Urban logistics will move to a different beat after DISCO

By Carolina Ciprés, ZLC Director of Research.

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Work has started on a new, 42 month, Horizon Europe funded, urban logistics project, with ZLC taking a leading role along with 46 other partners.

The new project is called DISCO – a mercifully brief acronym for what may be the longest project title ZLC has ever been involved in – ‘Data-driven, Integrated, Synchromodal, Collaborative and Optimised urban freight meta-model for a new generation of urban logistics and planning with data sharing at European Living Labs’.

Put more simply, the project aims to support cities in the digital transformation of urban logistics and sustainable planning and to optimise and strategically manage urban space. Emphasis is on facilitating data sharing and developing urban freight data ecosystems that are efficient and trustworthy, and can accelerate the transition of urban logistics towards the principals of the Physical Internet.

There will be Living Lab demonstrators of some 23 flagship solutions across eight cities: Copenhagen, Ghent, Thessaloniki, Helsinki, Padua, and a cluster of Spanish cities (Barcelona, Valencia, and Zaragoza), this latter co-ordinated by ZLC. Additionally, four ‘follower’ cities – Prague, Piacenza, Aarhus and North Hesse will be observing progress and working out how the lessons learned might be applied in their own circumstances.

The various solutions fall into five broad themes, with the various cities exploring different combinations or approach.

DISCOCURB looks at the problems around street-level deliveries to bars, shops and the like by feeding real time data into digital twins to facilitate dynamic space management, making the most efficient use of street capacity and minimising conflicts.

DISCOPROXY (for Proximity) will look at the opportunities provided by the fact that, because of the rise of e-commerce and other factors, significant amounts of commercial urban space are lying vacant. Using this space to establish networks of local ‘microhubs’, combined with low-emission ‘last mile’ delivery, could be attractive and assist the achievement of Low Emission Zones.

DISCOESTATE will look at a rather bigger scale at the potential for multi-purposing larger buildings and infrastructure that are not in daily use – examples might be exhibition centres or sports stadia – perhaps as consolidation centres for last mile delivery. If multi-purposing can replace demand for new build construction, there is potential greatly to reduce the carbon emissions from steel, concrete and the like.

DISCOBAY (as in the bays of bus or train stations) will explore the potential of space in Metro stations and the like, that may be underutilised particularly at certain times of the day or night, to serve as microhubs for the despatch or collection of parcel traffic.

The fifth strand, DISCOLLECTION, extends horizontally across all these physical solutions, and is about developing and using advanced real time data collection methods to allow efficient, dynamic and integrated management of the various freight networks.

Looking specifically at ‘our’ Spanish cluster, the Barcelona Living Lab will be emphasising DISCOCURB and DISCOLLECTION. This will involve the close management of ‘slots’ for loading and unloading activities, enabled by sensors and time windows for different vehicle types and activities, and using DISCOLLECTION techniques and analytics to optimise demand management.

In Valencia, DISCOPROXY, DISCOESTATE, and DISCOBAY solutions will be used to develop microhub networks based on underutilised space. An interesting early possibility is to repurpose the former F1 motor-racing circuit (although urban freight probably won’t be moving quite that fast!)

In Zaragoza, (and it is nice to be doing something in our home city) we will be using DISCOPROXY tools with a ‘last mile’ operator to put microhubs into local stores. Then by using DISCOLLECTION techniques it is hoped to support more local purchasing, through  the “Volveremos” citizen card, which would generate real time data on patterns of consumer behaviour and volumes of activity in relevant time windows, which in turn can inform the dynamic management of loading, unloading and parking requirements.

From the off, it is intended that DISCO should work horizontally and collaboratively with all the cities discussing common or comparable problems, and learning from each other. But although the physical aspects of the various approaches are the most eye-catching, the key enabler, and DISCO’s early priority, is the creation of safe, trusted, cloud based data spaces that will encourage the sharing of data by all the very many stakeholders.

For more information please contact Carolina Cipres at [email protected]