The first company in the Silicon Economy environment is waiting in the wings to start up. Just a few months after the launch of the major research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), a founding team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML is bringing an app-driven platform for cloud-based load carrier management based on artificial intelligence to market. For the first time, open source components from the Silicon Economy are being used. 

The scientists developed the platform as part of the joint enterprise lab with the European Pallet Association (EPAL) at Fraunhofer IML. The open source component that has now been added is the »Digital Load Carrier Exchange« from a Silicon Economy development project.  

A big step forward

»Using the open source component brings both our company and our platform a big step forward. Integrating the digital load carrier exchange has saved us months of development time and, at the same time, provides the blueprint for the industrialization of open source software from the Silicon Economy«, explains Philipp Wrycza, responsible for strategy and sales in the spin-off team.

The market potential for such a solution is large. In Europe alone, there are around 600 million Euro pallets, 135 million automotive small load carriers, 600 million fruit and vegetable crates and 700 million meat and bread crates in circulation according to various surveys. Their tracking, booking and inventory management is mainly done manually or via special technical systems that have to be costly integrated into the respective IT landscape of a company. The app developed by the founders is supposed to help solve the problem: it is designed to digitally capture the exchange process, make it accessible to both parties and debit the associated accounts fully automatically – and in a legally secure manner. 

A new era in logistics

This is particularly of advantage for small and medium-sized companies with up to 250 employees, which can identify, track, exchange and manage all kinds of load carriers in this way. For example, AI algorithms in image analysis capture load carrier IDs and determine the type and number of a load carrier based on a single picture. In particular, the »digital load carrier exchange« exemplifies the cross-company networking and integration of different partners: For example, if two companies use the app to compare their pallet inventories, the system will automatically check in the future whether more advantageous exchange processes might be possible by including other app users in order to avoid empty runs.

»The complete digitization of both process and supply chains by means of artificial intelligence will herald a new era in logistics, emphasizes Prof. Michael ten Hompel, Managing Director of Fraunhofer IML, adding: »this spin-off is an important step that shows how fast new business models can be implemented in the Silicon Economy and on the basis of open source.«

The start-up of the scientists Philipp Wrycza, Michael Koscharnyj, Patrik Elfert and Jan Möller is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy with an EXIST start-up grant, beginning on 1 March, 2021. Then, the name of the new start-up will also be announced.