THE INTERNET OF PACKAGES

The package that delivers itself. How on earth? And why? Is it even financially and environmentally sustainable?

The way products are consumed today is not sustainable, and the e-commerce avatars seem to accelerate the consumption frenzy. Could it really be more sustainable if people almost completely stopped going to the store and instead got what they need before they knew they needed it, and right there where they need to have it?

Is that not asking for more of the same thing? And is it not moving development in the wrong direction for those who want to end the throwaway mentality and think it is crazy that billions of dollars worth of nice clothes and good food are discarded every year while there are people that go cold and hungry?

No. Quite the opposite.

Food waste and a lack of resources are, as we see it, two sides of the same coin, or like some kind of mutation within the gigantic consumption and distribution organism. It all really comes down to a mismatch between production and supply and demand, which means that it is fundamentally a question of logistics and logistics management. Which means that it is something that can be solved.

Let us have a closer look at this way of thinking with the help of bread.

CIRCULAR LOGISTICS

In cooperation with Ericsson, LogTrade is testing a different way of distributing bread. The goal of the project is to get the bread to sell and transport itself in a circular flow.

The Good Bakery

In Mountain View, California, there is a high-quality bakery that produces exemplary sourdough bread. It is run by a couple and is called The Midwife and The Baker. The bakery owns three delivery vans. Deliveries are made between 02:00 and 07:00 a.m to everywhere from Blue Bottle Café to Twitter’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.

This means that the vans drive a predetermined route every night when delivering the bread to the bakery’s customers. On the way back to the bakery, the vans are empty. The rest of the day, the vans just sit in the parking lot. The bread that is not sold by the retailers will be thrown away at the end of the day.

NO SYSTEM FOR DELIVERY MANAGEMENT

Since the bakery does not have even a basic logistics management system, it has not even begun the process of digitizing its logistics. This means that deliveries are managed using pen and paper and Google Docs. If the bakery had a logistics management system integrated into its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, it could save time and also provide its customers with relevant status and delivery data. The staff could also rest assured that the right order is always in the right van. Consequently, the starting point for the bakery’s logistics management operations is low. 

By being a test object, the bakery is teaching us what practical obstacles have to be overcome for the bread to be able to sell and transport itself. Self-operation is necessary for creating a system where the bakery’s bread is sold instead of being thrown away, and where no deliveries are made with vans that are half-full, underused, or otherwise cost more than they are worth.

This means that the bakery wants future-proof logistics—circular logistics. Meaning logistics management that is in the development and testing stages today. To be able to offer next-level logistics of this caliber, LogTrade is pursuing goal-oriented method and business development, and in some cases also action research, where the test project in Mountain View is one of several important activities.

Okay. But what is a circular bakery?

The Circular Bakery

cirkulär bageri, cirkulär logistik, paketens internet, LogTrade

Circular economy means, for example, that a door to a house is built in a way that makes it worth reusing or recycling once it has served its purpose. While a door is an object that can be used for many years, however, the lifecycle of a loaf of bread is much shorter. This is why LogTrade has chosen to study a bakery. A loaf of bread is also circular in its “design,” and it is easy to “recycle”—just give what is left over to someone who is hungry.

When there is no bread left, the boxes are returned to the bakery, and the circle is closed.

A circular sustainable product has to be sequentially transported to the next steps in its life cycle. This move has to be financially and environmentally sustainable and be an integrated part of the circular business model of the company in question. The move will be environmentally smart when no extra transports are created, since transport capacities that are already available and passing by are used instead.

IKEA IS GOING ALL IN FOR CIRCULAR DELIVERIES

 The furniture company IKEA is aiming to make all its products—100% of its assortment—-circular by 2030. To achieve that goal, IKEA has to develop a system that makes it possible for all of the furniture that is sold to return. To set up this kind of reversed last-mile logistics requires circular logistics flows, which will be a major challenge to create if the logistical structures remain locked as they are today.

Read More: Reversed Logistics – Ingrid and Ingrid lay a piece of the puzzle in IKEA’s vision to take back used products.

How Should the Bread Move?

