This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Dr. Takis Katsoulakos in his role as managing director for Inlecom Systems.
Inlecom Systems is an information learning and communication solutions company with offices and consultants in Brussels, UK, Athens, Ireland Spain and Italy.
The logistics sector is plagued by low efficiency.
For example, one fifth of road freight journeys in the EU are performed by empty vehicles. Software application developers, data architects and every other engineer involved in the construction of the IT stack must now realise that smarter, more effective (and subsequently more environmentally friendly) supply chains can only be achieved by more synergistic and collaborative use of resources to boost transport optimisation.
SELIS (Shared European Logistics Intelligent Information Space), a €17 million flagship European Commission-funded research project, was set up to address the challenges associated with fragmented logistics chains, more specifically:
(1) to improve information sharing between logistics stakeholders.
(2) to provide a platform that is easy to use by companies of all sizes, enabling a plug-and-play approach to sharing and analysing supply chain data.
(3) to facilitate real-time availability of information.
These challenges were approached by building a scalable and replicable platform for logistics applications, allowing a standardised exchange of data between any number of users in a supply chain community. The use of blockchain technology has created a trusted data layer, integrating multiple sources of data to provide greater transparency and visibility of supply chain transactions.
SELIS Supply Chain Community Nodes
SELIS’s approach is based on Supply Chain Community Nodes (SCNs) that have created a shared intelligence ‘data space’, configured to address the needs of a logistics community.
SCNs aggregate information flows in various industry standard formats that are generated by operational systems of logistics participants, IoT devices and controllers.
Specifically, SCNs supports transport & logistics communities to connect, allowing data to be collected from heterogeneous sources and thus creating a single data-sharing intelligence space in the Cloud, which physically consists of distributed connected data sources from supply chain actors.
Connectivity tools include intelligent adaptors, including translators to a common SCN data model; a publish/subscribe system for many-to-many communication of events with the ability to restrict who can subscribe to what data artefacts; and authentication and monitoring services. A Single-sign-on federated-enabled authorisation system is provided for services or data sources, which means that participants can deploy services via secure APIs.
SCNs also share aggregated data to provide a shared situational picture linked to a knowledge graph and event log. Where appropriate, shared data from the event log is transferred to a blockchain ledger, thus increasing trust levels related to the use of data with the help of full traceability, auditability and immutability.
Also, SCNs optimise operations through analysing the available aggregated data using SELIS Big Data Analytics module offering generic analytics algorithms in the form of “Recipes” (essentially pre-packaged industry knowledge) that can be easily configured to execute typical optimisation operations.
These include matching transport demand with available resources, accurately estimating cargo’s arrival time, and route optimisation. Predictive and optimisation analytics can also be used to cover smart contracts associated with route and mode decisions in synchromodal transport.
Moreover, SCNs utilise the supply chain context to incorporate methods, services and tools to facilitate better understanding and analyses of data.
To this end they support:
- Efficient aggregation, ingestion, cleansing and data operations (e.g. joins, filtering, schema transformations, inferenced links creation in graphs) of data and events.
- Efficient aggregation of information in various formats, arriving from different sources, i.e. operational back end systems, databases, services and APIs, IoT controllers…
The SELIS Knowledge Graph
An important innovation is the use of Knowledge Graphs to capture the SCN semantics based on relationships of entities relevant to a Collaboration Logistics Model, such as organisations, logistics objects/assets, resources and locations.
A Knowledge Graph integrates spatial, business-social and temporal data. It also provides an innovative mechanism to deal with the complexities of interconnected concepts in the range of millions of parallel events, and to accommodate information sources from open data and social media, where NoSQL approaches have previously been established as the database solution of choice.
In October 2019, SELIS published its open source components, including complex big bata Analytics, which are now for the first time freely accessible to the transport & logistics community for further development. This is an important step towards accelerating and broadening innovation, particularly in the SME segment.
The SELIS open source components can be accessed here — the project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Grant Agreement No 690588.