AEOLIX: a new European data sharing network for logistics

Jacob Bangsgaard, Chief Executive Officer, ERTICO – ITS Europe

Lina Konstantinopoulou, Head of Transport and Logistics, Innovation and Deployment, ERTICO – ITS Europe

Zeljko Jeftic, Head of Global Innovation, International Road Transport Union (IRU)

The fragmented nature of ICT-based logistics systems and the lack of connectivity between them continue to pose major challenges to the logistics sector. But the introduction of AEOLIX, a new European data-sharing network will go some way to overcome these challenges, as well as those that confront today’s transport industry – challenges that include road congestion, administrative bottle necks and CO2 emissions.

Logistics industry players have tried to address these issues with investment in their own independent services, creating separate solutions such as port communication systems, cargo communication systems, customs and public authority platforms. This disparate and passive method of data-sharing results in important information gaps. In addition, most European countries require paper documents for transporting goods by road. Under the current system each logistics player is required to log into each system separately to look for information, or manually enter data in different formats, leading to administrative bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Today’s reality is that all transport modes need to become cleaner and more efficient. If the entire industry starts sharing information about the planning of transportation of goods from one place to another, problems could be anticipated to make sure that every transport is optimised. This means fewer trucks are required to deliver the same volume of goods. Some countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have already adopted this approach by going digital in their operations.

AEOLIX, a new data-sharing network, will meet these challenges with an open, cloud-based, “many-to-many” platform, which captures and streams data in real time. The AEOLIX pan-European network automatically translates data formats from different IT systems, giving companies the ability to rapidly respond to issues through a customised dashboard. AEOLIX is developed for the private logistics industry as well as for public authorities.

Ensuring end-to-end visibility across the supply chain, AEOLIX supports workflow across Europe, facilitating the automation of data exchange and creating streamlined and efficient logistic management.

AEOLIX - A data sharing network for end-to-end visibility in supply chains

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690797.

Video Transcript: 

Hello and welcome to Business Reporter's future of the supply chain campaign, hosted by the Telegraph Online. I'm Alastair Greener. Never before have we been more connected and had immediate access to digital information in transport.

With that, however, comes the rising expectation of greater speed and visibility of data in the supply chain. Real time connectivity and visibility of data of the supply chain promises to increase productivity and efficiency. Yet why is there still fragmentation within the supply industry?

Well, to help us understand why it's such a challenge and some possible remedies, we're joined by experts from ERTICO-- a public private partnership of 120 companies and organisations leading the promotion and deployment of intelligent transport and mobility in Europe. And we're also joined by the IRU, the World's Roads Transport Organisation.

Good morning.

Good morning.


So what are some of the biggest problems when it comes to movement of goods around Europe ?

Well, one of the major problems that we have is the congestion that we are facing today. We are losing some 1% of the GDP each year due to congestion, and on top of it, we are adding some 20% to the emissions on the roads. We also-- when it comes to digitalization of the transport sector-- we see some challenges to have integration of the different modes in the logistic chain. And we see the development of systems when it comes to freight transport. We see development of port systems, cargo systems, authority systems, and also private developed systems and services that are not fully integrated. And therefore we have a very fragmented market.

So this fragmented market, when it comes to logistics, seems a little bit odd-- when you talk about the efforts to digitalize-- why are we finding it so difficult? We live in an age of digitalization. Why is it so difficult?

Well, let me give you an example from the road transport sector at least. Today we are looking at all of the startups and technology companies-- the entrepreneurs-- as being heroes of our days. However, we need to remember that actually the road transport field has been a fruitful area, where entrepreneurs have been thriving for many years and decades now. This has also resulted in, today, existence of the approximately 550,000 transport companies in Europe, where some 85% of companies are actually small sized companies, with five trucks or less.

In the US, 91% of the transport companies have six trucks or less. Now, when you look at the scale and the number of the companies, it's a very complex issue to connect all of them. But we also see tremendous progress. We see that both big and small companies are starting to use smartphones for communication. There's a number of services coming up on the market.

But what is essential to enable data sharing between all of the key stakeholders is still that we all use the same standards, that we all use the same platform. And this is also why we, within the AEOLIX, are taking part and the pushing for the development of such a European platform.

Tell me a bit more about AEOLIX-- how it works and who is it going to benefit ultimately.

AELOIX attempts to overcome today's fragmentation-- the lack of connectivity for ICT-based systems. Despite the recent investments in enterprise resource planning, transportation management systems, and cargo community systems, information gaps still remain due to the disparate and passive nature of data. Unfortunately, still today, we see that each logistics actor needs to log into each different system to be able to look for information or to mine [INAUDIBLE] data in two different formats.

