NICTA Living Lab to drive better transport through IT

Trucking,shipping customers sign on but air and rail still to commit

The Australian transport and logistics sector has received a boost with National ICT Australia’s (NICTA) latest venture, the Future Logistics Living Lab.

Situated in the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, the lab is designed for transport industry and research companies to work together on IT offerings which will reduce industry-specific problems such as carbon emissions and road congestion.

NICTA received backing from enterprise software vendor SAP and German research organisation, the Fraunhofer Institute in its development of the lab. The project is part of NICTA's five year deal with the Institute to to solve endemic problems in transport

“What we think we can do is make the logistics industry a bit greener, a bit safer and more efficient with the skills that we have,” NICTA commercialisation manager, Dr Neil Temperley, said of the new lab.

Companies already using the lab include logistics giant Linfox, shipping organisation Hamburg Sud, Ericsson, and Google as well as the University of New South Wales.

However, while the lab has input from the shipping and logistics industries, air and rail companies are still to come on board. Temperley said NICTA was in talks with a number of these organisations but would not name specific companies.

Linfox Australia chief executive, Michael Byrne, said the company planned to use the lab to help it stay ahead of its competition.

“We can’t run our business without sophisticated IT systems,” he said. “I look at things like this lab to help us learn more from different people and gain different experiences from the community. That’s the only way we are going to stay in business. We won’t survive unless we innovate and change nearly every day.”

A pressure point for the company is the speed to deployment of IT systems, Byrne said.

"Where we would deploy things in nine months such as an inventory linked to an iPad in trucks, our customers such as Coles need those projects done in four months,” he said.

Linfox, an SAP partner since 1999, uses technology such as radio frequency identification tags (RFID) to track $51 billion of inventory for customers every year.

Ericsson is involved as ANZ director of corporate and government, John Kelly, said in a statement that it wanted to explore machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

Using M2M communications, trucks and vans could communicate directly with warehouses and outlets, without having human dispatch operators and goods handlers as intermediaries.

"Other key benefits include real-time traffic information which allows more effective route planning and in-vehicle information providing fuel efficiency and productivity gains for transport and logistic companies," said Kelly.

The lab was opened during NICTA's annual IT project and research festival Techfest.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags National ICT Australia (NICTA)linfoxtechfest 2011

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