Gerard van der Hoeven

Data hubs allow easy and efficient data sharing

iSHARE enables data hubs to supply logistics data to third parties. This means that data owners no longer have to set up their own data connections with those parties, but can make efficient use of the data that is already stored elsewhere in digital form instead. iSHARE Director Gerard van der Hoeven expects this new service to give a substantial boost to logistics data sharing. “It enables us to solve real problems that real people face.”

It’s a constant challenge: supply chain partners and government bodies requesting logistics data, which organizations have to conjure up from their own systems and then upload or send on by phone or e-mail. And all the time that data has been available somewhere in digital form, for example in a control tower or TMS, ERP, marketplace, eCMR platform, app or other data hub.

In the Netherlands, for example, carriers are required to supply their trip data to Statistics Netherlands. This data indicates the volume of goods transported and use of the road network. Statistics Netherlands shares the data with other bodies such as Rijkswaterstaat, which in turn uses it to calculate the average axle load on the road surface and determine the highway maintenance schedule. Carriers have to enter the required data manually in online forms or create and upload an XML file themselves. “And yet that data has already been recorded somewhere digitally. In many cases such data hubs already have a record of the trip data of carriers that collect containers at a terminal or use the digital consignment note. So what could be easier than authorizing the data hub to supply that data to Statistics Netherlands on the carrier’s behalf? The carriers only need to provide a one-off authorization and then they no longer have to collect that data themselves. iSHARE enables us to arrange this securely and efficiently,” explains Van der Hoeven.

“Logistics service providers can of course also share the data in data hubs with shippers or recipients of consignments. That makes it easy for them to supply data on the status of a shipment: consignment loaded, container collected, etc. So they no longer have to set up their own connections with those shippers and recipients.”

Substantial boost

By making data from data hubs accessible with iSHARE, Van der Hoeven hopes to give a substantial boost to the sharing of data within the logistics sector. “Up until now we’ve mainly focused on logistics supply chains, in which data is transferred from one link to the next after a substantial time lag. iSHARE enables us to share the data from the start of the chain immediately with parties at the end of the chain, even if those parties are unknown. But that still requires a data connection to be set up with those parties. We can get around that by extracting data from data hubs, with the data owners maintaining control of their data at all times thanks to iSHARE.”

iSHARE identity

Businesses that want to make their data available to third parties through a data hub need to have an iSHARE identity. That enables them to specify in an iSHARE Authorization Register which party is permitted to access which data. The data hub operates in accordance with the iSHARE scheme and can check in the same Authorization Register which data it is permitted to supply. Meanwhile, the user wishing to access this data needs an iSHARE identity so that the data hub can determine and authenticate the user’s identity and ensure that the data does not fall into the wrong hands. Lastly, a machine-to-machine link is necessary, for example in the form of an API, to actually supply the requested data.

More economic value

Van der Hoeven has high expectations. After all, with each data hub that is added to the iSHARE network, the iSHARE participants have access to hundreds and perhaps thousands of new parties. That increases the value of the network exponentially. “By supplying data to third parties, data hubs can expand their service and generate even more economic value. That makes this new service an attractive business model.”

Data owners and users benefit from the convenience of that service. Van der Hoeven: “With this new service we can once again solve a real problem that real people face. Earlier this year we launched Single Identity, which enables logistics professionals to log into various systems using a single iSHARE identity, so they no longer have to remember dozens of passwords. They can now also save a great deal of time by making efficient use of data hubs. They no longer have to collect data that other parties need.”

First data hub ready to start

iSHARE has reached an advanced stage in providing access to data through data hubs. The TransFollow eCMR platform has now passed all the tests and the first data hub is ready to start. The eCMR platforms of Collect + Go and Pionira, and the port community system Portbase, are at an advanced stage. “But we’re not stopping there. After the summer we hope to sign up the first inland waterway terminals,” says Van der Hoeven.

Two major operators, a beer brewer and a wholesaler, have now committed to using the data hubs. They hope that will give them a clearer view of the packaging flow and arrival times of consignments. “But this concept is also perfect for small operators that have yet to start or have made only limited progress with digitization. As explained above, they can use the data that is already available elsewhere.”

Single Access

iSHARE is growing. Data hubs that are affiliated with iSHARE are already providing access to data from more than 1,000 companies. All of these companies can benefit from iSHARE’s useful Single Access application.

Throughout this process there has been an important role for the OpenTripModel (OTM), the open source data-sharing model that serves as a ‘dictionary’ for logistics data whereby we agree on the language used. “Is the user only permitted to receive information about a container, or also about the consignment in the container? If the data owner does not make that clear, the data hub may supply the wrong data. OTM helps to ensure clarity without having to refer to specific data fields each time,” explains Van der Hoeven.