Soon, goods will move faster and independently
Self-driving robotic cars, quadcopters and hyperloop capsules: the logistical solutions of the future will transform the world.
In the future, transport robots will circle the streets in the night, and quadcopters will fly packages to islands and mountain areas.
“At the moment, it is more expensive to store goods in Manhattan than to place them in a container that circles the globe,” says Tuuli Kaskinen, Operations Director at the Demos Helsinki think tank. She is one of the researchers and visionaries whom DNA invited to discuss the distribution channels of the future.
For the past hundred years, goods have been moved across the world, powered by oil at an increasing rate and in increasing volumes. However, the price of oil is increasing, its availability is weakening and environmental objectives are becoming more and more important. According to Kaskinen, the amount of transport will increase or decrease significantly depending on how biofuels can be utilised, and at what price.
Risto Linturi, a futurist and Chairman of the Board at Sovelto, expects solutions to be found in the development of battery technology, and in the decreasing price of solar energy.
“The range of electric aircraft could be the same as that found in traditional airplanes, but their size could vary from very small to quite large”, Linturi says.
Goods and people in a robotic car
Automatically flying quadcopters, which are already used experimentally to transport goods from shops to homes in different countries, give an insight into the future of electric aircraft. In Finland, quadcopters have already been used by the national postal service.
“We will probably have self-driving cars that distribute goods at night within cities”, says Mika Pantzar, research director at the Consumer Society Research Centre. However, he does not believe that robotic cars would start transporting people who are used to driving themselves.
Linturi, on the other hand, has a vision of the future in which a robotic car arrives at the door within five minutes of being ordered and drives its passengers to the trunk network. He also sees hyperloop capsules that can take people from Tampere to the Helsinki city centre faster than is currently possible from Itäkeskus, located within the Helsinki region.
“This changes the entire geography”, says Linturi.
Production at home and in the home block
“An interesting question is whether it will be products or raw materials that will be transported in the future”, Kaskinen says. She believes that the turning point in 3D printing is near. Soon, it will not be necessary to order a spare part for a washing machine from Asia; instead, you can print it with a 3D printer in your home, or within a block of where you live.
“If we have a flexible production facility in every village, the hierarchy will flatten. A factory manager will lead a small production unit, rather than a huge plant. We will all become small-scale factory managers”, Linturi adds.
Linturi predicts the collapse of the economies of scale. The manufacture of goods in China requires a huge, global logistical network, and having energy produced in a centralised manner requires huge power distribution networks. According to Linturi, all these increase the vulnerability of our present-day society.
“The economies of scale are ultimately based on a poor ability to process information”, Linturi summarises.
Sensors streamline transports
With increasing digitisation, the ordering of goods and paying for them become easier, and customers also expect increasingly efficient deliveries.
“The availability of products and the time it takes to get them determine who will succeed in the business”, says Lari Hovi, solutions architect from DNA. In the future, suppliers and distributors will get help from an increasing number of sensors which connect products to the Internet of Things, (IoT).
“In the future, the location of goods will be known at all times, and goods can even communicate with each other to determine where they should be located”, Kaskinen says.