This Christmas looks like being a record year for on-line sales as Covid restrictions drive more and more people to buy presents from these outlets. As on-line shopping increases though so does the need for home delivery. With ever more vehicles delivering to our homes, in a largely inefficient and uncoordinated fashion, will 2020 also be a record year for emissions? Indeed, if this is to be the future of retail then emissions from home delivery is a real concern as we move towards a net-zero carbon future. What, then, is being done to address this?

We’ve all heard about Amazon’s plans to use drones for future delivery, but this is not the only answer. Drones are limited by the weight they can carry, and the skies would soon be full of buzzing delivery vehicles. Fortunately, there are other approaches to this issue. Cargo bikes are one. There are companies such as Zedify, for example, that are offering first/last mile collection and delivery using cargo bikes. It’s an environmentally friendly approach that also provides access to places that a van might find difficult. Then there are also ground based delivery robots such as those from Starship Technologies that are already delivering groceries for the Co-op supermarket. Whatever the eventual delivery means they all have two things in common. They need to coordinate delivery schedules and understand where they are and where they are going, building maps in other words. This capability exists to some extent already but, needs to be managed in a joined-up way as traffic increases and there is a demand for real time information and update. Ultimately, delivering on this comes down to the network these systems use. One that can provide the scale, coordination and performance that 5G can for example. It’s a network that will allow these businesses to scale and control their operations as demand grows because it offers unique capabilities for remote coordination and autonomous operation

Remote Delivery

As 5G networks rollout they will offer the connection densities that remote delivery will need as the number of delivery means increases. Something that is just not possible with existing network technologies. 5G networks can also provide precise positioning information that delivery platforms require, without the need for GPS, and crucially the performance to update maps and information in real time as the situation changes. Edge computing can deliver the processing power required to update and distribute these maps in proximity to where deliveries are taking place, making systems more responsive to the situation on the ground. 5G networks can deliver all of this

We will undoubtedly see more and more methods of home delivery emerging, driven by the convenience they offer, but they also represent and opportunity to reduce the impact of home delivery on the environment. However, the step change in coordination and management that is needed to seamlessly scale these operations will increasingly be an issue, but the future is bright. 5G networks can provide the answer and together with these amazing new technologies be a future Christmas present for the environment. Let’s hope, Happy Christmas!