This is what the basic concept of circular logistics looks like:

1. Fresh out of the oven, the bread will go to the one o’clock consumer,* such as Blue Bottle Café, for example.

2. After a few hours, when the sales frequency drops, the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors will sense that it is time for the bread to call for a bike messenger or stop a taxi that is already passing by, to be moved to the two o’clock consumer, which could be a college campus where it will “offer itself” to students for half price.

3. Whatever is left at this stage will “move on” to the three o’clock consumer, which could be a charity such as a soup kitchen. If there is any bread left after that, it goes on to the four o’clock consumer, a pig farmer, for example.

*The x o’clock consumer is a way of conceptualizing the sequence of deliveries and should not be taken literally.

A PACKAGE IS A PRODUCTt

 Please note that the definition of a package in the concept of the Internet of Packages is a product. A package containing two or more products can also be sent using the network, but in such a case, each product will have its own identity. 

We imagine that bread and other food products will be transported in standardized cargo holders in the form of boxes with smart locks and IoT sensors. These boxes will be designed so that they can be carried in and by different types of last-mile actors, such as bikes, electric taxis, or something like that. When there is no bread left, the boxes are returned to the bakery, and the circle is closed.

The Internet of Packages that we are laying the foundation for right now is an attempt at replicating the development of the World Wide Web, but for the logistics industry.

For this circular redistribution principle to work, the bakery needs to be part of a larger cooperative network application for logistics systems.

What does that really mean?

To answer that question, we first have to define what the “Internet” really is. Or rather, what is it not.

What About the “internet”?

It is important to differentiate The World Wide Web from the Internet. The Internet is the grid or infrastructure that the web gets its “electronic power” from (figuratively speaking), and it has been around since the 60s. The web can be described as an application that is run on the Internet, and it saw the light of day around 1990. The only thing you have to do to be part of the web is to follow a few standard protocols: Create a page using HTML code, name it something that is consistent with the URI convention, and then make the page available on the web via an Http(s) standard protocol.

You do not need approval from any central authority to upload a page or create a link.

And yes, based on this, the Internet of Logistics should instead be called the World Wide Web of Logistics, the Web of Packages, or something like that.

Its open technological standard and decentralizing principle has made the web a global bed of innovation. The web is universal, and it will never be finished, and it will become what its users and developers want it to be.

The Internet of Packages that we are laying the foundation for right now is an attempt at replicating the development of the World Wide Web, but for the logistics industry.

And yes, based on this, the Internet of Logistics should rather be called the World Wide Web of Logistics, the Web of Packages, or something like that. We do not have any acceptable explanation for why it is not. We blame it on the fact that we simply do what people in general do: use the terms synonymously, if the context does not require distinguishing between the two layers, the Internet and the web.

As long as you do not forget the “thing” about the web—that it is open and decentralized—this is okay. The universality that defines the World Wide Web is an equally central part of LogTrade’s Web of Packages.

The World Wide Web, however, was really just an unexpected side effect when it was created. Its creator, Tim Berners-Lee, really wanted to construct something more than what it actually became. He wanted the web to be semantic. This is relevant to our story about the Internet of Packages, since the Internet of Logistics follows a protocol for the semantic database model.

THE WEB OF KNOWLEDGE

Linked Data

Linked data, paketens internet, logtrade, semantisk databasmodell

Today, the web is mainly a tool that the user can use to find pages with information and create hyperlinks to other pages. The computers cannot—yet—understand all the data available on the web. We can find information on various pages, but the web cannot answer our questions directly. The reason for this is that not all the data on the web have been linked and “grounded” in a way that their meaning and relation to other kinds of data can be processed by computers. When a large-scale change makes this possible, we will have a web based on linked data, which will be priceless. Computers will then be able to answer our questions correctly, since they will “understand” what we are asking. This will accelerate the pace of innovation. Because that is what happens when people and computers have access to the correct knowledge when they need it and where they need it. That is how research gets done. 

Basing the Internet of Logistics on the semantic model is the most suitable choice since the whole point of it is to dissolve the information barriers between different sections of information.

To create a World Wide Web consisting of linked data, where we get URIs between facts instead of just hyperlinks between pages, the data has to be made readable by the computers, using a semantic model.

The Internet of Packages is Based on the Semantic Web Model

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash, linked data, semantisk web, logtrade

To put it simply, the history of the web is made up of three chapters: from Web 1.0 to Web 3.0. The Internet of Packages, or rather the Internet of Logistics, is not a direct copy of the web as we know it right here, right now. Instead, it is based on Web 3.0, also known as the semantic web model or the database model.

