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V-LAB (IP2001)






Projects - Virtual Logistics Multi-Agent Broker (V-LAB)

The support of the Informatics Research Initiative of Enterprise Ireland is gratefully acknowledged.

Principal Investigator
Prof. Gerard Lyons

Senior Researchers
Dr. Michael Madden
Dr. Des Chambers
Dr. Micheal McGettrick
Hugh Melvin
Dr. Finlay Smith

Postgrad Researchers
Edward Curry
Ann Tighe
Páraic Quinn
Albert MacSweeny
Enda Ridge
Ted Scully

Research Context
Each year, road freight transport accounts for over 1 billion tonne-kilometres in the EU territory. In the US, over 7 million commercial trucks drive a total of 0.2 trillion miles per annum. The global market for express goods is now in excess of USD 25bn. Despite the scale of the international logistics industry, significant market inefficiencies contribute to high economic, social and environmental costs. For example, up to 27% of all road haulage travel is for 'empty running' and the average lading factor (that is, capacity utilisation) is only 60%. Technological innovation arising from the convergence of computing, communications and satellite-based positioning technologies now offers significant opportunities for the creation of market efficiencies in the road freight sector, as well as creating new ICT product opportunities in the extended enterprise sector.

Research Objectives
This project integrates the capabilities of mobile intelligent agents, AI-based optimisation, GPS positioning and time-stamping, and distributed object technology to develop a prototype system for the real-time brokerage and co-ordination of 'on-the-move' road freight carriers. The prototype V-LAB product should equally find application in the management of metropolitan courier services. The project aims to develop the underlying computing techniques, architecture and algorithms, prototype design and pilot implementation, and will evaluate the system in bench simulation and field trials.

Commercialisation Potential
While there is no current defined market for the V-LAB product/concept, a number of reliable indicators of market development are available, as well as a robust economic case. This product addresses a very clear inefficiency in the operation of road freight haulage - the problem of moving empty or partially loaded trucks. In Europe, a 10% effective increase in capacity would mean a reduction of about 100 million tonne-kilometre journeys and savings of over 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

The solution of this problem would give rise to very large and quantifiable benefits for individual fleet operators and for the economy as a whole. Given the dependence of the Irish economy on the movement of goods by road for both internal and international trade, deployment of this product would yield a significant economic benefit. However, should commercial development of V-LAB prove successful, the product market would undoubtedly be global.

A recent stock analysis report from US Bancorp calculates the annual US spend on logistics at USD 900bn, or 9.9% of GDP. This report is very clear in its recommendations for the logistics software market and, in particular, highlights the opportunity for increased capacity utilisation through the deployment of Internet-based solutions. Recent forecasts by ResearchPortal.com suggest a quadrupling of in-vehicle devices by the year 2005 to a worldwide level of 10 million units, while the demand for Data Centric Small Form devices should reach 150 million by 2005. Estimates of the size of the agent technology market worldwide have been put at about USD 3.5bn.

D. Chambers, G. Lyons and J. Duggan. Stream Enhancements for the CORBA Event Service - Proceedings of the ACM Multimedia (SIGMM) Conference 2001, Ottawa, October 2001 - EXAMPLE - EXAMPLE - EXAMPLE

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