Globally, urban living is hot. According to the United Nations, 54% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, with another 75 million moving into those same municipalities annually. Meanwhile, in the U.S., 65% of our population lives in cities of 50,000 or more people. Couple those statistics with the significant—and ongoing—growth in e-commerce shopping, and it quickly becomes apparent that more trucks will be making more deliveries to more urban addresses. Congestion, already an issue in population-dense areas, is only going to get worse between now and 2030. For all those reasons, there’s been an increasing emphasis on developing the Smart City of the future, today.
What is a Smart City? MHI’s 2017 Annual Industry Report’s definition is, “an urban area that uses information to design policies and procedures that benefit its citizens.” It further 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.”
In Europe and parts of Asia, Smart City Logistics is developing at a faster clip than in the U.S.—what with higher levels of urbanization, more aggressive legislation regulating carbon dioxide output, older cities and narrower streets that simply cannot handle more freight deliveries. Some of the resulting approaches include:
- Limiting deliveries to consolidation centers outside of the urban core,
- Off-hours or overnight deliveries to minimize traffic congestion during peak daytime hours, and
- Land-use planning changes that require new construction to incorporate dock doors and freight loading zones.
While helping, none of these solutions necessarily leverage “smart” technologies—many of which are still emerging in their application. However, the Internet of Things (IoT) holds much promise for reducing urban congestion and pollution. By leveraging inputs from millions of data sensors to Cloud-based analytics, information can be quickly processed and routed to optimize traffic flows and deliveries in real-time.
But placing sensors all over an urban environment and connecting them across multiple locations to produce analytics for the benefit of city dwellers won’t be easily achieved without collaboration. Recognizing that Smart City Logistics cannot possibly be managed solely by a single entity—public or private—strategic partnerships are currently being established in multiple metropolitan areas. These alliances include city government and agencies, businesses, academia, environmental organizations, transportation providers, consultants, public policy strategists and more.
Current collaborations investigating both the problems and the potential Smart Logistics Infrastructure solutions include the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab in Seattle, and the City Tech (formerly City Digital) project at non-profit UI LABS in Chicago.
Additionally, at MODEX 2018 (held April 9-12, 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta), a brand new Solutions Center—Smart City Logistics and Connected Supply Chains—will highlight exhibits with resources that enable these new urban logistics strategies. Included are sensors, software, cloud computing, driverless vehicles, robotics and automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented (AR) wearable devices, and mobile technologies bringing people, markets and goods together.
Want to learn more about Smart City Logistics? MHI Solutions recently published the article “Smart City Logistics: At The Crossroads of Emerging Collaborations,” here.