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Is the Physical Internet the Next Big Thing for Logistics?

Remember how hard it was to get information before the Digital Internet? You could do it, but it took some physical effort, travel to different locations, and time, especially time. The libraries were packed with people trying to find out things. What the Internet really did was give us standardized ways to move information between different physical substrates by standardized protocol, in standardized packets. The Internet wasn't concerned with information content: just its movement. It was the largest information delivery revolution since the invention of the printing press.

The Next, Greatest Revolution?

We are looking at a similar possible revolution in the manner that we ship and deliver goods: the Physical Internet. In the same way that the Digital Internet developed standard protocols to allow information to travel between many different physical configurations, the Physical Internet seeks to standardize the way we move and deliver physical objects. This would mean standardized modular shipping containers of all types and sizes, and standardized information protocols. Succinctly put, by Eric Ballot, "The Physical Internet is applying the principles of the Internet to logistics." The main thrust of the Physical Internet would be to eliminate inefficient transport, such as the many half-full trucks on the highways now, by creating a cooperative network among all users.

How the Blockchain has made the Physical Internet Obtainable

Key to both systems is information standardization and sharing. The Blockchain system is one development that will help such a Physical Internet exist. Basically, Blockchain allows all trusted users to gain access to a system of information that tracks transactions. For physical goods movement, this could be expanded to include items like location, of course, and any and all other pertinent info, such as temperature, record of distinct handlers and stops, shocks, disruptions, etc. This record would be kept by all interested parties and couldn't be altered without all copies being altered. A system like Blockchain virtually eliminates tampering with information, since that tampering would need to be successful on each member computer where the information is stored. 

Imagine that every major shipper worked together to know the exact status of each shipped item, total and remaining delivery capacity, and where every delivery vehicle of any type was, at any given instant, in real time. Imagine further the savings in both fuel and all ecological costs if that system coordinated all deliveries for fastest transport, least fuel use, inclement weather, local road and traffic conditions, and most economical routes. Individual companies are already working towards something like this, but what if the major players pooled their efforts? The possible savings globally are astronomical. And in a world where we become more aware of our finite, limited resources each day, the value of efficient networks of use has become all too apparent.

That is the basic concept of the Physical Internet: the movement of physical objects nearly as easily, knowledgeably, and economically as the digital internet moves information. Are we anywhere close to a system like this? Not yet, but it may not be as far away as has been thought. The benefits and advantages of such a system are obvious. Unfortunately, some of the obstacles are too. Companies compete for business. They often hoard information like zealous misers. While this is beneficial and necessary for some information, cooperation will be the key to making the Physical Internet work. Building standardized modular shipping containers for different modes of transport will be a major challenge.   Also noted by Ballot, many larger organizations will need to become involved. Information sharing and pooling of resources will be vitally necessary. It will be critical that such a system be set up so that power and opportunity are equally spread among its links. Giant organizations that already have complex working systems available will likely not be as amenable to sharing power. However, retailers can begin taking many of the steps necessary to become ready for the Physical internet now by studying and adopting best logistical and information tracking practices. Several Physical Internet initiatives, such as the Modulushca Project, are already underway and available for observation and information.

Estimates show increased profitability for companies involved could be in the hundreds of billions annually. The financial and ecological incentives for cooperation in the development of such a system are readily apparent. This is a concept in which almost everyone, including consumers and other private citizens, manufacturers, retailers, and shippers, could become long-term winners. The Digital Internet certainly wasn't completely planned; it happened in the long run because it was beneficial to many. The same will likely be true of the Physical Internet. At CTL Global Solutions we are working to bring the brightest possible future closer. We stand in the forefront of logistics for shipping. Contact us today for information and assistance with all shipping needs. You can count on us!

Thanks to all the contributing sources to this story.

Source: https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/  Source: https://www.picenter.gatech.edu/node/512  Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_Internet  Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121016092158.htm Source: http://parisinnovationreview.com/articles-en/the-physical-internet-logistics-of-the-future-is-just-around-the-corner

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