semi-stationary in-field company equipment.  AT&T's application partners include Actsoft, FleetCor, Fleet Complete, and Webtech Wireless whose products comprise the current AT&T Fleet Management Solutions suite.  The ability to monitor portable field equipment such as bins, generators, etc. is often a natural add-on to the fleet solutions.  These are targeted to all sizes of businesses.

Frost & Sullivan currently views this product selection as the strongest mobile asset management portfolio available from a North American wireless carrier. 

While we expect the AT&T-Maersk agreement to be just the first of many new mega contracts being negotiated, challenges continue in the mobile asset management sector – including customer price sensitivity and budget pressures, plus a lack of basic customer familiarity regarding the category itself.  The good news is that once a mobile asset management solution is implemented, our survey research reports a high level of customer satisfaction, with over half of customers planning to expand their deployments within the next 12 months.2

The positive business impact of mobile asset management is becoming clearer to companies, large and small.  And the recent Maersk-AT&T agreement presents a compelling example of how to leverage GPS, sensors, and network to maintain safe and healthy conditions, create happy customers, and even build new revenue streams.


1 “Maersk Teams with AT&T to Track and Monitor Cold Shipping Containers,” September 29, 2015,

2 “2015 North American Mobile Enterprise Applications: Opportunities Within Enterprises,” NFB4-65, October 2015, Frost & Sullivan.

Jeanine Sterling


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