2016: The year of supersonic delivery?

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When news that Airbus had patented a supersonic jet reached us, we immediately saw a flurry of possibilities for both courier and customer alike. Technology has rapidly progressed since the first light bulb flickered into life, and logistics has helped keep the ideas rolling. But with talk of supersonic jets, drone delivery and driverless vehicles hitting the streets this very year, 2016 could be an incredible 12 months for all of us – lets take a peek into the future and see what could be coming our way.

As Amazon’s latest advert would have us believe, the time for instant delivery (in under 30 minutes) is upon us. Like the happy family enjoying a visit from Jeremy Clarkson in the video, if you are located near one of Amazon’s Prime Air depots those much needed new trainers could be ordered and delivered before your kid even gets in the car for school. All you need is space for the drone to land – the rest is taken care of. But this driverless tech doesn’t just stop with aerial vehicles, either.

Google, who are pioneering driverless technology (with plenty of competition from Apple, Tesla and Mercedes-Benz) could be teaming up with Ford to make an entirely robot driven consumer vehicle. Although Ford are yet to announce anything regarding driverless delivery vehicles, the Ford Transit is one of the most commercially successful utility vans in the world – if there was ever a company to develop driverless vans, it would be the inventor of the mass-produced human operated automobile. Driverless vans mean 24-hour, time-precise deliveries at a cheaper cost to the consumer (both business and residential).

And it gets even more exciting. Both Amazon and Google want to test their new tech here in the UK as legislation is a tad more relaxed; just keep your hardhats close by for when the drones take to the skies. Amazon want their new toys commercially available by 2020, fingers crossed.

But let’s talk supersonic delivery. Airbus has recently patented the design for an Airbus Supersonic delivery jet, and its possibilities have us nattering like a sewing circle. The ‘Concord 2’ will travel at 2,500 miles per hour, with the capacity to carry only 20 passengers – the definition of dramatically exclusive. Its carrying space would probably be preserved for precious cargoes – think urgently needed science equipment, medicines, organs or even a specialized set of screws and bolts for the US military’s new aircraft carrier half way out to sea.

This tech might cost more than an enjoyable weekend holiday, but once commercially available, ordering a book from Honk Kong could see it arrive in a matter of hours. The jet could land and with a delivery drone first collecting and then delivering the parcel right outside your window – redefining international delivery!

Bringing it back down to Earth, convenience for both the courier and the consumer will always lead to innovation – which means access points are going to be a major factor in 2016. Residential door-to-door delivery is expensive for couriers, and collecting parcels at nearby access points removes the inconvenience of missing customers while they are out at work (nobody likes dealing with a ‘delivery missed’ slip). How we interact with these access points is also exciting, especially with the introduction of retina scanners on your phone. Alongside thumb print technology, passwords will be rendered obsolete and security against hacking and theft will dramatically increase.

This is good news for those worried about people having things stolen at access points or from drones as they land – nothing will open unless it sees your face or thumb. We also think access points will be utilized by couriers using drones who operate in heavily congested areas. Did you know DHL have taken it a step further and are already using their ‘Parcelcopter’ to make medicinal deliveries to a small German island called Juist?

One of the greatest positives to all this new tech is the reduction in congestion within cities, which is great for the consumer and great for the environment. In Gothenburg, Sweden, the city authorities have asked carriers to pool together city center deliveries in one consolidation center. They are then delivered to the stores in one truck. Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, has even introduced electric trucks that are slimmer and easier to drive. Architects and engineers have floated the idea of a dedicated cycle path above the London train lines, perfect for bike messengers, and even suggested turning the Underground Circle train line in the UK capital city into a moving walkway.

Bicycle couriers are also expected to use new transport tech and they won’t only be taking voluminous legal documents anymore, either. During the 2012 Olympics in London, one courier company did all of its deliveries through a partnership with a bike courier team in order to dodge the overwhelming traffic. Other bicycle couriers now do a steady trade running hard drives between companies, as file sizes have gotten so large that it’s quicker to take it by bicycle than to try and send it over the net.

They’re no longer limited to what fits into their satchels either. Many now take to the streets on cargo bikes equipped to carry small loads, so they can move a bunch of flowers across the city for you, or even pick up a parcel and get it through the rush hour traffic in record time. In Glasgow, Cambridge and Norwich, Outspoken Delivery already works in partnership with international logistics companies to provide last mile support. As cities get more crammed and congested, it’s not hard to see a future where city deliveries arrive on bicycles.

As cities begin to make efforts to go greener, these are the sort of innovations that will define the couriers of the future. Who’s to say that one day we won’t be able to just have a quick walk through the Circle Line to pick up a parcel from a click-and-collect location? We’ve already seen companies like UPS start toward this future with the introduction of their Access Points. In the end, as amazing as it would be to be able to fly parcels around the globe in hours, it’s solutions closer to home that will define the future of logistics.

Richard Heasman is the editorial and marketing manager for online parcel delivery service ParcelHero and its family of brands. Apart from general marketing and online projects, Richard focuses on how new technology can develop the courier and logistics industry, while utilizing his previous career in environmental journalism to analyze the industry’s sustainability and impact on business and people. To learn more visit the company’s website www.parcelhero.com

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