IO

The not-so-hidden charm of logistics

Antonio Perini, CEO and founder of Milkman | January 27th, 2016

“Logistics is not sexy”: we hear this all the time.
“You don’t sell evening gowns or futuristic gadgets, you do home deliveries,” goes the saying that we know by heart.

Immediately, images of shabby vans and unshaved drivers dumping packages without much ceremony pop to our mind. If they’ve taken the trouble to ring the intercom.
Otherwise you get a notice of stock and off you go to some suburban office, GPS in hand, in no man’s land where country weed and urban cement fight over warehouses and parking spaces.

That’s a lie. Logistics can be beautiful.

Just think of drones, that in a few years will carry our purchases zigzagging through the sky. Think of the high-tech curves of Matternet, which is already delivering drugs to isolated communities in Nepal, or the retro-futuristic charm of the robot Starship, born from the impossible union between the expressionism of Metropolis and the pop art of Forbidden Planet.

Let’s think of startups like Koiki or PackagePeer, which transform a neighbourhood community into a social network for shipping and receiving goods, with all the human opportunities ensuing from that. Or to Entrusters backpackers, who take charge of items that need to be taken from one continent to another, and who we can choose to meet – with some pleasant suspense à la Looking Glass War – in airport lobbies or at the cafe in town.

Also, we can think of haute couture e-commerce. Today, in Hong Kong dizzying skyscrapers, high society ladies organize evenings based on champagne and online shopping sessions, and during these fancy nights they try, comment, keep or discard the purchased items. The concierge will then be in charge of returns. Soon enough, couriers – who will turn into fashion consultants – will bring us full collections of clothes and give us style tips (this already happens in France thanks to the at-home stylists of ChicTypes).

Consider the intuition of the young Londoners of What3Words, who gave a name to each 9m2 area of the globe, allowing carriers to find the doors to houses built “where the streets have no name” (as the U2 would say).

Finally, let’s think of new trends in food delivery: no more just pizza and kebab, but gourmet food by the best Italian restaurants, delivered in just a few minutes thanks to a logistic system whose technical hitches we won’t even begin to explain.

All these ideas, apps, objects and routes communicate with each other through an endless maze of wi-fi and bluetooth, ADSL and fiber, building a virtual universe and language (the IoT) that not even William Gibson could have dreamed of when writing Neuromancer.

Take it from us: the present is more science-fictional than the future our ancestors had imagined for us.

And this is sexy as hell.