Recently, I had the opportunity to go through the great report Towards Intelligent Intermodal Trade: Industrial Big Data and Analytics in Transportation and Logistics. The report, prepared by LuxReseacrh, deals with the future of logistics in an interconnected world, where the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous cars, and drones will vastly improve the the transport and logistics industry. The report recognises that, despite the sector’s growth, today’s logistics are inefficient, dirty grotesquely underutilized, and miserably unprofitable. Addressing these failures, key innovations are starting to capture, compile, and analyze the vast amounts of data that today’s dumb systems ignore, adding to the intermodal mix, while advanced data management and analytics to bring intelligence.

But, in the next decade, intermodal and intelligent technologies will create a hypermodal system that moves not just goods, but supply, demand, and means of production – transporting packages as fast as the internet does packets.DHL and Cisco have already estimated that the share of the IoT revenue to the supply chain and logistics sector will be $1.9 trillion. Actually, as the LuxResearch reports describes, the most important future barrier will be the local internet and broadband speed! As Mark Bünger, LuxReseacrh vice president, said “IoT is at the stage of a dial-up modem in the evolution of the Net, but as it evolves, intermodal and intelligent technologies will create a hypermodal system that moves not just goods, but supply, demand, and means of production”.

The report highlights three major radical changes that will transform logistics as a sector.

The first one regards last-mile delivery efficiency. In the near future, Amazon and Google have both shown an interest in using drones for the last-mile delivery to reduce the amount of failures to deliver (customer out, not answering door) and lower human resources costs. The first commercial delivery in USA took place few weeks ago. But it isn’t just Amazon and Google attempting to use drones for delivery, Uber has recently used drones to deliver ice creams in Singapore, in an effort to launch a courier service where businesses can send products through a third-party, potentially reducing the costs of hiring local drivers and improving delivery speeds. Switzerland’s postal service has begun testing parcel deliveries by unmanned drones. Singapore Post (SingPost), the country’s national postage and logistics company, has also announced that it has completed a package drone delivery trial in a remote part of Singapore – between Lorong Halus and Pulau Ubin.

The second shift regards the dawn of distributed manufacturing or cloud producing. Huge factories that craft hundreds of thousands of products every few hours will gradually belong more and more to the past, and will be replaced by small, mobile factories that use flexible equipment, such as 3D printers and CNC machines, to craft products quickly. The new pop-up factories will use a wide variety of transportation to get the product to the consumer, with autonomous cars, drones, and futuristic services like the Hyperloop,  a conceptual high-speed transportation system originally put forward by entrepreneur Elon Musk, incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.

The third shift regards the evolution of smart containers that will become the forefront of logistics. A lot of things can go wrong during the trip from the factory floor to the customer’s house. Smart containers ensure that the company knows the products condition, using the cloud to send timely updates. With door sensors, GPS, and RFID transponders, smart containers are being developed by firms like GE and Maersk. For food and drink or medical businesses, installing temperature and refrigeration modules may reduce the amount of spoiled products. For an idea of the most recent trends in smart containers you can have a look at the company Loginno that offers an affordable smart monitoring service for dry containers that include online intrusion detection, continuous positioning reporting and smart surroundings analysis, on par with the latest cutting edge technology. Smart containers will be able to detect vibration, temperature and chemicals, incorporate refrigeration and are connected to the cloud to provide timely alerts.

Well, anyone can imagine what the changes will be in logistics – I bet that many of those changes will definitely be applied to recycling patterns, especially to source separation practices. The day that recycling services will be fully customised and a drone will receive your recyclables from your window is not that far as you may consider…

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