Panalpina launches ‘digital hub’ technology arm in Zurich

This week, Swiss forwarder Panalpina debuted its “Panalpina Digital Hub,” the new Zurich-based technology-focused arm of its business that will focus on exploring cutting-edge systems, such as the “internet of things” (IoT), artificial intelligence (A.I.) and blockchain, with the intent of forming strategic partnerships with European start-ups to integrate these technologies.

“We, like many of our competitors, are challenged by new market entrants with innovative business models and digital approaches that improve upon the old way of doing things,” Stefan Karlen, CEO of Panalpina said. “The frontier of freight forwarding and logistics does not lie in new modes of transport, but in digital transformation.”

The above-mentioned technologies have become frequent topics of conversation among industry members for their perceived ability to overturn the way the supply chain operates and communicates.

“Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence will optimize products and services and create new ones, as can currently be seen in Amazon’s recommendation engine,” said Luca Graf, head of the new division. Referring specifically to the implementation of IoT, she said, “the challenge will lie in deriving the relevant actions from the wealth of data,” made available by devices like RFID tags, which collect temperature and location data from tagged cargo.

The company acknowledged that “it is difficult to predict when blockchain will reach commercial breakthrough,” but said it plans to start pilots with the new technology in the third quarter of 2018.

Panalpina also joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), joining industry leaders like UPS, JD Logistics and FedEx.

 

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