The original research questions for the TransSONIC project were as follows:
Main question: What technological and social innovations enable self-organization to provide integrated, seamless multimodal transport services?
This overarching question can be broken down into a number of sub-questions. Each of these will be addressed by a separate researcher, and by a part of the research consortium.
Sub-question 1: What are the main barriers and enablers from a social perspective for self-organization in a large multi-modal transport network involving multiple transport operators, asset owners and service providers?
The first question within the project is to find the blockers and enablers for self-organization in complex multi-modal transport networks. From earlier research we already know that lack of situational awareness and lack of trust play a major role, but the root causes for these issues need to be researched further to address the root causes in this project rather than providing solutions that only scratch the surface. It is expected that lack of situational awareness and lack of trust for information exchange will be researched as key blockers for social self-organization.
Sub-question 2: What are the main barriers and enablers from a technological perspective for self-organization in a large multi-modal transport network involving multiple transport operators, asset owners and service providers?
The second question relates to the use of novel, but existing, technologies to overcome situational awareness and trust issues in the transport network. Examples are smart contracts and sensor networks, but potentially there are more. Issues that will be addressed in this part of the research are for instance: Which technologies are the main candidates to overcome issues as identified in research question 1? Which types of new service providers would emerge in the transport network if these technologies are used? What happens if these service providers start to compete and further fragmentation takes place? How can we overcome these problems?
Sub-question 3: Do new technologies such as sensor fusion and smart contracts, combined with social innovations such as new types of incentives and service providers for situational awareness, enable efficient self-organization in transport networks?
The third research question addresses the relationship between the technological self-organization and the social self-organization, and studies the interaction between the technological and social perspectives on the research.
Sub-question 4: How can block chain technology using data and smart contracts help to enable self-organization in transport networks?
The fourth and final question relates to the use of block chain-technology to overcome trust issues in the transport network, especially relating to smart contracts running on block chain(s). One of the more socio-economic questions is what data one is willing to store in a block chain and what conditions have to be met to store this data. Another is the impact on behavior of individual actors with transparency of data. Block chain thus does not address all barriers, but overcomes the major technical ones, in case semantics of data for smart contracts is common in the chain. There are four different aspects that need to be researched in this project for the block chain, namely:
- Robustness of smart contracts: currently, smart contracts are directly implemented. They may still have bugs, leading to weak spots in the complete block chain approach.
- Smart contracts, their semantics and operations: robustness of block chains and easy configuration of (semantics) of smart contracts, potentially with standardized operations.
- Consensus algorithms: support of different bundling strategies, optimization of process synchronization at hubs and corridors, etc.
- Mining and business models: identifying the stakeholders trusted by all participants, where these stakeholders apply the consensus algorithms. These can be government agencies, port systems, etc.
- Implementation architecture of block chains: although block chains are completely distributed databases, all (potential millions of) nodes always require not all logistics data and distributing all data would rapidly increase the Internet load. Innovative implementation architecture(s) are required.