The world-wide challenge of organizing transport flows in urban areas in a sustainable manner is enormous. E-commerce’s recent and spectacular growth has led to an increasing number of deliveries to home addresses and businesses. The pressure on the infrastructure increases, resulting in pollution and congestion. Often, the recipient is not at home or returns the delivery, resulting in a further increase in transport kilometres. Moreover, consumer-to-consumer (C2C) commerce is increasing, such as, for instance, the direct sale and trade (‘sharing economy’) between consumers. Traditional postal companies are currently dealing with these expanding package flows through proven yet inefficient transport hubs. Modern smart cities are looking for alternative ways of organizing the ‘last mile’ in a much more efficient way, without being successful so far.

How can the last mile be organized in a sustainable manner in urban areas?

This is not a recent issue and is of world-wide importance. The manner in which we want to address the issue of sustainability within the living smart campus is innovative, however. We will be using an infrastructure of safes (to be developed) located near the living and work hubs as a starting point. This infrastructure is already being built nationally by the company, based in Hengelo. DeBuren’s safes have also been installed on campus as well as in another 50 other locations in the Netherlands. However, without the development of a coordination and information infrastructure, these safes would be no more than an extension of traditional hub-based package distribution. Until now, all attempts to seduce consumers into using the safes instead of home delivery have been unsuccessful.

This proposal entails developing new methods and techniques to address this problem and testing them out on the Smart Living Campus:

1. Expansion of the infrastructure (product safes can be operated through a high-quality open internet platform (API)). The current information on safes will be expanded by means of sensors (e.g. image, temperature, humidity, etc.). Location and availability of the safes can be integrated into the logistics open data infrastructure that is in development in the Netherlands.

2. Development of new algorithms to organize the use of the safes. This could involve, for instance, setting up appointments between sender and recipient in which the most efficient pick-up time is chosen to limit the time when the safe is occupied as much as possible while remaining efficient for both parties. Appointments and bookings can be created automatically through multi-agent protocols.

3. Development of new algorithms to promote the use of the safes. Gamification and integration with social media to ensure that users become aware of the sustainability benefits. Part of the gain in reducing the number of unnecessary kilometres can be returned as incentives to the end customers. Integration of the safe infrastructure into the Campus App.

4. Focus on security through automatic fraud detection, detection of hazardous substance threats and of illegal transports, within the permitted privacy guidelines.