Exclusive – Let’s bet on the Physical Internet

Moving into the physical internet will allow the air cargo industry to regain its position as a frontrunner in adopting automation, said researcher Dr. Tomas Ambra in the webinar
“Innovations of the Future”. It was the latest episode on Air Cargo Belgium’s training and information schedule.

Within the ‘Physical Internet’ concept, airports become nodes in a larger digitalized logistics network  -  courtesy: ALICE (Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe)
Within the ‘Physical Internet’ concept, airports become nodes in a larger digitalized logistics network – courtesy: ALICE (Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe)


‘Physical Internet’ (PI) seems to have become the new buzz word popping up in webinars and conferences on digitization. It aims at organizing the transport of goods in the way e-mail messages are
passed on from sender to recipient. In the latter, the communication moves seamlessly, thanks to globally accepted and applied standards and protocols, even if neither party has the slightest
idea of the intermediate servers.
In logistics, the sender makes his/her own choice of ‘server’, i.e., the transport companies. His/her consignments are passed on from one party to the other, some of which have no interaction at


Airports as nodes
Dr Tomas Ambra, Logistics Research Lead at imex, an innovation spin-off of the University of Brussels, elaborated on the Physical Internet Living Lab (PILL) that the institute is currently
developing. Within this concept airports, are nodes in larger airport networks.
Between them, they can create matchmaking platforms for commodities based on demand, priority, capacity, and node attribution. As for the latter, Brussels Airport is an excellent example as
a pharma hub in a country which is an important pharma producer,
” said Dr Ambra.
For this concept to work, collaboration and data sharing are imperative, he stressed. The way forward is in the so-called ‘federated data space’, where independent data platforms could share data
on a sort of umbrella level without actually physically integrating the respective platforms.

Building more applications
In the opening presentation, Eric Verlinden, Manager Research VIL Innovation for Cluster Logistics, assessed the digital transformation in air freight. According to him, the industry has been a
frontrunner in this respect for ages, starting with the creation of the IMP Standard for Messages and stopping at e-freight.
This has been reduced to the eAWB, a process which in itself has not been very speedy so far,” he said. “So, there is still a lot of paper moving around and the digitization mostly
means replacing paper by Excel sheets.

In the light of the advent of new players like Amazon and Alibaba, the need for digital transformation, both on the local and the global level, is imminent, Mr Verlinden thinks. He praised the
efforts Brussels Airport is taking on the local level. He advocated the building of applications for further efficiency. “My plea is to do this for the chain as a whole,” he
Enhancing efficiency on the company level and the warehouse floor, was demonstrated by Johan De Geyter, CEO of Iristick, which produces smart glasses. Apart from reducing travel and cost within
the company, they take the data on warehousing operations further into the company’s IT system through smartphone connectivity.

Marcel Schoeters

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Source: Cargoforwarder

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