Smart Cities Q&A with David Cockrell
What are Smart Cities?
Smart Cities are urban landscapes that widely employ advanced sensor technology in order to collate pools of big data and autonomously maintain their own infrastructures. Sensors are situated expansively throughout a smart city in order to monitor the volume and movement of vehicles and pedestrians, weather conditions and the health of infrastructure features.
What benefits can a Smart City bring to businesses?
Big data collated in the Smart City environment can be hugely beneficial to an array of businesses and particularly retailers.
For home and commercial deliveries, routing and scheduling can be undertaken more accurately and intelligently. A wide range of factors such as weather conditions, vehicle volume, road curvature and the prevalence of traffic accidents are sensed and collated in the Smart City infrastructure. This results in more efficient and faster routes, tighter windows for delivery and more reliable customer service.
In digital marketing, smart sensors can help you to track customers’ movement around a given branch, shedding light on their activity both inside and outside the store. Using internal venue mapping, groups of customers can be dynamically mapped, as well as their trajectory before and after entering the store. This can be utilised for more intelligent customer profiling, and with bespoke offers and discounts, conversion can be driven and consumer loyalty can be reinforced.
Smart tags can also be used by businesses for security purposes. If an item is removed from a commercial premise without having been deactivated first, the tag transmits its exact location in order to facilitate the recovery of the item. As cities become smarter and sensors proliferate, it will become easier to track down missing and stolen items. Indeed, the smart tag will soon be an asset for both businesses and law enforcement alike.
What are the challenges associated with Smart Cities, such as the associated costs or changes to business processes?
The most immediate challenge is the initial investment required to proliferate the spread of smart sensors in urban environments and the research necessary to make these devices more intelligent. This investment becomes more worthwhile as the smart city ecosystem proliferates however, during which time these initial prices will inevitably fall.
In addition to this, the sheer diversity of data formats produced between sensors could prove problematic at first, with data about the city being produced and supplied in a variety of ways. Indeed, datasets will be created in a range of formats including API’s and Xml, and initially it will fall on businesses to understand how to consume it.
A key issue at the moment is also security. These Smart City sensors need to be intuitive but not too intuitive, and should not aggressively impinge upon consumers’ privacy for the sake of commercial growth. Moreover, it is paramount that the data collated is safeguarded from unsolicited third parties or hackers to protect the interests of both consumer and business alike.
How much elasticity in supply chain performance is possible when it comes to handling Smart City data driven intelligence?
During the course of a commercial delivery route, detours sometimes need to be made in order to accommodate unforeseen circumstances such as abrupt changes to weather or traffic conditions. With Smart City technology, these can be quickly and easily integrated into logistics planning systems.
Scheduling systems that plan the deliveries of goods and services days, weeks or months in advance cannot generally take future events into account unless they are long term closures or disruptions. Indeed, central routing engines don’t tend to send detailed customised routes to satnavs in the vehicle, and generally telematics solution tracking vehicles do not capture tertiary information until it is too late.
With smart cities however, real-time data can be continuously transmitted to both the vehicle’s GPS and the central routing system from the infrastructure itself. This new real-time dynamic allows for responsive routing solutions that reflect up-to-the-minute Smart City data, making routing responsive to changing road conditions and ensuring that the most efficient route is always taken. In turn, this minimises time and frustration during the course of the delivery.
But what is the business case and where is the return on investment?
Businesses can work smarter outside of the additional benefits the Smart City will bring to business. From a logistics perspective, we still see all too many companies not using routing and scheduling software to plan vehicle routes and stop sequence whether that be deliveries or collect and delivery scenarios. Any logistics operation with more than 10 vehicles in use per day should have a scheduling system. Even companies with fewer vehicles but a higher drop density of 50 to 100 should have a system in place.
One of the biggest challenges to ‘running simple’ and ‘running smarter’ in a smart city is IT. A great many of the small to medium logistics firms still don’t have a great IT set-up, relying heavily on paper and disconnected IT systems. A more contemporary approach is to become centralised and digitized to allow the flow of information throughout the logistics ecosystem.
One problem that has resiliently persisted in this industry for the last 15 years is the abundance of poor address information. Even today, we frequently come across businesses that do not use address verification and validation software within their business, be that at the front end of consumer website or simply in the back-office.
This can be caused by simple human error; someone taking down a postcode wrongly, but still being a valid one, misinterpreting S’s and 5’s, 7’s and 1’s, A’s & 4’s, 2’s & Z’s, for example. Addresses can be perfectly wrong, by this I mean that the postcode and rest of the address are both correct, but the postcode doesn’t match the house number or street name in that postcode.
From a different perspective, often delivery drivers will simply key in a postcode and perhaps house number into a Satnav and off they drive, not knowing that it is the wrong location if looking at the address in full. At the end of the day, they are not address data experts, but simply need to get from A to B to C as efficiently as possible to collect or deliver product.
How can allmapdata from CACI help to deliver this?
Because we have an intimate understanding of the end-to-end business processes within the logistics and supply chain environment, we know where to discover key challenges and how to quickly fix them. Swiftly addressing 80% of straightforward problems leaves time to address the more challenging 20%.