FROM INFORMATION TO DATA

 Web 1.0 introduced us to pages and documents. The great thing about it was how “the cloud,” or cloud-based structures, made it easy to refer to other information and sources with the help of hyperlinks. You did not have to “describe” where the information could be obtained anymore.

Web 2.0 is all about applications such as LinkedIn, Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and so on. These applications are run in their own isolated silo structures and do not follow web standards. For example, if you update your employment information on LinkedIn, the other applications will not automatically be updated as well. The silo principle also exists within companies, where it can be costly to make information visible across different databases and departments. If you are interested, compare the description of silo structures to the logistics industry below.

The point of Web 3.0, meaning the next step in the development of the web, is to connect data at a lower and much more exact level: URLs between facts instead of URLs between documents. This will be extremely useful, since it means that computers will begin to understand the semantics, or the “meaning” of the facts, which means that they can provide the user with the information they really need, regardless of where they are, instead of providing a page that is likely to contain the information they are looking for. 

The standards for the Internet of Packages are thus based on the principles for Web 3.0. Ericsson has developed the first cloud-based service needed to realize the standardized way of managing information that will give the Internet of Packages the technology it needs to run. The cloud space is called Connected Logistics Chain (CLC) and can be accessed via a regular web browser.

The standards for the Internet of Packages are thus built on the principles for Web 3.0. Ericsson has developed the first cloud-based service needed to realize a standardized way of managing information, which will give the Internet of Packages the technology it needs to run on. The cloud space is called Connected Logistics Chain (CLC) and can be accessed via a regular web browser.

Basing the Internet of Logistics on the semantic model is the most suitable choice, since the whole point of it is to dissolve the information barriers between different sections of information. When the correct data can be obtained directly from the web, it is possible to find the correct location. Moreover, the semantic database model, or web model, is a much closer fit for the Internet of Packages, since packages and locations are concrete objects that are easier to define/ground than concepts such as love or God.

The Semantic Protocol

There are different protocols and tools that can be used to create a semantic data management process. The easiest and most powerful protocol is called RDF (Resource Description Framework). CLC uses the RDF protocol.

RDF is reliable and sanctioned by the Word Wide Web consortium. It is also a natural part of CLC, since it is based on the usual web standards. There is no use in inventing the wheel twice. And as mentioned above, if it is going to be possible to create a web for packages, it will be wise to adopt the principles that have made the established web standards so successful: HTTP, HTML and URI.

And speaking of URI, let us have a look at how the bread and bread packages are given an identity, and how that identity becomes visible on the Internet of Packages.

THE PACKAGE IS IN CONTROL

In order to create circular logistical processes and a web that allows packages to say where they are going by themselves, every product and (logistically available) location first needs to be given a unique identity. The package must be able to inform relevant actors about where it is going, where it is, what is in it, and so on. The same thing goes for locations: What kind of place is it? What are its qualities? What are its coordinates?

To be given an identity means that the objects are assigned so-called attributes.

Creating an Internet of Packages is, therefore, a process that is very similar to how the web has grown into what it is today.

LogTrade—with its command and control capacity—will provide locations and packages with their attribute identities. In those cases where a cargo carrier can be a location (think: food truck), the transport capacity is also given an identity. This means that they are assigned a so-called URI. URI stands for Uniform Resource Identifier. Compare that to URL, if you are interested. A URI can be attached to a package, such as a box of bread, using a QR code, an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chip, or some other kind of IoT sensor. In the case of the bakery, an IoT sensor is being used, but when it comes to the first commercial test cases that we are running in Sweden right now, we are using QR codes and a simple web browser or application.

Please note that it is not necessary to have a digital logistics flow that is updated in real-time to get started. Using QR codes that are scanned at transaction points by whoever is going to transport the product next or buy it is enough. Being able to follow the package on a map in real-time via smart sensors is therefore not an end in itself. It is enough for status changes for the product to be updated when the change occurs so that information that can be obtained via the QR code is updated so the information in the URL can be updated.

