If you think the self-driving truck is a far-fetched concept, get a load of this one: “hypermodal transportation,” which purportedly will combine drones, self-driving trucks, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bring “Internet-like speeds and efficiencies” to global transportation and logistics networks, “saving time and trillions of dollars,” according to Lux Research.
(And if wishes were fishes, no one would starve. But I digress …)
Lux’s paper on this “hypermodal” freight hauling concept – entitled Towards Intelligent Intermodal Trade: Industrial Big Data and Analytics in Transportation and Logistics – also envisions new and faster connections between logistics and manufacturing, intertwining the two to the point where there is no clear separation between either of them.
"The Internet of Things is at the stage of a dial-up modem in the evolution of the Net, but as it evolves, intermodal and intelligent technologies will create a hypermodal system that moves not just goods but supply, demand and means of production," stressed Mark Bünger, Lux’s vice president and lead author of the firm’s report.
So what kinds of changes might this “hypermodal” transportation and logistics concept foster? Here are Lux’s projections:
More capable “smart” shipping containers. With door sensors, GPS [global positioning systems], and RFID [radio frequency identification] transponders, such “smart” containers will be better able to detect vibration, temperature and chemicals, incorporate refrigeration and be connected to the computing cloud to provide more detailed and frequent real-time alerts.
Last-mile delivery will get more efficient. Google and Amazon are just two companies now using drones for same-day delivery of small packages, establishing new benchmarks in last-mile efficiency. The first commercial delivery by drone occurred in the U.S. last year, while Singapore and Switzerland are among several countries experimenting with drone mail delivery.
The creation of distributed manufacturing. Production and logistics are closely linked, so “distributed manufacturing” goes hand-in-hand with hypermodal transportation, according to Lux’s research. Small, local factories using flexible machinery such as 3D printers, flexible components, and multi-skilled labor, will achieve economies of “scope,” rather than scale.
Frankly, this all seems to still be more science fiction than science reality at the moment, to me at least. But at the pace of change now occurring in the freight world, anything is possible – even hypermodal transport, where computers will play an outsized role in moving everything. Let’s hope all those ones and zeros are up to the task.