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Open source technology in logistics sector

Why use open source technology in industries?

The word open source was first coined by Christine Petersen to a working group that was dedicated, with a goal to share open-source software practices in the broader marketplace. The working group values sharing of software for better use, cheaper offering and preventing vendor lock-in. In addition to these values, open-source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

A good example of open source is Linux, which became the largest open-source software project in the world. It is a free, open-source Operating System (OS), released under the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). Linux licence prevents restrictions on the use of the software, anyone can run, study, modify, and redistribute the source code, or even sell copies of their modified code, as long as they do so under the same licence.

Open source has gained success in multiple fields of technology. According to the Linux Foundation, 100% of supercomputers use Linux and 95% of public cloud providers use Kubernetes, 50% of global auto-shipments use automotive-grade Linux. Python, one of the most widely used programming languages in software engineering and data science, is open source. In addition, the most popular and well-contributed projects in open source in Github in 2022 are Flutter, TensorFlow, React-Native, Kubernetes, and Ansible. All are highly relevant technology and  skills being searched for in the job market today. Gartner also published a Hype Cycle Report that identifies and prioritises different innovations powered by open-source software. This report highlights multiple technologies in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, augmented reality and more.

Open source technology is being used widely in multiple enterprises. The industry-grade open-source product is called “enterprise open source”. This type of product goes through improvements, testing, performance tuning, development with a high level of security, and added Service Level Agreement (SLA) and support. Some enterprise open source companies are Canonical, Docker and multiple new emerging startups. The Red Hat report – State of Enterprise Open Source 2022 mentions that 80% of enterprises will use open-source software emerging technologies in the next two years. For example, in financial services, 9 out of the top 10 US and EU financial institutions use the Ubuntu operating system. Linux Foundation also published that 50% of the total 50 Fortune 49 enterprise blockchain deployments use Hyperledger. Lastly, multiple open source technology-based startups have emerged and attracted venture capitalists in 2021. Examples of these startups that managed to fund from $20 to $30 million are Conductor, RudderStack, Bit, Element, and PostHog.

Benefits of open source technology in the logistics sector

Across the world, people and companies have embraced and continuously benefited from open source software and hardware. The logistics industry, for example, has been a long-time consumer of open source. Established in October 2021, The Open Logistics Foundation promotes open source technology to digitise logistics and supply chains. The foundation’s primary purpose is to build a European open-source community to promote digitalisation in logistics and supply chain management based on open source and standardise logistics processes utilising de facto standards.

“We want to drive the digitalization of logistics forward together. That is why open source is an important success factor for the entire logistics industry and, at the same time, a driver for harmonised processes in digital supply chains. We consider the Open Logistics Foundation to be the first step towards a platform economy based on European legal standards and values. It is both a beginning and an appeal to the logistics sector to think of technology and processes together and actively participate in the open-source community.” the founding members declared in a joint statement. The founding members of this foundation are from prominent logistics companies in Europe – Dachser, DB Schenker, Duisport and Rhenus.

There are multiple advantages for logistics businesses if increased use of open source is implemented in the organisation. Below highlights some of them.

Successful open-source projects often thrive because of the community that supports them. The collaborative environment for creation fosters innovation and fast phased development of products and tools. An example of a successful open-source project run by a thriving open source community is Kubernetes, also known as K8s. It is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Through open source, global and/or local communities unite around improving multiple solutions that introduce new concepts and capabilities.

Open-source software is usually associated with the lower cost of the offering, as it may be cheaper than commercially-licensed software or in-house developed software. One of the factors why open source is more affordable is because it avoids functionality overkill and bundling with many proprietary products. In addition, there are numerous cost benefits when communities support the development of the products for free.

An additional advantage of open source is it prevents being tied to a single proprietary software. Vendor lock-in is where enterprises highly depend on the vendors and can become a hostage to fortune. However, suppose an organisation is in an open-source infrastructure. In that case, companies may survive the vendor commercially failing, ending support for software the organisation depends upon, and they may also be able to shop around for software support. 

Open-source software promises an open set of standards that can drive multiple logistics sectors to follow, facilitating digital effort beyond individual logistic companies’ boundaries. By promoting open standards for digitising logistics processes, each company helps each other develop, contribute and win. This open and transparent way of innovating helps solve the market’s problems faster and more efficiently. In addition to this, it is notable that some proprietary vendors also use open standards.

Another advantage of using open source is using this technology to solve multiple challenges in logistics. Open source can support some primary use cases mentioned in our blog Digital transformation and use cases in logistics. These use cases are (1) Real-time cargo visibility assistant (2) Asset predictive maintenance and repair and maximal utilisation (3) Digital transformation.

Summary: open source matter

Open source is the future of sustained innovation. Many companies have recognised the value that adopting open source technology can bring. Organisations formerly wary of open source software are increasingly embracing the benefits and competitive advantages of using it, including logistics.

By adopting an IT strategy that embraces open-source software, logistics industries benefit from open standards, lower cost of ownership, economically practical support and reduction or avoidance of vendor lock-in. In addition to these benefits, the logistics sector can maximise the use of this technology for customer-centric product development.  Multiple solutions in the open-source arena can help solve these use cases using technological innovations such as IoT, robotics, cyber security, cloud computing and data analytics, AI and ML.

How to use open source technologies in logistics use cases? 

Read our whitepaper entitled: Seeking satisfaction: Customer-centric digital transformation in logistics. It is a guide on making your customers happy using open source technologies and digital transformation for logistics leaders

In this whitepaper, we tell logistics leaders and practitioners a compelling story of customer centricity as the core component of logistics business strategy. In addition, we give further insights to:

  • Both lenses of the complexity and simplicity of the logistics landscape
  • Areas of improvement in the logistics sector
  • How digital transformation can help address the logistics sectors needs
  • Positioning open source technology as one of the digital transformation drivers
  • Open source solutions in the fields of AI, ML, cloud computing, cybersecurity, IoT, and robotics

Download the Whitepaper

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