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To Reduce Cargo Traffic by 40 Percent, Switzerland Builds Underground System Powered by the Sun and IoT

September 6, 2017 by Robin Meyerhoff 1

“Switzerland is not famous for its big cities but if you look at the northern part it’s estimated that there will be 10 million inhabitants in the next 15 years, a similar population to Los Angeles,” said Daniel Wiener, a board member of Cargo Sous Terrain, the organization responsible for developing an underground transportation and logistics system for Switzerland.

He explains, “We have traffic and logistics problems similar to big cities. And while Switzerland has great infrastructure, the quality of logistics is not at the same level.”

Cargo Sous Terrain aims to change that and create a “world-class infrastructure for logistics” by 2040. Cargo Sous Terrain is a coalition of private companies that plans to create a network of underground tunnels that will connect major cities throughout Northern Switzerland. The goal is to build central logistics hubs in cities for goods that will allow companies to easily deliver them across the country.

Speaking at SAP Leonardo Live in Frankfurt earlier this month, Daniel explained that besides the increasing population, Switzerland expects a 37 percent increase in freight transport over the next 20 years. Cargo Sous Terrain believes that its 24×7 delivery system will reduce road congestion by as much as 40 percent.

Cargo Sous Terrain’s plan for the tunnels reads like something out of a science fiction novel. Driverless wagons will move goods from one urban hub to another. Then the items will be loaded onto vehicles powered by electricity, so as to reduce the carbon footprint, and bring them directly to people’s houses. Eventually, Cargo Sous Terrain hopes that driverless cars will take over this last stage of package delivery. Even better, the entire operation will be powered by renewable energy and hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent.

To manage this vast transportation network servicing millions of citizens, Cargo Sous Terrain has partnered with SAP to digitize its operations. Because the wagons – and much of the underground system – will be unmanned, it’s critical to have a technology solution in place that can monitor for any technical or scheduling issues. Together SAP and Cargo Sous Terrain are building a solution that harnesses Internet of Things and machine learning technologies to help ensure operations run smoothly and deliveries arrive on time.

Daniel, who also heads up the organization’s communications, investor relations and corporate social responsibility for Cargo Sous Terrain, said “People now expect to get things on demand. We need to guarantee an exact arrival time. For example, if they order tennis shoes to be delivered by 3 pm tomorrow. We can only guarantee that if we have automated processes from end to end.”

The automated system will integrate sensor data from pallets and wagons into the overall logistics and delivery mechanisms Cargo Sous Terrain is building. SAP Leonardo will help operations managers do intelligent, real-time route planning and predictive maintenance to make sure packages arrive on time.

As the project matures, Daniel expects that machine learning will help logistics managers better anticipate how factors like weather or item weight will impact delivery and autocorrect issues before there is a problem.

Dr. Uwe Kubach, chief evangelist of IoT at SAP, has been working closely with Cargo Sous Terrain. He explained, “In urban IT projects we often see IoT information in siloed applications. For example, information from street light sensors is only in street light management applications. The same is true with traffic information. It makes it difficult to bring it together with data from other sources and then apply machine learning algorithms against them.”

He explains, “Cloud computing can connect all these sources so you can use analytics to find patterns, and machine learning to take corrective action.” With Cargo Sous Terrain, SAP aims to create an IT foundation and the applications required for integrated city logistics that will address the challenges of urbanization and congestion in Northern Switzerland. SAP has already used SAP Leonardo IoT and SAP Cloud Platform to help cities like Beijing and Buenos Aires to address problems like traffic management and flooding.

Currently, the Cargo Sous Terrain project is in the planning and “get shovel ready” stage. Construction is expected to start in 2024 through 2030; and then the network is expected to expand across Switzerland.

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