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IBM, Maersk Open Shipping Lanes

Business and governments will soon be able to get real-time data about the contents and locations of cargo ships traversing the globe with a new tracking service delivered by IBM and Danish firm Maersk Logistic.

The initiative, dubbed Intelligent Trade Lane, is expected to bring real-time monitoring to global supply-chain operations.

Intelligent Trade Lane incorporates IBM's hardware and software technologies alongside Maersk Logistics' global supply-chain expertise, according to Peggy Kennelly, vice president of On Demand Innovation Services at IBM. Maersk Logistics is a division of shipping titan A.P. Moller-Maersk Group.

It includes wireless tracking devices and an advanced technology network for use by manufacturers, retailers, logistics providers, carriers and governments.

The fully integrated network combines data from the TREC devices with a non-proprietary sensor network and business integration system, according to IBM. The network eliminates manual processes and enables those along the supply chain access to data.

The information can be connected to decentralized databases where each participant owns their own content, and a service-oriented infrastructure allows users to instantly share information, according to IBM.

Intelligent Trade Lane is also designed to offer greater security for businesses with the capability of altering users of possible operational problems, such as a precipitous drop in container temperature or whether a container has been breached.

Kennelly said the system is designed to give users the opportunity to manage their supply chains more easily and to make adjustments on the fly before containers reach their ports.

The monitoring program, which is being tested on Maersk's shipping vessels this fall and is expected to be rolled out early next year, involves placing wireless sensors inside cargo containers to relay information on the containers' location and condition from around the world, according to Mogens Roedbro, partner and vice president of Intelligent Trade Lane at IBM Business Consulting Services.

"This initiative, which IBM refers to as Intelligent Trade Lane, is part of our broader Global Movement Management effort designed to address the critical business functions involved in efficiently and securely moving people, goods and conveyances within and between countries," Roedbro said.

As demand for tighter controls on international shipping increases, projects like TREC are going to become increasingly important, as well as legislated, for national borders, said Roedbro.

"IBM's objective is to enable globally integrated business by capitalizing on the information generated during the tracking process and at the same time improve the security of cargo," Roedbro said in a statement.