The information in the URI will be updated as the bread is transported and its status is changed: from when it is fresh from the oven at the bakery to when it is eaten at a college campus or soup kitchen, or to when it is devoured at a pig farm. This update can be done by scanning the status change, for example, picked up when the box is collected by whoever is transporting it, or sold when someone buys the bread using their smartphone.

Providing packages and locations with URIs is thus a very important fundamental premise when creating the Internet of Packages.

To sum up: An Internet of Packages is not a web that can be created by one actor alone. Just like when it comes to the established World Wide Web as we know it today, more is more: One page alone does not create a web. Creating an Internet of Packages is, therefore, a process that is much like how the web has grown into what it is today. The more servers and users that published their pages and interacted on the web, the better it became. In the beginning, the world could not understand what this network of information would end up being used for. The services and opportunities that this infrastructure of information offers today are, to say the least, multifaceted.

LOGTRADE’S ROLE

patryk-gradys, logtrades roll I paketens internet, internet of logistics, linked data

“If data management within the logistics industry is going to be sustainable, everyone has to talk to each other in the same language,” said the people at Ericsson, who were astounded after looking at the world of logistics and discovering all the silo structures. This led Ericsson to create the new, global, open logistics standards. LogTrade is one of the most devoted actors today when it comes to getting the Internet of Logistics standards to work so the journey towards realizing a global information web for logistics and shipping data can take off.

LogTrade is currently a process developer of the Internet of Logistics as well as a command and control center under development for those of our customers that want to create new ways of selling and distributing their products in a more profitable and sustainable way. #circular-logistics

LogTrade is thus involved in mapping the data using the RDF protocol, making all words and concepts that refer to individual objects and locations manageable for the computers.

The fact that the standards are open means, among other things, that they are free to use for those who want to create their own CLC spaces, or for those who want to offer their customers something similar to what LogTrade offers.

LogTrade is currently a process developer of the Internet of Logistics as well as a command and control center under development for those of our customers that want to create new ways of selling and distributing their products in a more profitable and sustainable way. #circular-logistics

This enables all small bakeries to compete individually with and even become better at selling out all its products than a large factory bakery.

If the Internet of Packages is going to be able to develop and live up to the infrastructure it has the potential to be, many companies and organizations need to become part of it. It is all about creating new services. When it comes to LogTrade, it will be all about creating logistics services that generate financially, ecologically, and socially sustainable trading patterns.

The Hub of a Financial Ecosystem

LogTrade has been around since 1992 and is in its nature as a business, a force for change. The company is standing on two symbiotic legs: logistics and software development. While the industry connected to one of the legs—IT—has been developing at high speed, the industry connected to the other leg—logistics—has been falling behind, thanks to its deadlocked structure. That is, up until now.

LogTrade can also be described as a company that has focused its entire business development processes on digitally bridging the challenges that the structural issues of the logistics industry have created. This has not been a satisfactory status, however, since we have long seen how a release of the deadlocked structures could take retailing and resource distributions to completely new levels. We have also been gearing up for it. Our technical platform and our operational environment are built, for example, to be able to handle a much larger volume of shipping data than our current daily 180,000 shipments generate. When Ericsson asked us for help, we saw our chance and took it. Here was an engine for growth that could help push digitization of the global logistics industry forward and in the right direction faster—a direction that will also change LogTrade’s role.

But there is no Batman in this story.

To create a better world, to create an Internet of Packages, everyone is needed. Neither Ericsson, Ericsson in partnership with LogTrade or Microsoft, Here, Sony, or all the universities and innovative companies that we have chosen to call upon to join us at this initial stage can lead the way on its/their own. The Internet of Packages is all about building an inclusive and homogeneous global infrastructure so that everyone who wants to can create sensible services and solutions. The big challenge in all of this is thus not developing the standards and appropriate services for the Internet of Packages. No, the big challenge is to prevent it from becoming a mutual admiration society—a silo.

LogTrade, therefore, sees it as one of its most important jobs to generate a business ecosystem that welcomes serendipity and is built on integrity, trust, and courage. Only one thing is sacred in this business ecosystem: the protocols for openness and universality. 

