Paperless Import

Heineken to test electronic tracking of beer shipments

In what could be one of the great milestones of the horizontal integration of technology, IBM Corp. will collaborate with Heineken N.V. to electronically track the shipment of beer from Europe to the United States.

The project will explore the possibility of using sophisticated software and hardware to wirelessly expedite international trade. Shipping giant Safmarine has signed on to carry out the experiment; the University of Amsterdam will serve as research coordinator; and the customs services of The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States will participate in the effort. The undertaking will be known as the Beer Living Lab.

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, more than 30 different documents are needed for a single cargo container crossing a border, which amounts to about five billion passes annually for shippers. In the beer-cargo experiment, Safmarine will ship ten sensor-equipped containers of Heineken beer from locations, in both Holland and England, through their customs authorities, to the Heineken distribution center in the U.S., IBM said last week.

The project will use IBM’s Secure Trade Lane system to provide real-time visibility through an advanced wireless sensor platform that uses data from satellite and cellular tracking technology. An IBM services oriented architecture (SOA) called Shipment Information Services leverages globally accepted Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards, so instead of building a big central database, distributed data is linked, allowing it to be shared in real time between Heineken, Safmarine, and the various customs authorities