RFID tags the size of a grain of sand, nanoscale sensors that monitor the flow of goods and tracking technology that eliminates the need for warehouses could play an important role in the future of logistics, a government report has predicted.
These scenarios are three visions put forward by the Office of Science and Technology in an attempt to predict the technological possibilities for transport in 2055.
The project suggests that by 2055, RFID will play the most crucial role in logistics and food retailing, successfully monitoring
goods and working to meet the European Union’s requirements for traceability in the food chain. However, it argues that the main challenges to the technology will remain cost, data capture and customers concerned with privacy issues.
“The acceptance of RFID will not rest solely on getting the technology right,” says the report. “There will also have to be public acceptance.
“It is not obvious that consumers will accept tags as enthusiastically as retailers and privacy issues have already affected the use of RFID.”
The report also predicts the death of the warehouse, arguing that tagging technology will make it possible to transport completed goods straight from their place of manufacture to the purchaser or shop.
This is because businesses looking to lower manufacturing costs may find that it becomes cheaper to manufacture goods locally as machinery becomes less expensive and the cost of freight increases.
An increase in the popularity of online shopping, it adds, could even result in the “futuristic idea that new technologies will reverse the trend to make things offshore”. Encouraging the delivery of freight to ports closest to the products’ final destination and encouraging more companies to join together in delivery pooling systems could also reduce the number of vehicles and reduce congestion, it says.
The report also predicts that fewer vehicles using the UK’s roads in the future will lead to an increase in high street pedestrianisation. Green buildings with dedicated gardens could even help supply cities with fresh produce, it says.
Stephen Ladyman, minister for transport, said: “We can either stumble into the future and hope it turns out all right or we can try and shape it. To shape it, the first step is to work out what it might look like.”
Beth Brooks