Freight transportation is a system that can substantially benefit from emerging digital mobility paradigms. This can take four major forms:
- The goods being carried can be equipped with various tracking and reporting devices. This can range from a simple bar or QR code that can be scanned, to RFID tags that can be queried all the way to an array of sensors that can provide real time information about location (GPS) and conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity). This revolution is particularly relevant for the container, which is a unit that needs to be monitored along complex intermodal transport chains.
- Conveyances are transportation modes subject to digitalization. Vehicles such as trucks, delivery vans, trains and ships are also equipped with sensors reporting a wide array of attributes related to their operations (location, speed, engine condition). Routing and navigation are particularly notable forms of digitalization as they enable much improved operations considering existing constraints such as congestion and the availability of a slot at a terminal. The next and much more complex step in digitalization involves vehicle automation.
- Infrastructure include the physical support of transportation activities such as roadways, terminals and distribution centers. They can be equipped with sensors to monitor their use and condition, which allows for more effective traffic management systems to optimize their scarce capacity. Terminal automation, such as for ports and distribution centers, is an ongoing digitalization paradigm.
- Business process supports the transaction rich environment related to freight distribution. Many internal business processes have been digitalized (e.g. inventory management), leading to productivity improvements along a supply chain. The fast growth of the data handled lend to the setting of electronic data exchange protocols, within the branches of corporate entities, but the requirements to more efficiently convey information between the actors involved led to more open standards such as EDI. Blockchains are an evolution of this concept by enabling the setting of digital ledger systems.