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02-02-2006

Clarkson Professor Helps Speed Global Cargo Security System to Market

At present 80% of the U.S. overseas cargo trade and 60% of the world's deep-sea general cargo is transported in containers. Clarkson University Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Tom Ortmeyer, through the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), is helping Innerloc Inc. select battery and solar arrays to power its new cargo system and protect these millions of containers from theft and tampering.

Innerloc, based in Kingwood, Texas, has developed cargo security technology that sets off an alert when a container anywhere in the world is opened without authorization. The system also pinpoints the container's exact location and summons authorities while the cargo is still recoverable. The Innerloc system not only has an internal locking device, but also monitors numerous environmental alarms such as shock, temperature and radiation levels.

How crucial is the protection of these cargo containers? Approximately five percent of all container movements in the world result in loss through theft, damage or excessive delays. Aside from the very real threat of terrorism, conservative estimates are that cargo theft-related incidents cost industry $10-$12 billion in the U.S. alone. Cargo theft has driven insurance costs so high that many large companies have opted to self insure up to $1 million, or more.

During a one-year test period conducted by Innerloc not a single shipment protected by its security system was tampered with or stolen. However, ocean going containers are sometimes stowed in total darkness from 30-45 days, so providing the power to operate the security system can be problematic. Innerloc turned to SATOP for assistance in identifying the solar arrays, battery size and discharge rates in order to tailor Innerloc's power load to varying conditions.

SATOP tapped Clarkson University, one of more than 50 prestigious Space Alliance Partners throughout the United States, to assist Innerloc. Clarkson, in turn, called upon Professor Ortmeyer. "Innerloc is a unique product in that it can go anywhere, anytime of the year, the only glitch is finite battery performance and absence of solar energy," Ortmeyer reported in SATOP's quarterly magazine.

Drawing on his product knowledge and engineering expertise, Ortmeyer researched solar arrays and batteries and was able to provide product recommendations and devise a formula for calculating how a combination of solar array and batteries will perform, based on environmental criteria. Ortmeyer's assistance will help Innerloc's cargo security system reach the marketplace much sooner.

SATOP is a cooperative program between the states of Florida, New Mexico, New York and Texas. Sponsored by NASA it is a free service designed to provide technical assistance and speed the transfer of space technology to the private sector. By giving free technology assistance to small businesses, SATOP helps increase their chances of succeeding.

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is a private, nationally ranked university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in engineering, business, the sciences, health sciences and the humanities. At Clarkson, 3,000 high-ability students excel in an environment where learning is not only positive, friendly and supportive but spans the boundaries of traditional disciplines and knowledge. Faculty achieves international recognition for their research and scholarship and connects students to their leadership potential in the marketplace through dynamic, real-world problem solving.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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