Real time data and logistics

A global real-time revolution is unfolding, transforming the quality, timelessness and use of information. This allows:

  • Instant data to monitor deliveries and people’s behaviour
  • Governments to experiment, from monitoring restaurant bookings to trackingcard payments. 
  • The ability to observe the economy accurately and speedily, especially as digital devices, sensors and fast payments become ubiquitous, 
  • Better public-sector decision-making—as well as the temptation for governments to meddle. 

Welcome to instant economics. Featuring data as a production factor, in additional to land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. Real time data change the landscapes of our economy and society, including its  ability to grow GDP (gross domestic product) and the capacity to sustainably deal with many challenges, such as  climate change and most recently the Covid-19 pandemic.

In logistics, real time data exchange allows for seamless collaboration between all parties, enhancing supply chain interoperability and pull based innovations. The effects being:

  • Information will become available throughout the various edges of the supply chain. Instant logistics will emerge. 
  • The real time data revolution allows instant economics. Data availability between business parties and public authorities is essential. Increasingly, business evolves around the ability to act promptly, thus enabling new services to emerge leading upto societal and business benefits, based on actual and readable data.
  • A desire for better data – high quality data. This is hardly new. However; .the pandemic has become a catalyst for change. Well-staffed companies and public authorities can crunch numbers. By opening-up treasure chests of data on various transactions, helping reveal what is actually ongoing the economy, i.e. in the supply chain.
  • A larger share of spending is shifting online and transactions are being processed faster
  • Economic decisions are more accurate, transparent and rules-based. But, this also brings dangers. Big firms could hoard data, giving them an undue advantage. Private firms may one day have more insight into consumer spending than the governing bodies have.
  • Centralized solutions for the implementation of IT solutions and data are becoming outdated.. Companies and platforms – supply and demand – are thoroughly interconnected. This will be enabled by:
    • A demand driven infrastructure provision. 
    • Digital savvy business and public administration stakeholders.

So far, logistics in the EU has left these opportunities mostly untapped, What is lacking is a reliable data infrastructure - Internet of Logistics - for sharing commercially sensitive logistics data. The result being more efficient, resilient, and sustainable logistics. The effective use of real time data allow for transformational profits. The focus should be on innovation and scaling.

Real time data challenges the EU to develop a coherent policy approach, giving full leverage to the strengths and diversity of the EU Member States. How to do this? On the top end  stands the EU Single Digital Market policy. Since 2015, this policy  constitutes the basis for the EU Digital Transport Logistic Forum (DTLF) to develop guidance to effectively work with data in freight  transport and logistics. 

The outcome of the first EU DTLF mandate was the promotion of the federated network of platforms approach. Connectivity enabled by the Internet constitutes the basis for  DTLF elaborating  4 basic principles – building blocks - on how to develop a federated network of platform approach: 

  1. Plug and Play (P&P). Register and connect once with a solution/service provider of choice
  2. Technology independent Infrastructure Services (TIS). Seamless, secure, safe, and compliant trade flows
  3. FEDeration: network of platforms and peer-to-peer solutions (FED). Economies of scale and network effects with standardised protocols
  4. Trusted, safe, and secure. Governance rules, certified participants, and data governance

To showcase this DTLF network of platforms concept, two EU CEF Actions were developed: FENIX and FEDeRATED. Both projects started in 2019. In 2023, the FEDeRATED Action will deliver a validated Master Plan for developing an EU future proof data sharing infrastructure for freight transport and logistics. The validation will be established in the Action zone; - through testing sites (Living Labs) with participation of various supply chain operators. 

Real time dataThis illustration - baed on an article in The Economisty 13 November 2021 -  identifies the trend towards instant economics, In addition its compiles an overview o the logistic operators involved and connecting objectives and issues, and the estimated impact of digitalisation in logistics, identifying in brief the FEDeRATED Living Lab business cases

FEDeRATED 2019-2021 

Can a network of platform be realized? If so, under what conditions? These two questions constitute the basis of the FEDeRATED project, that runs from 2019-2023. In 2019 the FEDeRATED Vision defined the federated network of platforms as: An infrastructure provision containing a set of arrangements and technical applications to enable data in existing IT systems (platforms) of companies and public administrations to become available to authorised users through a publish and subscribe approach. To enable this, supply and logistics stakeholders need to participate and share data in multiple communities.[1]

FEDeRATED elaborated and further detailed the DTLF building blocks in its Vision document (Milestone 1) through its Core Operating Framework (COF) and in its Interim Masterplan (Milestone 2) in March 2020. Milestone 2 specified the COF by identifying. i.e.: 

  • A reference model representing the physical reality within the supply chain translated into Events that connect various elements with one another. This reference constitutes the cornerstone on how to translate the physical reality through digital twin onto data that are accessible and exchangeable between IT systems. This reference model is leading up towards a FEDeRATED semantic model that should enable any stakeholder to communicate, thus connect 
  • 37 Leading Principles - The 37 Leading Principles set the scene enabling the various supply chain and logistics interoperability by using systems and platforms of their choice. In practicethey indicate the functional and operational requirements and partly indicate technical solutions.
  • 16 technical components – technical requirements – that need to be incorporated into platforms allowing a FEDeRATED infrastructure provision to function (MIlestone 4, chapter 6.1). 

The FEDeRATED Semantic Modelling Group and the IT Architecture Group of the FEDeRATED project – both part Activity 2 - developed more precision on and detailing of the required architecture and semantics to enable a federated netwok of platforms approach to be developed., Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, these groups have produced substantial output in the period 2020-2021. .   


[1] The synonym ‘data space’ for ‘community’ is used by IDSA (International Data Space Association) and GAIA-X.

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This project is co-funded by the European Commission Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)