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Technology is playing a central role in the huge changes affecting transport and logistics – including new modes of delivery, more efficient models of operation and adding intelligence into decision-making processes.

The transport and logistics sector is undergoing a momentous transformation. Technology is playing a crucial role in changing the way people and goods travel and how transport decisions are made. Drawing on the power of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and increased sharing of real-time information, we have entered the era of smart mobility.

By combining information from multiple sources in real-time, the passenger now often has more information than the operator. This fundamental shift offers consumers a real choice, based on an overview of alternative routes, comparative pricing and current status of networks. This wide availability of information is disrupting the status quo, with new entrants to the market and new business models emerging. One of them, the so-called sharing economy model, has disrupted the taxi realm, and is also becoming a popular commercial transport option globally.

Commercial transport companies are increasingly able to access real-time logistics, autonomous vehicles, predictive networks and robotics, in their planning for effective route optimisation, efficiency increases and to reduce their environmental footprint.

Public and private innovation

Public-private partnerships will be key to meeting the mobility challenges of the twenty-first century. Public funding and regulation will have a strong impact on autonomous vehicle policies and the connected vehicle. While the role of the public sector will be critical to stimulate advances and regulate the sector, combining public transport funding with private investments will provide numerous opportunities for taking advantage of peer-to-peer models, digital, and mobile technology.

Urban mobility platforms

Legacy infrastructure and limited budgets mean that many urban areas are struggling to keep pace with their increased populations and growing volumes of freight. New mobility-related services are proliferating, but gaps and inefficiencies in existing transport networks still exist. Industry experts are calling for city-wide mobility operating systems, essentially integrated platforms that would bring together physical infrastructure, modes of transport (cars, public transit, ridesharing, bike sharing, etc.), and transport service providers, to support greater optimisation and throughput. In practice, cities are already launching full-scale Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) applications to present users with multimodal travel options and help relieve congestion.

Real-time logistics

The supply chain is becoming fully transparent and trackable in real-time, enabling companies to become more efficient and lower their environmental impact. With the help of cloud-based analytics, advanced telematics is enabling logistics companies to track and monitor freight location, the temperature and barometric pressure of freight, and so on. Telematics is also increasingly facilitating automated freight matching. For example, a truck trailer, relying on sensors, can determine the available routes and estimated time of arrival (ETA), and transmit this information to software that can generate the most efficient and cost-effective scenarios for moving cargo.

Robotics

The use of robotics is set to improve long-term logistics processes in supply chain management, warehousing and transport infrastructure. Advanced robotics, with greater mobility enabled by gyroscopes and mapping technologies, will soon be able to recognise specific shipments by size and description, and move them to appropriate locations for picking and packing: a robotic truck unloader can move boxes and containers into and out of semitrailers and ocean freight containers of all sizes and shapes.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance solutions are evolving to foresee upcoming events, save costs and better respond to needs. With predictive maintenance analytics, transport companies can identify irregularities and forecast a range of asset performance risks before trouble ever arises. This can prevent costly unexpected downtime and improve the quality of services. Drones in particular are becoming a popular tool for predictive maintenance in different areas due to their high time/cost-effectiveness, as well as accuracy that they provide.