FourKites, a global real-time supply chain visibility platform, announced Monday that the U.S. Patent Office has awarded the company a patent (U.S. Patent No. 11,1017,347) for its Smart Forecasted Arrival (SFA), which provides visibility to freight while in transit even if the truck or other mode of transportation lacks technology to transit location data.

In an interview with FreightWaves, Matthew Elenjickal, the founder and CEO of FourKites, explained how the patent illustrates the company’s leadership within the real-time visibility market.

“We truly believe we are at least two or three years ahead of any other player in the market,” he said. “We have a personal advantage. We started in 2014 and had our first truckload customer in 2015, compared to others in the market who started tracking for shippers in 2019. Because of this, we have been able to see more advanced use cases within the industry.”

While many visibility platforms rely solely on tracking based on electronic logging devices (ELDs), location transmitting devices and asset assignment and compliance data that is often inaccurate, SFA applies artificial neural networking and machine learning  to estimate location of freight based on other signals and data within its network, providing ETAs on 97% of untracked loads with 85% accuracy.

“Our shippers understand that 100% tracking [with an electronic device] is a pipe dream,” Elenjickal said. “You might not be able to track every single shipment on a certain lane, but I can guarantee you, we have tens of thousands of shipments on that lane within our platform and because of that density, we have a powerful network.”

SFA’s database of 70 billion miles across 275,000 distinct stops is now producing 1 billion ETAs each year. The company is able to take all of these use cases and still produce an ETA in everyday supply chain situations in which a device may not be able to transmit a location signal.  These scenarios can include blind spots like transloading environments at ports or intermodal facilities and what Elenjickal said is the most common problem for his customers: a lack of cellular signal.

“If you are tracking using the driver’s cellphone, that cellphone could run out of charge,” he said. “Sometimes, the ELD loses connectivity — we are still able to capture an ETA in those situations. … We have about 150 data points that we can derive insights on how that carrier and that lane’s transit has performed at different times.”

Elenjickal and his team realized that this analytical approach had created a visibility product much different than others in the market and decided to file for the patent to show the company’s customers that the intelligence behind the product is unique.

“Part of this journey is taking the noise out of the market,” he explained. “Everybody can say, ‘We provide ETAs, we use data science,’ all of the buzzwords, but who is really doing it right? This is our proof that we have the technology we say that we have.”

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