“Switzerland is not famous for its big cities,” said Daniel Wiener, a board member of Cargo Sous Terrain, an organization that is developing an underground transportation and logistics system for Switzerland, “but if you look at the northern part, it’s estimated that there will be 10 million inhabitants in the next 15 years—a similar population to Los Angeles.”
He continues, “We have traffic and logistics problems similar to big cities. And while Switzerland has great infrastructure, the quality of logistics is not at the same level.”
Cargo Sous Terrain aims to change that and create a “world-class infrastructure for logistics” by 2040. Cargo Sous Terrain is a coalition of private companies that plans to create a network of underground tunnels that will connect major cities throughout Northern Switzerland. The goal is to build central logistics hubs in cities for goods that will allow companies to easily deliver them across the country.
Speaking at SAP Leonardo Live in Frankfurt earlier this month, Daniel explained that besides the increasing population, Switzerland expects a 37 percent increase in freight transport over the next 20 years. Cargo Sous Terrain believes that its 24×7 delivery system will reduce road congestion by as much as 40 percent.
Cargo Sous Terrain’s plan for the tunnels reads like something out of a science fiction novel: Driverless wagons will move goods from one urban hub to another. Then the items will be loaded onto vehicles powered by electricity, to reduce the carbon footprint, and bring them directly to people’s houses. Eventually, Cargo Sous Terrain hopes that driverless cars will take over this last stage of package delivery. Even better, the entire operation will be powered by renewable energy and hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent.
To manage this vast transportation network servicing millions of citizens, Cargo Sous Terrain digitized its operations. Because the wagons—and much of the underground system—will be unmanned, it’s critical to have a technology solution in place that can monitor for any technical or scheduling issues. With the technology, Cargo Sous Terrain is building a solution that harnesses Internet of Things and machine-learning technologies to help ensure operations run smoothly and deliveries arrive on time.
Daniel, who also heads up the organization’s communications, investor relations, and corporate social responsibility, said “People now expect to get things on demand. We need to guarantee an exact arrival time. For example, if they order tennis shoes to be delivered by 3 pm tomorrow, we can only guarantee that if we have automated processes from end to end.”
The automated system will integrate sensor data from pallets and wagons into the overall logistics and delivery mechanisms Cargo Sous Terrain is building. A digital innovation system will help operations managers do intelligent, real-time route planning and predictive maintenance to make sure packages arrive on time.
As the project matures, Daniel expects that machine learning will help logistics managers better anticipate how factors like weather or item weight will impact delivery and autocorrect issues before there is a problem.
Dr. Uwe Kubach, chief evangelist of IoT at SAP, has been working closely with Cargo Sous Terrain. He explained, “In urban IT projects we often see IoT information in siloed applications. For example, information from street light sensors is only in street light management applications. The same is true with traffic information. It makes it difficult to bring it together with data from other sources and then apply machine-learning algorithms against them.”
He explains, “Cloud computing can connect all these sources so you can use analytics to find patterns, and machine learning to take corrective action.” Cargo Sous Terrain aims to create an IT foundation and the applications required for integrated city logistics that will address the challenges of urbanization and congestion in Northern Switzerland. For example, cities like Beijing and Buenos Aires are using IoT solutions and a cloud platform to address problems like traffic management and flooding.
Currently, the Cargo Sous Terrain project is in the planning and “get shovel-ready” stage. Construction is expected to start in 2024 through 2030; and the network is expected to expand across Switzerland.
For more on how IoT could drive future innovation, see How Thought Leaders Envision The Future Of IoT.