So yes, the business ecosystem principle is just as necessary for a circular economy as it is to the Internet of Packages and circular logistics. The cogwheels all connect. A healthy business ecosystem will create fertile soil for extensive cooperation between actors along a chain and also between actors in other value chains. Today this means that LogTrade is the hub between the above-mentioned Ericsson, Here, IBM Watson, Microsoft, and Sony, as well as institutes such as the Stanford Research Institute, Chalmers Industriteknik, Lunds tekniska högskola, Malmö University, Uppsala University, Stanford University, and the State University of Idaho. When it comes to research institutes, LogTrade is actively involved in either business development projects, action research projects, as an object of study, or by our staff members visiting to hold guest lectures.

What is the reason for involving these particular actors in the business ecosystem? Because we have to start somewhere. And because we have a vision. Let us have a closer look at why we think IBM Watson is important, for example.

PREDICTIVE TECHNOLOGY 

Next Generation Delivery Services

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash, logtrade, leveranshantering, paketens internet, internet of logistics

The more bakeries that become a part of the Internet of Packages, the bigger the collected shipping and sales data will become: data that consists of accumulated shipping information and other relevant data from a multitude of little bakeries around the world; linked data that can be correlated with other data regarding the season, weather, traffic, sports events, etc.

The accumulated data will help each bakery learn not only from its own experience but from all other bakeries around the world. This will enable all small bakeries to compete individually with and even become better at selling out all of its products than a large factory bakery. Every small bakery can then use the data to calculate where there is a need for its products. For example: “It is no use going out to the college campus today because it is raining. I (the bread) should be taken directly from the café to the homeless shelter instead.” 

We have chosen to involve IBM Watson since the quality of the predictive technology is a crucial factor for the bakery in Mountain View to be able to automate its distribution and create predictive deliveries—eventually. That means making it possible for the bread to be right where it is needed—before the recipient even knows they need it. IBM Watson distinguishes itself as the best cognitive AI in the world. IBM also has great technical and ethical reliability when it comes to data security. 

Amazon Knows What You Will Order

 Amazon is among those that use predictive technology today. It makes it possible to plan deliveries of orders that have not yet been placed to smaller locations far in advance. Predictive algorithms are necessary unless we imagine that all orders are going to be delivered by drones, which would be untenable. Of course the problem with Amazon is that it is a closed logistic organism that lets its employees pay the highest price.

WHEN NO ONE IS OVERCONSUMING ANYMORE

In the Internet of Packages, we will get a sophisticated match between supply and demand. That will give us the opportunity to create a life where most of the things people need, such as everyday staple items, will not even have to be ordered. People will get what they need before they even know they need it. This will eliminate the buy-two-get-three incentives that are a common cause of food waste. The Internet of Packages will also liberate every box of bread so that each individual box can plan its route to its goal using every plausible and implausible resource, storage spot, reloading location, etc. The bread will, in correlation with its attributes, be able to “call for” other packages that are about to be shipped or are already halfway to their destination. While the Internet of Packages will also make it possible to create circular outbound deliveries, the routes are not necessarily direct. Not only can it be used to create smarter and more sustainable one-to-many deliveries, it can also make those one-to-many deliveries, using so-called reverse logistics, a resource-efficient possibility.

The possibilities the Internet of Packages bring are enormous. Or, well, they are really teeny tiny, but many. Not least for the primary sources that will regain the power over their sales. The baker? Yes, but also the farmer, the fisherman, and so on. We are predicting a revival of the small-scale society.

Will We Succeed?

The Internet of Packages will be just as open to everyone as the Word Wide Web. And as one of its pioneers, we do not compromise when it comes to data integrity. Those who want to be part of the web of packages own their own shipping and logistics data. Because even if more data is more data, there are no shortcuts to a decentralized and democratic information-sharing structure that aims to demolish the silo structures. And that is fine. The tortoise always beats the hare. 

The World Wide Web was able to take off like it did because its technology was built on the razor-sharp principles of goodness. The purpose was and still is to serve humanity. Democratizing the world’s accumulated and growing bank of information, making data and knowledge shareable, is not only the definition of how scientific research gets done, sharing knowledge is also a way of distributing power.

Not excluding anyone from the smorgasbord of knowledge not only reflects good values, the open protocol will also give the developer a larger kick than the Jolt Cola on their desk. Saving the world has always been possible, but not without knowledge-based systems. Systems for circular logistics, for example, that make it possible for people to shop sustainably by default.

So, we are hopeful.