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Independent Smart Machine-Vision Based Cargo Counting Module

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MARVIN (Independent Smart Machine-Vision Based Cargo Counting Module)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2015-10-31

The specific objective of the feasibility study was to assess the economic feasibility of the technology by preparing a detailed business plan to be implemented in accordance with the main innovation project. Four separate, yet tightly interlinked, tasks will form the outcome of the feasibility study: 1) Business plan to define the best strategy for the technology commercialization; 2) Freedom-to-operate study carried out by an official patent officer to ensure the Alekon´s innovation is not in conflict with any patents or commercial solutions at targeted markets; 3) Manufacturability study to analyse the structural design of the components and the whole system to specify the production technologies and 4) technical configuration of the system for adjusting and complementing the laboratory prototype solution for further practical implementation.
Based on the phase-1 study results, Alekon can validate both the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed innovation project. All the planned tasks were performed in right time and gave expected results. Comprehensive laboratory tests, prototype system assembly and configuration and operational experiments at Alekon´s logistics hub, gave valuable input to further product development planning. The tests confirmed the system´s high accuracy and reliability and also pointed out the key points of emphasis for the further development.
In overall, there are no significant changes in project objectives as the feasibility study confirmed the potential of the initial product development and commercialisation plan. Based on new key findings, we have adjusted the product´s features and commercialisation strategy based on end-users study and business environment assessment.
The feasibility study has also pointed out the main categories, where external support is needed for further developing the business and smart machine-vision based cargo counting technology. In the next product development and commercialisation phase, we plan to include several subcontractors for deep learning neural algorithm configuration, smart machine-vision module development, industrial design and pilot-manufacturing of the final products. The detailed business plan and commercialisation strategy developed within the phase-1 project help us to engage relevant stakeholders, attract external investors, form strong phase-2 proposal and ensure successful implementation of the innovation project.
All MARVIN project phase-1 tasks were successfully conducted on time and within the project period. The results of the phase-1 study were:
Business plan – a business plan and commercialisation strategy were prepared to ensure successful project implementation and product roll-out within the phase-2 project. The business plan included an overall logistics market analysis to detect the main end-user needs, market bottlenecks and amount of targeted customers. Competition analysis mapped the currently available warehouse management solutions and other similar technologies to assess the potential market size and development trends. As a result, no direct competitors were identified to Alekon´s CargoCounter machine-vision solution.
Alekon´s commercialisation plan is based on outsourced manufacturing and wide commercialisation network. The initial commercialisation phase will be based on Alekon´s existing client network from logistics processes and crane sales. The commercialisation strategy is supported by detailed communication plan, using specific strategies towards targeted stakeholders.
Patent study and freedom-to-operate analysis – Subcontracted patent officer performed a patent study and preliminary freedom-to-operate analysis at Alekon´s targeted markets. The patent study mapped similar patents and technologies to support the competition analysis. The patent study results and the freedom-to-operate analysis confirmed that Alekon´s product development is not in conflict with any other project or patents.
Technical configuration and manufacturability study – The study was performed by Alekon and Tallinn University of Technology for concretizing the product development´s specific requirements and harmonizing them in respect of phase-2 project plan. The study included adjusting the technology to the manufacturability taking into consideration the price and functionality requirements. Series of laboratory and prototype tests were performed, including setting up first prototype systems at Alekon´s logistics hub for the semi-manual goods/packages displacement automatic counting and identification. The tests focused on testing the software with different warehouse cargo and selection of most appropriate hardware components for both systems. As a result of the task, Alekon enabled to specify the component and materials selection for system design, validate the cargo detection and counting performance and conduct operational tests in real working environment, thus achieving Technological Readiness Level 6 for the novel machine-vision cargo counting solution.
Alekon´s objective in MARVIN project is to develop a unique smart machine vision based automatic cargo counting solution that would eliminate the cargo counting errors, increase handling speed, improve workers safety and bring significant savings for the industry.
Based on the phase-1 business environment analysis, competition study and technological feasibility assessment, Alekon has all resources and unique position to take advantage of the market opportunity and commercialise a novel machine vision based automatic cargo counting solution. In targeted market segment, Alekon has no direct competitors and the CargoCounter´s added-value and user conveniences exceed all alternative solutions in commercial or R&D stage.
Alekon´s unique selling points and competitive advantages are:
 100% recognition, classification and counting accuracy
 Very low investment; potential annual savings from one unit around €200 000
 Very compact, modular design
 Moveable to loading site, compatible with forklifts etc.
 Independent from the supply chain, compatible with different cargo types, dimensions, weights
 Can read stacked cargo during forklift operations or individual cargo during manual loading
 Own power supply and backup data storage for at least 20 working shifts
 Applicable in narrow spaces (sea containers, trucks, warehouses, trains, planes etc.)
 Very fast reading speed, smart algorithm for faster image processing and cargo throughput
 Weatherproof, tolerates very high and low temperatures; low maintenance
 Unique research based technology (deep neural learning, machine vision algorithms) from TUT
 Connects with warehouse data systems and automatically generates shipment documentations
The CargoCounter will also significantly contribute to the innovative technology uptake in EU logistics industry. Also, the CargoCounter´s former development phase and the MARVIN project is a perfect example of successful academia-industry cooperation by which latest technological advancements and research is brought from university to real industry. Successful project implementation and following commercial success of CargoCounter would also increase TUT´s and other research institutions´ reputation and lead to other such cooperation between European industries and universities in the Baltic Sea region and beyond.
Manual cargo counting and shipping documents preparation
Forklift operations
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