smartBOX – an Austrian PI solution leading to small loads mobility 4.0


Harald Kapplmüller, Hans-Christian Graf, Sophie-Therese Hörtenhuber, Rainer Widmann and Burkhard Stadlmann


Considering the ideas of the Physical Internet (PI) this paper summarizes researched and engineered core elements of small load containers being essential for the implementation of small loads distribution systems. 
In general the European freight market can be characterized by rising transport needs coupled with a shortage of resources. Increasing customers service awareness, pluralization of life forms and ongoing developments in the e-commerce area are growing the amount of transports in general and in the fields of small loads (packages, unit loads or luggage) especially.

These actual trends require new service portfolios in the small loads market. In order to align environmental needs to the hitherto relatively inflexible systems of customer deliveries new approaches outside the current paradigm are demanded. The Austrian smartBOX project allows a new framing of the small goods transportation by the conception of an intelligent and holistic approach, considering the ideas of PI and aligning those to the needs of the future.
Thematic outline and research approach to the smartBOX developments:    

  • At first existing barriers and practical problems in the segment of parcel deliveries were raised by interviewing market participants from the CEP sector by use of guideline-based interviews.
  • Furthermore desktop research and qualitative content analysis yielded results regarding future developments and framework conditions for several delivery scenarios. 
  • In a next step those conditions and facts were assigned to predefined categories like market, logistics, law, economics and infrastructure and led to a comprehensive description of the business processes containing all core elements of the framework including trends and customer needs.
  • Following these theoretically and practically compiled preconditions a certain amount of use cases was defined as basis for the development and engineering of a comprehensive and integrated concept called “small loads mobility 4.0”. This highly integrated approach includes complete new rules for the business logics as well as the technical elements like construction details of reusable and environment friendly containers – the smartBOXes –  and related IT-components.
  • Based on this concept performance figures as well as detailed system functionalities were derived finally.

Description of the paper content:
The designed business process concept and the technical equipment for the new smartBOX system follow ideas and aims which are specifically subject to PI principles. The paper illustrates how the smartBOX concept is leading to “small loads mobility 4.0”.

The main targets of traffic reduction and of increase of truck fill rates are realized by execution of asset sharing. The main idea is to distribute all kind of small goods and in particular packages, small unit loads and luggage via a service provider open network, allowing transport quantities to be bundled at all transport steps in order to make the flows of goods economically, ecologically and socially more efficient as well as more sustainable. Furthermore, a so called hyper system is designed to centrally host all relevant transport data within a protected but open data cube.

Information flows are made accessible to all market participants in order to manage the material flows through a system of open infrastructure (including asset sharing at all steps of delivery processes) without friction losses. A selected operator or the hyper system itself controls and regulates the access to information that is relevant for ICT and logistics. In addition to the technical design the legal and logistical framework conditions are drafted to enable the integration of existing providers and common infrastructure efficiently.

The paper defines and describes the functional elements of a typical smartBOX operator or of a smartBOX hyper system as: ICT, logistics, organization & legislation and infrastructure. 

The paper documents how business processes and the resulting use cases were created as research basis for the development of practical application areas leading to the integrated and new small loads mobility 4.0. 

Derived from the requested functionalities of the predefined use cases, specific performance contents of the designed system could be collected in a next step. By comparing the use cases and the status quo situation in the CEP sector regarding user processes and business models the three core elements standardization, equipment (container & terminal) and ICT should be analyzed and forecasted to identify remaining practical challenges of future small loads mobility.


Physical Internet, Realization of the Physical Internet, smartBOX, PI container, core elements small loads mobility

Related Session:
Workshop TP4: Hyperconnected On-Demand Urban Delivery
Thursday, June 30, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

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