The September 2020 Advisory Board meeting was held online due to the Covid-19 crisis with 40 participants. Makis Kouloumbis, the Project Manager opened the meeting with a group photograph of the virtual attendees and with a reminder that the project is 25 months into its 30-month timeline and heading towards the final research stages and project completion.
The virtual meeting included a series of expert presentations and discussions on the achievements of the 4 living labs, and the broader challenges raised by the application of ICONET services and concepts to real world logistics problems. Living Lab 2 (Corridor-centric PI Network) highlighted the real-world complexities encountered – for example, the difficulty in gathering data from supply chain partners and the subsequent high level of collaboration required between different partners in the project. Sergio Barbarino of P&G presented the operational context of Living Lab 2 as a demonstration of a Physical Internet corridor, explaining that “For those of you who wash the dishes, Fairy Liquid is manufactured at Mechelen, and we follow this route to West Thurrock!” Claudio Salvadori focused on the track and trace innovation including the monitoring of in-transit cargo via a range of newly developed sensors, while Katia Sarsempagieva went into more detail on the integration of data with blockchain ledgers, how the process turns smart contracts into actual commands, from routing to shipping instructions. Kostas Zavitsas explained how this routing solution dovetails into the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the ongoing development of a Europe-wide freight and digital communication network.
The Advisory Board members quizzed the research team on various issues raised in the research, after which a guest presentation was given by Rod Franklin, Professor at Kühne Logistics University, which outlined the long term ALICE roadmap for the Physical Internet and the barriers to bringing together a unified approach. Rod stressed the need to overcome historical business practices: “This is tough! We need to understand all the non-technical elements that need to be overcome.”
The event concluded with a wide-ranging discussion on the tensions between open shared platforms and closed bespoke networks, and the extent to which specific incentives and agreements are required to overcome barriers to collaboration, including the possible future role of governments in pushing for adoption of PI, for example via enforcing border security and taxation. Rod argued that the strategy should be to “manage allocation as lightly as possible and allow the system to do the governing as the internet does”, with open network roaming packages for PI, “just as we have roaming for mobile phones.” Herve Moulin of Renault said in response that “Governance is a big issue… I’m concerned that… the system is supposed to be lightly governed. It seems to be like English and Esperanto. The latter is based on good ideas and is simpler, [but] English imposed itself easily as the international language because there were mighty players behind.”
Makis closed the day by thanking the team and Advisory Board Members for participating. The final General Assembly and Advisory Board meeting was provisionally scheduled for February 3rd, 2021.