Sensors Can Make Sense of the Urban Bottlenecks

Part 2

As cities are being challenged by congestion and pollution, businesses must work with municipalities for a smarter, strategic approach.

City bosses find themselves in a race against time to address a wide range of challenges before they become critical, with issues like rising emissions as a result of congestion directly affecting the health, quality of life, and environmental impact of a population.

For academics and technology providers, the challenges are around innovating new systems and sensor technologies that can be used to achieve this.

For supply chain directors, the challenges are commercial. How can the efficiency of last mile deliveries be increased? What does a smart supply chain look like, and how can large quantities of sensor technologies be implemented cost-effectively into existing processes?

Effective sensor implementation depends on open data sharing

The 2016 Annual Industry Report from MHI, the material handling, logistics and supply chain association, describes smart city logistics as ‘the idea that logistics providers can leverage many innovations and technologies…to find solutions to this issue that work for government, businesses, consumers and the environment.’

It is this holistic approach and open data sharing that most accurately reflects the cooperative stance businesses must take to smart city initiatives if they are serious in their intentions to future-proof their supply chain operations.

The conversation around data sharing in particular can be a particular challenge for businesses that have up until now invested substantial budgets into gathering and analysing data to differentiate themselves from the market and deliver a more personalised service that meets the expectations of today’s consumers.

For urban logistics strategies to be realistic and effective, it is crucial that smart city objectives are defined and agreed by all parties, as well as the steps necessary to work towards them.

Taking steps towards a smarter supply chain

Taking congestion as an example, there are numerous tactical steps governments and businesses can implement to align logistics processes with smart objectives.

  • Authorising off-hours or through-the-night deliveries for vehicles that meet predetermined noise or fuel specifications, and classifying those vehicles appropriately, minimising emissions and fuel wastage
  • New or revised freight docking strategies enabling jurisdictional governance over delivery times and parking/unloading locations, simplifying management of logistics operations
  • Collaborative processes that coordinate combined pick-ups and last mile deliveries to retail units or similar locations in close proximity of one another, increasing the efficiency of product storage and transportation
  • Oversee and monitor the implementation of autonomous delivery vehicles to integrate with smart infrastructure, reducing staffing requirements and eliminating the potential for human error

Do you recognise these challenges?

A smart city logistics strategy is an inherently collaborative concept. To plan and action such a strategy effectively requires a unified approach that aligns strategy with technology and the goals of the multiple stakeholders.

In real terms, this means public-private partnerships and a collaborative drive towards the unified objective of a smarter and more mobile urban area—made possible through the sharing of big data.

The question businesses now need to ask themselves is how do they carry out on this? Who will manage this relationship and how will your company’s involvement be funded?

In short, how can your business operate in the best interests of a city and its authorities without diverting from its primary goal of delivering a logistics service that exceeds its customers’ expectations and delivers a commercial return?