We continue to work with our existing customers to drive through continuous improvement in operations incumbent on new software and geographic data solutions. The key benefit to working with us is that we understand the journey from distribution centre to shop or front door.
Address Cleaning & Validation
If you do not have any address cleansing software in-house already, the allmapdata team can undertake an audit of your customer and delivery addresses to understand their existing quality and how this can be improved.
In addition, we can license a wide range of address validation solutions and address capture. These can be used on company websites, call centres, for batch cleansing and for use with a wide variety of operating Systems and integration of software packages.
Premise level (rooftop) geocoding
We can either pre-geocode your own data with premise level geocodes as a bureau service for use in scheduling, satnav and telematics applications or supply these tools to you. We offer solutions for the United Kingdom and Internationally.
Street Level Mapping for Vehicle Routing and Scheduling (optimisation) engines
Having up-to-date street level mapping is key to running a successful logistics operation, particularly when building new roads and housing developments. This reduces the amount of ‘snap distance’ used by routing engines to reach the delivery or collection location, whether this is being achieved by vehicle or on foot.
Road Speeds linked to Street level Networks
Planning a logistics delivery solution requires realistic road speeds by time of day, day of week or week of year to be included to make it match ‘real life’ as much as possible. This level of realism enables achievable routes, improved customer service, happier drivers and also identifies if the operation has enough mobile asset capacity to undertake the work.
Satnav / Mobile Data Terminals
The interaction between satnav and mobile data terminals is central to the effective routing and scheduling of mobile assets for any medium or large business. When a modern business’ trucks leave the depot, their satnavs are already programmed with a route to help drivers find their way.
Allmapdata from CACI enables your business to map out the most efficient, fastest and cheapest routes possible with a suite of routing data products. These allow your mobile data terminals to utilise a more accurate and concise awareness of the relevant territories and be more reactive when the unexpected occurs.
Telematics Solution (vehicle tracking) ASP and Desktop solutions
Whether tracking vehicles for insurance purposes or to maintain a real-time knowledge of the movement of your mobile assets, vehicle tracking is crucial for a range of businesses. Allmapdata from CACI facilitates vehicle tracking by providing background maps, data about legal speed limits or average driven speeds on each segment of road, volume of traffic or numbers of previous accidents on specific stretches of road.
What are the benefits of allmapdata from CACIs’ systems over more readily available platforms?
Allmapdata can provide solutions for your existing platforms or provide a truly bespoke data solution to be consumed by your existing software infrastructure. This approach enhances results generated and facilitates better decision making and service allocation for logistics applications.
Why is what you do important, and how so for retail and logistics specifically?
The allmapdata team have created detailed profiles of every premise in the country to help logistics and delivery companies better understand the time it will take to deliver product to customers. This is for routing and scheduling systems that allocate goods for delivery to depots and specific vans and specific shifts based on specified delivery time windows and the navigation piece to get the van to the doorstep.
Due to calls from a number of our retailer customers in the UK and abroad, we set to work building a suite of products called AddressAnalytix™. For each individual premise address that we provide geographical co-ordinates for, we initially classify the residential properties as follows: detached, semi-detached, terraced and self-contained flat – with high, medium & low density.
Depending on the product variant, the Smart Cities edition also contains a wide range of contextual information suiting the needs of government, communities, groups and individuals. We combine this with our detailed historic road speed database – derived from billions of GPS points – to provide more realistic road speeds. These can be achieved in the initial routing planning phase within the routing and scheduling system, even before the van leaves the distribution depot.
These two key components have demonstrated their worth to a number of organisations in the UK and abroad; some examples include:
– Example – UK Retailer
The premise level geocoding of 96% of this UK retailer’s corporate database was confirmed in the first pass address validation sweep, then a further 3% with additional field supplied by retailer. This only left 1% that needed to be verified in a separate feedback look. This meant that within 1 week of purchase, the client could route doorstep to doorstep in their fleet of 2000 vans. This enabled them to achieve better scheduling accuracy and truer mileages. The same data was also supplied to their in-vehicle Satnav system, allowing them to route to exact properties.
The true benefit of this is still be to confirmed, but conservatively we estimate it will save them well over 500 hours of drive time across a single vehicle shift, of which they run three per day, ultimately saving them 1500 hours per day. This has freed up online ordering slot capacity and diary delivery system and extra deliveries can now be made by each vehicle. The fleet can therefore be utilised more heavily, reducing the need to buy more vehicles to do the same or more work.
– Example – Australian Retailer
With our help, this pan-Australian retailer was able to build more realistic road speeds when undertaking home delivery. We took the retailer’s generic road networks that they had been using for several years and applied our expertise and geographic datasets to the problem. The result was that planned versus actual arrival times at customer doorstep were increased by 35% (in + or – 1 minute) and a further 30% (in + or – 5 minutes) of reality compared with before. Deviation from planned delivery throughout the day has been significantly reduced and on-time performance was up nearly 2% in the first week; they continue to deliver record volumes.
Allmapdata from CACI are facilitating a vision of the modern Smart City through the licensing of a global portfolio of mapping and geographic data content. Our datasets augment the geospatial side of the smart city ecosystem, providing advanced geographic data capable of displaying an address’ exact location, premise type, surrounding road status and other key contextual information.