Camco Technologies is a pioneer and global leader in the automation of the container hand-over process
Its image recognition technology provides accurate and essential data to optimize operations and increasing the efficiency of both maritime and inland terminals. Container terminals, intermodal and RO-RO terminals or even logistic hubs can reduce their operating costs by integrating gate, crane or rail automation solutions.
Registering every container move
Camco Technologies is developing terminal automation services since 2000, and was the first to adopt artificial intelligence and neural network technology in solutions designed for improving terminal gate, yard and rail operations.
Werner Peeters, Sales Director for Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS, sees many benefits for terminals for integrating automation:
“By registering every truck, container or semi-trailer at the terminal gate, terminals get a perfect picture of what is entering or leaving the terminal, without having operators to manually check trucks and cargo. These manual checks require a lot of labor, are prone to errors, uphold traffic at the gates and reduce truck turnaround. Manual gate processing also reduces the efficiency of all downstream terminal processes eventually impacting the bottom line. With data capturing from automated checks, terminals get immediate access to all data needed for organizing terminal processes and handling in or outgoing containers. Terminal efficiency increases with more intelligence, so data registration is repeated at every container or trailer handover point: at the gates, in the yard at the stacking cranes, on the quay, or near the tracks in combined transport facilities”.
Limitations of conventional OCR in terminal applications
Automated data checks make use of OCR technology. The first generation of OCR engines made use of basic image pixel recognition technology and statistical analysis. Just like scanners, images could be converted into a text file. This technology worked perfectly as long as the inscriptions where clear. This basic technology was limited in applications. It was mainly deployed for recognizing sets of data strings, hence the name Optical Character Recognition.
The second generation of OCR readers enabled to recognize additional features like color, shape and texture. This opened doors for the development of new applications providing information on features instead of just plain text, like for instance, the position of container door or the number of truck wheel axles. The inconvenience of this second generation and conventional technology is that for each new application, the object features have to be defined and coded manually, extending the software functionality. This software coding requires a lot of time and is labor consuming. Moreover, the improved OCR system sometimes generates false positives, with still a high degree of manual verification. Or to put in a container terminal perspective: still a lot of exception jobs handling involving labor costs.
Artificial Intelligence: gateway to high performance and new applications
Ten years ago, Camco Technologies started to integrate Artificial Intelligence into its OCR engines. Suddenly, all the pieces were coming together. First of all, the availability of a huge database of pictures taken in terminals all over the world provided the big data needed for training the AI networks. With big data requiring powerful computing, the advanced graphical processing units or GPU become also much more accessible. With big data and powerful processors within reach, it became possible to develop new and smart applications, making AI image recognition and Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) expertise available for improving terminal operations.
Werner Peeters: “Today all our OCR and OFR applications run on embedded AI processors which use neural networks. Convolutional neural networks do not require manual definition coding, but they analyze thousands of images themselves using algorithms to recognize the desired information. With deep learning it becomes possible to train and improve the neural networks, making them more performant over time. Our Camco AI-engineers select and tweak the best networks and feed them with large datasets for each new application. Through the years, we have built a substantial competitive advantage in deep learning-based OCR and OFR. Our camera systems accuracy has become unparalleled. With the help of AI, we are able to provide data of features like fi truck wheel and axle configuration or even automated damage inspection. New applications will create more value for the terminal”.
AI vision analysis technology is embedded in all Camco Technologies high-end cameras systems and supported by powerful GPU for accurate registration of data as well as specific container and trailer features. The OCR and Optical Feature Recognition (OFR) processing is very fast. The Camco cameras are supporting high-speed image analysis.
How can gate automation benefit from automated checks
For new terminals, automated data capturing is a no-brainer. For the upgrade of existing terminals, Camco’s solutions can accelerate the path towards digital transformation.
Werner Peeters: “The first step in terminal automation is usually the automation of the gate processes. Information of what comes in and what goes out is essential for organizing terminal operations. Gate automation includes a camera portal or truck OCR portal also known as video gate: when nearing the terminal gate, incoming trucks drive through the truck portal and are registered using License Plate Recognition or LPR cameras while more cameras read container or semi-trailer number, ILU number, ISO code, yellow plate, IMDG placards, seal presence, container weight etc. Some terminals only need the container number, others require more data for adapted operations downstream”.
The registered data is instantly sent to the Terminal Operating System (TOS) and validated with the Truck Appointment System TAS if a vehicle pre-booking system is put in place. Depending on the terminal capacity, usually one or two truck portals are enough for registering the incoming truck flow. When drivers continue their journey towards the terminal in-gates using one of the truck lanes, a new set of LPR cameras at the registration kiosk immediately links the truck to the corresponding container data. After the truck driver ID and job registration, the driver is allowed terminal access and receives an Electronic Routing Ticket or ERT, containing the precise information of where to drop or to pick up a container or trailer. Camco’s Gate Operating System or GOS also steers the gate traffic light and barrier. When all set, the driver gets a green light and the barrier opens automatically.
Train OCR in combined transport terminals
Intermodal terminals need processing incoming and outgoing trains as soon as possible. Faster processing means handling more trains within the same time-frame. And with integrating freight shipping gaining importance, tracking freight trains and cargo requires fast and accurate data. The Camco Technologies rail camera portal automatically registers every rail wagon and container/semi-trailer when trains roll through the portal. Train manifest can be checked in a matter of minutes whereas manual check requires operators to walk several miles a day for full train inventory registrations. When wagon wells obstruct part of the needed data, the train manifest serves as back-up for completing the data. The Rail OCR portal comes with the Train Gate Operator software application, allowing intuitive exceptions handling and providing additional pictures for condition recording.
Integration with terminal operating system
Camco Technologies image analysis solutions are acknowledged as the industry standard, offering the highest accuracy rates, significantly reducing exception handling at gate, crane or rail operations. All hardware solutions come with intuitive software applications for exception handling and integrate seamlessly with the terminals own management system or TOS.
With more than 250 container terminals and 150 intermodal terminals using Camco Technologies gate, crane and rail OCR solutions, Camco has established an enviable track record and profound insight in the combined transport operation processes.