Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Physical Internet and Supernetworks

Now is that special  time of the year when surprise packages arrive at your door!

Recently, I received such a package with a letter inside from Dr. Russ Meller, well-known in logistics and transportation circles. The letter started with:

Dear Supporter, (crossed out with "Anna" handwritten over it) 

Along with this note you'll find a copy of the first book published on the Physical Internet (The Physical Internet: The Network of Logistics Networks). There were only 100 published - so, hang onto this collector's item!

The image of the book is above and it  is co-authored by Eric Ballot, Benoit Montreuil, and Russel D. Meller.

I felt very special getting a copy and expressed by appreciation in a Thank You message to Russ!

I have almost finished reading the book, which I am enjoying very much. It is a glossy production, not surprising, since it was published in beautiful Paris. There are numerous figures, networks images, bar charts, and tables.

The basic premise is that "Like the Digital Internet that conveys data, the concept is to connect and synchronize all logistics networks to create a collaborative and robust physical network of networks, capable of continually optimizing the shipment of "encapsulated" goods of many times and sizes."

Performance indicators are provided, including the impact on environmental emissions and the optimization of both the operator's and customer's economic models. There are also mini case studies throughout.

When I read "network of networks" I immediately thought of Supernetworks!

And, coincidentally, our supernetwork research group has been, for over a decade, contributing to the vast literature on supply chains with a focus on the network aspects.  Also, for the past 3 years we have been working on ChoiceNet, an NSF-funded multiuniversity project to develop an economy plane for the Internet. In fact, my collaborator, Professor Tilman Wolf, spoke on our project just this past Friday in our INFORMS Speaker Series.

Interestingly, in contrast to what the authors of the new book emphasize, we are doing the converse. We are bringing ideas from supply chain networks to the Future Internet Architecture(s) using network theory, game theory, variational inequality theory as well as projected dynamical systems theory. The work is multidisciplinary, as it should be, since knowledge about engineering, computer science, economics and operations research/management science are needed to explore all the relevant issues.

It is very exciting to see the commonalities being bridged from a supernetwork perspective! 

For some background on the foundation of the Physical Internet, see the paper by the book's co-authors.