Journey Protector wants to build a ‘black box’ for logistics

24 Aug 2020

Journey Protector CEO Anne Lawlor. Image: Journey Protector

Our Start-up of the Week is Journey Protector, a start-up developing technology to prevent cargo theft and human trafficking in the logistics industry.

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), there were more than 6.6m trucks on the road in Europe last year. Journey Protector co-founder and CEO Anne Lawlor says her start-up intends to target the trucks engaged in high-value loads such as pharmaceuticals travelling through the continent, with a focus on the UK.

Based in Ireland, Journey Protector aims to be the one-stop shop for the provision of security and transparency for customs clearance and border control agents, developing IoT and software/hardware combination security solutions for logistics companies.

Journey Protector’s products provide real-time monitoring of the conditions in truck trailers, to save governments and logistics companies some of the vast amounts of time spent each year preventing people trafficking and other abuses in the logistics sector.

Speaking to, Lawlor said: “Within this sector, there is an untapped market for solutions that are comprehensive enough to give haulage companies shipping high-value loads and pharmaceuticals peace of mind. This is Journey Protector’s beachhead market.”

Journey Protector’s solution

Lawlor explained that the costs of cargo theft costs, along with the migrant crisis, is crippling the logistics industry.

“The costs to the freight trade are not just fines, they include loss of load due to contamination, increased driver costs due to injury and delays – for instance, a trip from Turkey to Germany took five days before the migrant crisis, but the same trip now takes as long as 12 days in some cases.”

She added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has also emphasised just how important it is to know when an unauthorised person has been in the rear of the vehicle.”

To try and prevent human trafficking, Journey Protector wants to create the “black box” of the logistics industry – technology that can gather all information pertaining to the interior of the vehicle, container or trailer and use machine learning to analyse it.

Lawlor said that this technology can prevent human error and remove the ability to collude in human trafficking or cargo theft. If an alert is deemed necessary, Journey Protector sends it to the designated recipient who can view any issues on a dashboard.

“We have an auditable electronic log of all data and events, which cannot be altered or removed,” Lawlor said. “This can prove innocence or guilt, should it be required. All alerts, along with coordinates of said alerts will be available to view on our custom dashboard. Drivers cannot access the system and therefore cannot be the first responder.”

By preventing drivers from using the dashboard, Lawlor said that it removes the risk of injury to the driver and removes the ability to collude in people trafficking. She described it as a “hands-off” security system for haulage companies.

The team

Lawlor has a background in R&D within the IT industry and prior to setting up Journey Protector she co-founded Lawlors’ Automotive Solutions, which provides aftermarket vehicular modifications, specialising in bespoke products for the automotive industry.

Lawlor co-founded Journey Protector with Francis Lawlor, who serves as CTO and has a background in the automotive industry, along with the company’s CCO, David Lawlor, who has previously worked in sales, customer acquisition, customer experience and business development.

The company’s chief financial officer is Iain Bennett, who has previously managed loan portfolios worth €225m for a major bank. Bennett also has extensive experience in financial restructuring.

Journey Protector’s board of advisers also assists on an ongoing basis, according to Lawlor. The board comprises Microsoft’s senior global programme manager, Tara Kelly; retired marine and shipping adviser Captain Ronald Carthy; solicitor and legal adviser Fred Logue; technical adviser Dr Stephen Seawright; and software adviser Trung Nguyen.

Earlier this year, Journey Protector was awarded a seal of excellence from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme and the start-up is also recognised as Microsoft for Startups partner.

The journey so far

Like many Irish start-ups, one of the first obstacles Journey Protector came up against was the struggle to access funding. Although the start-up has secured support from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, Lawlor said funding has been “a large challenge”.

“We have used innovation vouchers with Wisar Labs in Letterkenny who have been marvellous,” Lawlor said. “Our development adviser Susan Cahill has been wonderful assisting with any issues we have had and has assisted us with obtaining any funding which we qualified for.”

Lawlor added that reaching the stage where the start-up is almost ready to pilot its system has helped “enormously” with the company’s fundraising efforts. The company is set to pilot Journey Protector in Q1 of 2021.

“I strongly recommend applying for New Frontiers, I participated in the Synergy Centre at TU Dublin and it really gave me the grounding I needed to develop a company fit to scale when the time is right,” she said.

“I also ask other founders for help and advice – I have found that, particularly in the female founder ecosystem, you will always find someone who will help if they can,” Lawlor said.

Looking to the future, Lawlor said that the ultimate goal is to become a tool used by border agents and customs worldwide. She hopes that Journey Protector’s tools will be used as the go-to solution for logistics and border security and could someday set the industry standard.

“We want a world where vulnerable people are no longer trafficked by use of road freight and cargo theft is no longer able to harm companies,” Lawlor said.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic