Swarm logistics

a future vision based on machine-to-machine economy and blockchain

Swarm logistics

a future vision based on machine-to-machine economy and blockchain

Notice: all opinions expressed in this blog post are solely my own and do not represent any official views of Daimler AG or Fleetboard GmbH.

Supply chain and blockchain

One of the cool things about working in an innovation unit is that you get to work on exciting topics & new technologies and try to figure out how all these bleeding edge technologies figure into your primary business’ future.

For the past year, I have been spending a lot of time with Blockchain, and I believe the technology has a lot to offer. Once you get past all the cryptocurrency hype and focus purely on the technology, there is massive potential in it to help the logistics sector and supply chains in general among other industries.

I think decentralisation (be it using Blockchain, Hashgraph, The Tangle or something else) will be one the most significant r/evolutions of the Internet since the WWW. Moving away from the centralised client-server paradigm enables all kinds of interesting new uses. One of the biggest benefits of decentralisation is the removal of middlemen. You could provide the same service as AirBnb, Uber or even Facebook but without a single central entity having control over the whole system. This is powerful.

Supply chains are traditionally really siloed and intransparent. There are multiple different participants along the path of any cargo delivery, and each one of them has their proprietary systems or no systems at all besides pen and paper making handovers painful. It is difficult for the sender or the receiver to know exactly where their goods are, who is responsible for them or in what condition they are at any given moment.

Using Blockchain and digitising the supply chain and handovers will bring much-needed transparency to the process. At each handover of goods, a transaction is recorded in the immutable distributed ledger shared by everyone in the supply chain. At any given handover if the cargo is checked and it has sustained damage everyone knows indisputably that it has happened during the last leg of the journey. This can be augmented with IoT-data provided by companies like Fleetboard to verify, e.g. temperature or humidity conditions as well as the location of the cargo.

Once past the simple “track and trace” use cases you can start to think about instant payments based on smart contracts verified by both human actions (handover records) and IoT-data providing facts. Long payment terms have been an issue for smaller companies who cannot afford to wait for 90, or even 120 days in some cases, to get paid. You can even start to build a reputation system based on the immutable history of deliveries and continue to build a fully decentralised marketplace for cargo.

Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric

In the future trucks will look nothing like they do at the moment. Trucks of the future will be CASE, Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric.

Connectivity of trucks is what Fleetboard has been doing for the past 16 years with 220000 trucks already equipped with the hardware and a goal of 100% of new trucks online.

Electrification is already happening within Daimler as well as you see with the eFuso. New players like Tesla are also entering the market driving innovation of the whole industry forward. Daimler has announced it is putting 10bn into electrification with an additional 1bn solely on battery technology.

Autonomous is only a matter of time as well. In my opinion we will see large scale adoption of autonomous driving first in long-haul trucks with features like platooning before passenger cars in crowded city centers.

Shared is the piece that is missing at the moment which I will discuss next.

Future and swarm logistics

I see a future where autonomous machines interact with each other and humans making decisions themselves based on the best data available to them. In a future vision of Swarm Logistics it is the cargo that has all the intelligence.

Cargo will negotiate its own best route to the destination utilising multimodal transport to get there as and when needed. When it is unloaded from a ship, it can negotiate with the port machinery to put it on a train or truck. The truck and the container negotiate a price and dropoff point autonomously and instantly based on conditions programmed into them. Machines will have their own wallets and can transfer value between each other based on transactions they make and finally transfer value back to the operating company. Trucks and other equipment could even become common infrastructure not owned by any single company but by themselves. Usage of them would just be a service paid for instantly by cargo using them. Initial cost of creating them could be paid back to the manufacturer over time from collected usage fees and the trucks could also pay for their maintenance by themselves.

All this will be built on building blocks being created today. Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 using sensors and autonomous actors in cargo, ships, trucks, trains, warehouses, gates, toll booths, etc. are the enablers for this. In the secure communication and immediate value transactions between machines, blockchain will be a key technology.

It is an exciting time to work in the logistics and supply chain space. If you are interested in working with things like this, check out the openings on the Fleetboard Innovation Hub-site.

comments powered by Disqus