The internet of things: making transport and infrastructure faster and smarter

Data is one of the core components of the Internet of Things (IoT), with its power lying in the capture and analysis of data from sensors, devices and smart products.

But it’s not just about your fridge organising your shopping list and telling you when the milk is low or your latest wearable device that clocks your steps and then loads it into your fitness plan. The IoT and the data it collects can also help with planning your travel. Based on real-time data, we can react to traffic congestion, decrease trip time and ultimately improve productivity of transport and logistics operations.

There are a couple of key factors that drive the need for transport & logistics investment in Australia. First and foremost, Australia is an island, so our import and export of goods only happens via sea or air. This limits our options compared to other countries that use land transport to exchange goods with their immediate neighbours. Then there are the huge distances between the major metropolitan areas, so products need to travel a long way to get to consumers. Couple this with the growing population in metropolitan areas, the congestion in major cities just gets worse.

Enter Data61, the largest data innovation group in Australia, bringing together CSIRO’s Digital Productivity team and National ICT Australia (NICTA). Data61 runs the Transport & Logistics Living Lab (TALLL) along with active participants from industry, research and government.

The National Infrastructure Plan, released in February urges infrastructure builders and planners to seek out better ways to optimise existing infrastructure rather than just embarking on more projects. The IoT in conjunction with modern data analytics is a key enabler to address these challenges. Smart transport solutions not only help address infrastructure efficiency but it can also reduce the number of fatalities on public roads. It can relieve the pain of an inefficient system and create opportunities making business operations more efficient and improving the customer experience through transparency in the supply chain. So now you can easily track the new book you have bought online through every stage of its journey from the warehouse in the US to your digitally enabled parcel collection locker in Perth.

Already there are examples of smart transport & logistics solutions using IoT technology. Here are just three.

The Centre of Road Safety at Transport for NSW together with the Data61 TALLL started the Collaborative Intelligent Transport Initiative. Their primary goal was to reduce the number of fatalities due to heavy vehicle accidents. Trucks are equipped with wireless devices that enable direct vehicle to vehicle communication. Unlike radar the truck can detect unseen dangers like a stopped vehicle around the next corner, reducing accidents due to unseen events.

Patrick Ports & Logistics worked together with several technology providers to automate their container terminal in Port Botany. This included not only self-driving straddles, but also the connection of operational technology, including boom gates and weighbridges, to the corporate IT systems optimising planning and operational processes. Not only did the port operate more efficiently – there were also less accidents.

DHL optimised their supply chain by putting sensors on trucks and planes, as well as containers, packages and other physical goods. They also tapped into social networks and data provided by other organisations to get visibility into the whole supply chain, weather, traffic status and other critical information that lets them optimise their planning and operation. They now have full transparency of where their fleet and their customer goods are at all times.

The opportunities of this interconnectivity are enormous. Let’s leverage the opportunities IoT brings to the transport & logistics sector to create innovative solutions that can be exported to other countries with similar transport challenges.

Australia certainly has the capabilities to become a world-class provider of smart transport & logistics solutions. It is up to us to collaborate to make this happen.

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One thought on “The internet of things: making transport and infrastructure faster and smarter

  1. Thanks for expanding the discussion on IoT, all I’ve heard so far is the management of a household and stocking the fridge. These developments in the area of transport and logistics are fascinating, particularly the safety impacts.

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