GPS tracking has long been used for the purpose of tracking cargo shipments. By giving shippers the ability to monitor a cargo location at any point in its journey, tracking technology can save money, prevent theft and smuggling, and ensure timely delivery of cartons around the world. But despite their stellar track record, the devices may soon decline in use, at least among shippers in the European Union.
Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon has proposed that cheaper, less sophisticated radio frequency identification (RFID) technology be used alongside GPS systems in order to evaluate whether the costlier devices actually offer substantial benefit. RFID readers would be installed in ports and warehouses, while cargo shipments would be equipped with chips that could be scanned at each departure and arrival. This information would allow authorities to flag shipments if they took longer than expected to reach an intended destination and to investigate causes for delay.
The problem, in the minds of many industry leaders, is that RFID chips do not provide real-time location information. Unlike GPS devices, RFID technology can only supervise expected arrivals and departures, with no way to pinpoint locations in between. If a shipment is diverted, stolen, or lost, the recovery procedure becomes much more complicated without a real-time location to monitor.
The goal of the Customs Bureau is to increase the security and efficiency of shipping procedures while at the same time reducing costs. If the plan of the Customs Commissioner goes through, it will stipulate that RFID devices be used alongside current GPS technology in order to determine whether GPS tracking could be replaced while still maintaining the same level of security. As departments across the spectrum face budget cuts, Commisioner Biazon must find ways to perform the duties of the Customs Bureau at lower cost.
Proponents of GPS tracking, however, argue that this is one area which cannot afford the decrease in security that would accompany the RFID technology. The EU stands ready to provide logistical information regarding the use of GPS technology in order to demonstrate its benefits as compared to RFID chips and readers. The proposal is still in the information-gathering stage, and no final decisions have been made regarding which steps the Customs Bureau will take. Ultimately, GPS offers the ability to more closely monitor shipments in transit, an essential part of reducing theft and smuggling as shipments enter and leave EU nations.
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