For this reason, in AELOIX, we are developing a cloud based multi-enterprise network-- MAN to MAN network, which captures and streams data into time and automatically translates different data formats from different IT platforms, so allowing the different logistics companies to respond to issues through a configured dashboard. We are deploying this network in 11 supply chain pilots across the nine trans-European network corridors. Thanks to the European Commission Funding Programme, the Horizon 2020, we are working together with 40 partners to achieve this target.

Also, we expect a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the current situation. Regarding the benefits, we see that AEOLIX enhances end to end visibility across the supply chain and also supporting the work flow for both the logistics companies and the authorities. It also facilitates the automation of data exchange and also the flexible relationship management of the stakeholders.

What is more important is that it interfaces with different appropriate systems and provides added value services like, for example, monitoring of the carbon footprint, estimated time of arrival at railways or at port or at terminals, and provide some customer-related services. These services have been proven to reduce the [INAUDIBLE] to reduce costs, but also to enable optimal load factors for both seaports and transport operators. Finally, as AELOIX is an open network, we ensure scalability and interoperability in line with both EU policy and standards.

Well, as you say, it's an open network, and security is always a concern for organisations. So how are you going to convince users that their data is actually secure?

Well, what we're going to be doing in our case from the IRU and what we're also bringing to the project is the knowledge of maintaining data privacy and data sharing between public and private sides. As the IRU, we are championing the digital transport documents in Europe and beyond, and we've also been operating the only global transit system that is in operation-- the TIR.

Now, through that system, we have already managed millions of cross-border operations and data sharing between the private parties like transport operators with public authorities, such as customs, as an example. Within the AEOLIX, Lina already explained, that we are looking at the latest technologies that are going to be ensuring that we are following the latest data privacy rules. However, that, on its own, is not enough. There is now technology in the world that is going to create the trust that is needed between all these stakeholders, and this is also why we, within the project, and as IRU our own, are building a community of the transport operators and other relevant stakeholders so that they can get together and build business relationships between themselves and this community trust that is very much needed.

It seems like a huge task-- bringing all of these players together. You've got private and public transportation companies, you've got these logistics hubs, and so om-- a huge amount putting together. Yet you seem incredibly optimistic about the viability of the solution.

Well, it is a huge challenge, but it's also necessary to bring all stakeholders together. And as Lina said, we already have 40 partners within the consortium of AELOIX. And what we do within ERTICO, is that we are bringing a lot of the expertise from our partners into the project. And we have many partners who are participating actively and defining the architecture-- the digital architecture-- within the project. So we, as a public private partnership, covering eight different sectors, we already have good coverage of all the aspects, and we need to cover all aspects in a project like AEOLIX.

Now, your ethos is about sustainability, but of course, we're talking about the movement of goods. There's 46 million tonnes per day in Europe-- how can you match those two together?

Indeed- it is a very good question. What we can say is that all modern modes of transport need to become more efficient, more sustainable. Now, for all of them, digitalization is one of the key aspects towards becoming more sustainable. We need to empower more data sharing between different stakeholders.

To give an example, if we can, in advance, know about different shipments that are going to be made from one location to another, we are going to be able to match those shipments in a much better way so that we can optimise the usage of trucks that are there today-- making sure that every truck is fully loaded when it's on the road.

Let's wind forward a little bit, because you've talked a lot about AEOLIX and about technology and how that's going to help logistics on a European level. What about the future? Let's fast forward to say 2030. How do you think it will look then?

We will have plenty of challenges in the mobility sector towards 2030, and those are challenges both within the cities and between the transport between cities-- and both of freight and passengers. And that's why we, at the end of last year, we organised within ERTICO, a meeting with our partners to look at what we see as our vision for 2030.

And we looked at our four key areas-- connected automated driving, urban mobility, clean mobility, and logistics-- and we see that we are moving from development to deployment of many of the systems that are related to automation, for instance. And that is opening up a whole new challenge on how will we use big data in the future? How will we use artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies blockchain, et cetera, et cetera? There are a lot of things developed now that will be deployed both for transport of freight of passengers.

What I want to add a bit on Jacob's thoughts is that looking in the future for logistics, we see that connected and automated trucks in real logistics environments connected to digitalized transport networks, rethinking the last mile delivery for cities. We see that drones will play also a very important role. In terms of corporate social responsibility, we see that logistics companies need to track this close and document their CO2 emissions, because now more and more, we see that customers would like to really know about the supply chain provenance of the goods they buy. So it means that logistics companies will need to provide information about the vehicle origin of the goods, but also the environmental impact of the production and distribution.

So finally, also, supply chains will become very autonomous, synchro model and secure, thanks to innovations such as artificial intelligence, blockcahin and big data.

Well, some fascinating times for logistics in Europe. And it's been really interesting to see how technology is going to be very much a part of that future. Jacob Bangsgaard, Lina Konstantinopoulou, and Zeljko Jeftic, thank you very much indeed.

Thank you.

Thank you.


Get our latest features in your inbox

Join our community of business leaders