Saturday, December 08, 2007

Logistics information systems (LIS) and geographical data

The new geographical data based applications are changing lot of everyday things. The GPS navigators integrated in cars and trucks are becoming very inexpensive. High precision satellite images are available from Google Earth and NASA Worldwind services.

Geographical data can be combined with almost any other data and it is easily translated from postal address data. The search companies have also noticed this: Google Maps and Microsoft Live Map Search show good examples how to "mash-up" geo data with yellow pages, statistics and so on. The next step is obvious – moving from cars to people: Now the mobile phone manufacturers are starting to build geo data applications for pedestrians. Geo data apps will be real-time and give information based on location. Nokia bought Navteq – the world leading digital map company, and TomTom is in merger talks with Tele Atlas.

Logistics information systems could benefit a lot from inexpensive geographical data. Currently, only routing problem related software take any real advantage from maps. Very few ERPs or CRMs support smart uses of location information. One of the reasons behind is that use of geographical data for commercial uses is limited and the cost of using map data is expensive. OpenSteetMap aims to solve this problem – it is a Wikipedia like community generating free map data (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license). The project started 2004 and there is impressive number of rendered maps available. The data set is not as complete as Google's data but it is growing all the time.

Earlier this year, the Logistics Systems Research Group at the University of Vaasa completed a project MLOG – "Mobile truck logistics", which developed software for collection/distribution truck drivers. The software was implemented on mobile phones and truck drivers got real-time instructions what to do next, where to go and report back on-line what is the status of loading/unloading, working time information. The fleet manager has then a cockpit view to monitor individual driver or the whole fleet from delivery, workforce or business point of view. The technology has been commercialized to suit the needs of food industry. The availability of <400 EUR programmable mobile phones with GPS integrated and free maps makes me think about the possibilities for developing next generation logistics application for the real-time transportation control. From technology point of view, everything is there.

Outlining the specs for such an application takes time. I am going next week to visit Petrozavodsk, Russia to consult the Carelian Ministry of Agriculture developing food logistics strategy for the state. I am going to bring my Garmin GPS and track some new roads for OpenStreetMap project. Driving takes close to 15 hours so there will be some good time to plan the next gen LIS.

BR, Petri


1 comment:

Petri Helo said...

More than 15 hours of driving on varying road conditions... my contribution for the open street maps project - GPS logs, roadtrip from Petrozavodsk, Russia via Sortavala and Värtsila to Joensuu, Finland

BR, Petri