Startup veterans want to fix Southeast Asian logistics with AI and blockchain

It sounds like we’re talking about logistics startups in Southeast Asia every other week – surely, the space is all disrupted out by now?

One Singapore-based startup doesn’t think so and has created a new way for ecommerce companies to work with logistics providers. Yojee has built software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and the blockchain to help logistics businesses coordinate their fleets and make the most out of existing last-mile delivery infrastructure.

The system, powered by machine learning, automatically assigns delivery jobs to drivers, reducing the need for a human dispatcher. This lowers costs for logistics providers and makes deliveries faster for customers.

It also uses a blockchain to track and archive transactions and deliveries so they can always be verified if necessary. The startup prefers to keep exact details about its use of the technology, including a few other potential applications, under wraps for now.

Co-founder and CEO Ed Clarke noticed a common problem ecommerce companies had during a stint at marketing enabler Ematic. “We had about 70 of Southeast Asia’s leading ecommerce sites on our platform,” he tells Tech in Asia. “A recurring message from founders and CEOs was that selling is getting easier because the market is growing, but delivery is still very difficult.”

An automated logistics network

Yojee’s software is aimed at logistics companies, offering them real-time tracking, pickup and delivery confirmation, invoicing, job management, driver rating, and more.

The system can optimize and manage fleets, eliminating the need for multiple dispatchers. And besides letting driver and dispatcher communicate, it also enables chats between driver and customer.

The startup claims that because it uses machine learning, the software becomes more capable as more drivers use it. It learns more about them, and then assigns a job to the driver it thinks is best equipped to handle it.

“Instead of taking two or three days to get things delivered, we can do it on the same day or the next one,” says Ed.

The startup also just rolled out a chatbot that lets ecommerce companies book deliveries without someone in the middle. The bot feeds the details (address, time of delivery, and more) into the system, which then arranges for the right courier.

This is valuable especially to small logistics companies that find it difficult to compete with larger international players. “In order to optimize better, you need volume,” says Andras Kristof, Yojee co-founder and CTO.

While most software focus on making an individual logistic firm’s operations more efficient, Yojee bands together smaller delivery companies on its platform so they can benefit from economies of scale.

One concern small firms have about working together is that they’re afraid of losing their customer and intellectual property to collaborators, says Andras.

“We have a system that can prevent that – it makes sure you can collaborate, but you are not exposing your IP, your routes, your drivers, or your customers to the rest of the ecosystem. Yet you can work with each other and make yourself more efficient,” he explains.

Making autonomous deliveries possible

Maybe the most intriguing potential application of Yojee’s tech is in enabling autonomous delivery vehicles, something the co-founders are passionate about.

Driverless trucks are being tested in the US as well as potentially in Singapore. Yojee’s automated system and data could be in just the right spot to serve this new technology when it becomes viable.

“What you want is a high-volume autonomous network to put the autonomous vehicle on,” Ed explains. “The autonomous vehicle by itself doesn’t solve the logistics problem.” The combination of self-driving vehicles and an automated management network can give even small companies an advantage over large fleets, he explains.

With Yojee’s tech, fleets of autonomous trucks could be put to use on-demand by anyone who signs up on the startup’s network.

“In that way we can kind of democratize autonomous vehicles and give everyone access to them,” he adds.

source: Tech In Asia