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Last-mile delivery tech edges closer

Innovative goings-on recently at Nokia’s Paris-Saclay campus point to the near future direction of travel for last-mile delivery services in Europe.

Visitors to Nokia’s 2019 5G days at the campus have witnessed the sight of small ADRs (autonomous delivery robots) delivering parcels – safely secured inside built-in parcel lockers – to staff on a campus that employees 4,000 people. While it was all part of a ‘one-shot demonstration for Nokia customers and partners’ it might soon become the ‘default option’ for small parcel delivery on campus – and beyond.

“Campus facility manager Sodexo, together with Nokia have decided not to deliver parcel below 5 kilos to the personnel on the campus anymore. This means that any person working in this huge campus has to go to the central warehouse to get the parcel they ordered, which is not very convenient. ADRs could give great help in improving the service,” said EIT Digital’s Jean-Philippe Bellaiche, the venture creation lead of Last Mile Autonomous Delivery (LMAD), an EIT Digital-supported AAA* innovation activity which is creating a software platform to pilot multiple types of robots for various kind of deliveries.

He added: “We will operate an extensive pilot on the campus during the first quarter of next year. Our goal is to operate the delivery of all small parcels across the campus but, to achieve this, we will have to overcome some serious roadblocks about technology, authorisations, and customer acceptance.”

The Nokia campus trials represent just one of several scenarios that will be put to the test over the next 24 months by the LMAD consortium of partners, which includes BestmileGIM RoboticsBookIT,PICOMForum Virium Helsinki and Futurice. Delivering items, like groceries ordered online, and post – using small ADRs that travel from supply truck to customers’ doors – are some of the everyday activities the last-mile tech will be tasked with. And with a 2016 McKinsey report predicting 80% of all items will be delivered by drones and autonomous robots by 2030, the pilot will be central to European efforts to effectively integrate the technology.

“The transition from traditional delivery to the new methods won’t be finalised in a day. It’s a long-run market, due to technical constraints and the shift from manual driving to autonomous driving,” added Bellaiche.

Next up, the collaborative team plan to create a startup by the end of the year to ‘commercialise the LMAD’s software platform’.

*AAA activities are pre-seed activities creating startups with high impact and revenue potential.

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