Is Google Moving Into Logistics & Cargo Security?

The US Patent and Trademark Office granted Google a patent this month for securing, monitoring, and tracking cargo shipping containers. The abstract describes a two-way communication system supported by an electronic bolt, a network gateway, a Web-based platform, and a mobile device.

The wireless system would augment the mechanical seals used today. It would enable nearly real-time, end-to-end monitoring of the location and status of secured shipping containers through a series of gateways connected to a network. Each gateway is associated with a location that would transmit information to a cloud server.

The patent makes no mention of using Google's Android operating system to run the platform, but it does highlight the ability to access the platform from a handheld device. The application was submitted in 2009; this suggests Google's plans to build a mobile enterprise service started long before the Motorola Mobility acquisition or the launch of the Nexus 7 tablet manufactured by Asus in Taiwan and China. Now that Google offers a hardware line, the patent supports its emerging business model.

If Google's tablet and smartphone hardware meet the patent's description of handheld devices, the electronics industry could see the emergence of a new logistics and shipping support line from the company. The tablets and smartphones would become the devices in which shipments of everything from raw electronic materials to finished goods are monitored through a Web-based application.

Imagine accessing a Web-based logistics app through a tablet. Doug Anmuth, a JP Morgan analyst, told me he expects Google to report selling 700,000 Nexus 7 Tablets when it reports its third-quarter earnings Thursday.

The Motorola Mobility acquisition and the Nexus 7 tablet likely give Google a better understanding of the need to secure electronic cargo. For example, allowing the platform to send signals via global positioning systems (GPS) would give the shipper exact coordinates through a link to Google Maps.

Mike Liard, vice president of AutoID at VDC Research, cited Google's desire to drive adoption of e-seals ahead of a government mandate. He agreed with me that the electronic security seal would combine several of Google's areas of expertise. Aside from location-based mapping, the platform would help electronics manufacturers by fostering searches, security, and wireless communications on mobile devices, from Nexus 7 tablets to Motorola Mobility smartphones.

Liard said Google phones or dedicated handheld readers with embedded cameras could be used to read barcodes and NFC or RFID tags. This would allow developers to build out more mobile apps for the electronics industry.

The patent also would lend itself to software developers. An application programming interface would allow developers to build and customize mobile apps for shipping and logistics. Google could white label the platform as it continues to increase support for enterprise companies through mobile tools, cloud computing, and Web-based docs.

14 comments on “Is Google Moving Into Logistics & Cargo Security?

  1. _hm
    October 16, 2012

    Perhaps Google is looking for business similar to that of Amazon. It will be difficult for Google to sell this to client like UPS, Fed-Ex and others.


  2. Laurie Sullivan
    October 17, 2012

    Yes, but I think it's all about data. We're not just talking about shipping data, but integrating it with mapping data and search data. And if you want to see where the data lives, Google now gives you a look inside.  Dozens of pictures give you a look at the physical backbone of the Internet. 

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    October 17, 2012

    @Laurie: I think Google is leveraging on it's existing products and integrating them together to be of more use to supply chain function within companies. I don't think Google is looking to really expand itself in that area or diversify. It just seems as an additional service for profit generation.

  4. Tam Harbert
    October 17, 2012

    Fascinating post, Laurie. I think we'll be seeing Google pop up in a lot of surprising places and unsuspecting industries in the next several years . . .

    Don't forget – Google also has a self-driving vehicle.

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 17, 2012

    Agree with Tam–this is pretty interesting. Kind of along the lines of–create a marekt and then provide the hardware. No questions security will be big and there is definitely a race on to dominate solutions. Douglas Alexander has a series on a program IBM and others are working on.

  6. _hm
    October 17, 2012

    @Laurie: But big ornization may not be willing to pay big money to Google. They may like to create their own relevant data. That will much chepear solution.

  7. Laurie Sullivan
    October 17, 2012

    Google's business model relies mostly on getting people to adopt its hardware and interaction with ads online or in apps, rather than a paid license model.  

  8. t.alex
    October 17, 2012

    Interesting patent. Perhaps this is something targeted for the Android NFC mechanism.

  9. prabhakar_deosthali
    October 18, 2012

    With such kind of service , Google will become like the Lloyd's register of yesteryears where the world's all ship movements were monitored.

  10. Laurie Sullivan
    October 18, 2012

    Looks like Google will also need a logistics strategy to ship its new Samsung Chromebook

  11. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 18, 2012

    Laurie–no kidding! $249. Not bad…

  12. Laurie Sullivan
    October 18, 2012

    Yes, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't have a hard drive. I think they expect users to use the cloud. If it does have a hard drive there's not much space. I have not looked that deep into the Chromebook.

  13. Wale Bakare
    October 19, 2012

    Google's perfected itself in cyber space business and of course gradually spreading its tentacles to OEM. Meanwhile, a look at the Chromebook ok but i cant understand reason behind its no harddisk drive. Mini tablet would better, i think.

  14. Wale Bakare
    October 19, 2012

    Unless Google decides to offer good cloud storage package to potential buyers of its new HD driveless laptop otherwise that might get it less attractive.

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