As the air cargo industry focuses on preparing the supply chain for COVID-19 vaccines, some of the key elements are the visibility and traceability of these temperature-sensitive products: billions of doses will be shipped worldwide and the time to market is critical for public health and the fight against the pandemic. Therefore, both pharmaceutical companies and public health authorities must ensure that these vaccines are delivered on time and in the right conditions, i.e. that the vaccines have not been exposed to temperature excursions throughout the journey and that the doses can be safely administrated to patients.
To prevent this problem, shippers are expected to increase their use of IoT devices, such as cargo tracking devices and data loggers. While these devices can address shippers’ challenges and the need for greater visibility and traceability, they also pose several challenges for air carriers:
- In accordance with regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and other national aviation authorities, the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders must approve the use of portable electronic devices onboard aircraft to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft. However, air carriers currently suffer from a lack of standards and guidelines to simplify and speed-up this approval process. They are concerned that current cumbersome processes may create bottlenecks in meeting the growing demand for the use of IoT devices.
- The market is expected to be flooded with many device manufacturers that come with their proprietary data sharing standards and APIs. This could lead to a lack of interoperability of the IoT ecosystems and it would become impossible to achieve full end-to-end visibility and traceability of cargo and its conditions of carriage.
- IoT devices have become more prevalent and give stakeholders unprecedented access to huge amounts of data: the information will give them insights into cargo conditions, but also air carrier performance, such as missed deadlines or temperature conditions. What are the legal issues of these devices and their implications, and how can airlines be protected?
Status of the Interactive Cargo project and next steps
Following a period of as-is analyses, brainstorming sessions, and reviews, two recommended practices on the approval of the use of portable electronic devices for air cargo and on IoT device data sharing in air cargo were developed and will be presented end of 2020 to the Cargo Services Conference (CSC) for its endorsement.
Based on this set of standards developed by the Interactive Cargo Task Force, IATA, hand in hand with industry, is now ready to launch the Interactive Cargo pilot projects and calls for participation. The pilots will be the focus of the Task Force for 2021, as feedback from the industry is essential to validate and implement the standards. In parallel, IATA will develop the amendment to the conditions of carriage on the Data Use Agreement.