While all forms of transport have seen improvements, change has been evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. However, at a time when fast-rising travel demands, fuelled by population increases, urbanisation and globalisation, could see CO2 emissions from transport increase by 60 per cent by 2050, the transport industry needs to become radically more efficient if it is to be a sustainable part of the global economy.

A revolution in the transportation sector is fast approaching, with new technologies rapidly transforming private consumer travel, public transport networks, and the supply chains on which companies rely to transport their goods.

The technological changes at the heart of this are IoT, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) – which together have already begun to make autonomous vehicles viable. While in the immediate short term there are significant regulatory hurdles to be overcome, automation has the potential to reshape both how people go about their day-to-day lives and how companies transport goods across long distances. Once the number of autonomous vehicles on the road reaches a certain tipping point, private car ownership will become redundant as it will not make economic sense to own a vehicle which sits unused for most of the time. Instead, fleets of for-hire autonomous vehicles will become increasingly popular.

Meanwhile, mass transit is already being significantly improved by the introduction of smart sensors in concert with big data and predictive analytics. For example, Siemens AG has developed an ‘Internet of Trains’ project in Russia to improve reliability of service. Smart sensors monitor a wide array of data points, from rail vibration to engine temperatures, enabling them to anticipate equipment breakdowns and fix them before they become an issue in an act of predictive maintenance. This data is also used to help ensure that the network is adaptable to transport requirements – transporting passengers and cargo in the most efficient way possible.

Given that 65 per cent of transport respondents in our survey are already in the process of deploying smart sensor-based applications to monitor energy consumption, it is easy to picture a ubiquitously measured and sustainable transport system for both consumers and companies in the future. The pace of this change will of course be quicker in certain markets, but driven by its global nature, the transport industry will begin to standardise the way goods and people are moved, supported in turn by increases in global connectivity.

Collecting information on where energy is being wasted in the system by, for example, monitoring when vehicles are either in energy inefficient static or stop-and-start states, will enable organisations to optimise the system for energy efficiency – decreasing the environmental impact of modern transport. Smart sensor systems that can not only gather important data from vehicles but that can also accurately locate these assets will provide a more refined data set, enabling more operational efficiencies.

As the world becomes more serious about addressing its carbon footprint, domestic and international law will begin to ratify the collection of vehicular data as a compulsory step to combat emissions and improve public health and safety, just as legislation banning leaded petrol was enforced in the past.

— Mike Holdsworth, Director, Transport

Moreover, over half of those we interviewed intend to implement smart monitoring of their assets within the next year, illustrating that transport of the future will utilise technology to ensure that assets are only being deployed where they are required. It is therefore unsurprising that almost two thirds of transport respondents expect to achieve sustainability improvements through IoT deployments in the future.

These technological changes will not solely have exciting effects on how people move.

Smart sensors and analytics can also transform how organisations move their goods in the supply chain. This is clearly in the sights of many transport companies as a proximate objective for those deploying IoT, with 65 per cent expecting to gain greater supply chain insight in the future from their supply chain deployments. Automation is already set to revolutionise the logistics industry with automated trucks that never need to stop for rest and that are safer and more efficient than human drivers – a potentially unsettling prospect, when you consider how many jobs will be eliminated in the process. Nevertheless, there are huge gains to be made from technological advances for organisations that transport goods around the world.

The modern supply chain is a fiendishly intricate beast, criss-crossing continents in a complex web. It is therefore exposed to risk at numerous levels and from many angles.

Smart sensors can help to mitigate this risk on both a macro and micro level – for example, monitoring where adverse weather conditions could affect an individual shipping route and adjusting scheduling and availability of land routes accordingly. Supply chains always have to work with limited capacity at each stage of a journey, and IoT technology melded with predictive analytics will enable them to gain an unprecedented level of visibility over their operations.

For a vision of the supply chain of the future, consider China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which will encompass around 60 countries in a Eurasian infrastructure network. Fuelled by the growing Asian economies, this gargantuan trade network will require responsive and adaptable supply chains to function well – and here technology will play a key role, making it possible to navigate the project’s complex logistical and operational challenges effectively over never-before-seen distances.

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