The Physical Package Switching Network will be built on following principles:
Although we accept that any experimental network will not meet all the principles right away they will guide the research and development process.
For over a hundred years all wired communication was carried over dedicated point to point lines (telegraph system) or over circuit switched lines (telephony). In Circuit Switched systems switches within the telephone exchanges create a continuous wire circuit between two telephones which is maintained for as long as the call lasts. This was never very efficient and the only way to provide more connections was to string more lines, one new line per extra call capacity.
Now almost all information in wired communication (including all voice calls) is carried over networks of routers in network packets. A packet is a small unit of data with an Internet Protocol number attached, carried by a packet-switched network until it reaches the computer with that Internet Protocol address. When data is formatted into packets, the bandwidth of the communication medium can be better shared among users than if the network were circuit switched.
Our existing letter and package delivery networks relies on principles similar to Circuit Switched networks. Items are collected once daily from post boxes, they are taken to large sorting offices, then taken by dedicated trucks to be delivered by a person driving or walking a route which takes them to each location once per day.
The Physical Package Protocol will allow packages travelling short distances to be delivered as quickly as the network will allow, sometimes within minutes, removing the need for packages to travel to a centralised location. Packages traveling longer distances will be carried by Mules, eg. buses, trains, trucks ferries, self driving vehicles, etc. This means that the "bandwidth" of the system can be shared among all the users of the existing tranport infrastructure and can scale up much more efficiently.
Packages will be carried or "switched" between different Physical Package Routers and Mules by autonomous drones, either ground/aerial hybrid systems or entirely aerial based. These will be known as Pigeons and will be the "dumb wires" of the system only delivering packages where and when directed to by the Package Routers.
Another great advantage of the Physical Package Protocol is that Packages can be switched to arrive where the intended recipient actually is, not just their home or office address. At present this can only be achieved using an expensive dedicated system such as cycle dispatch riders, which do not sit within the existing postal networks.
In the 1940's and 50's Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short stories about robots and in the process created the The Three Laws of Robotics. In all these stories the robots were controlled by a Positronic Brain which was hardwired with all the programs the robot would ever need. Why a "Positronic Brain" and not simply a "computer?" Because at that time computers were so large and expensive there was no way to fit them inside a humanoid robot.
Despite this, a handful of designers, engineers and entrepreneurs started developing the sensors, mechanisms, actuators and tools needed to turn robots from fiction into fact. All they were waiting for was for the computers to become small enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to power their inventions. When this point was reached they were ready to step in and revolutionise production lines around the world.
At the Physical Package Protocol project we believe that we are presently in the opposite position; computers are more than powerful enough to run the system but we are waiting for robotics technology to catch up. And the following trends show us that this will come earlier than most people think:
Drone based deliveries have already taken place. A multi copter has lifted a human. Robot cars are driving on our roads. How long until we treat packages like data packets and let them find the best route to their destination?
The concepts behind the Physical Package Protocol can be divided into two main areas, the Data and Switching Protocols which determine how Packages are handled and the Physical Assets that do the physical work. For more information click on the links below.
Physical Package Protocol Dispatch Number - How each Package is addressed.
Service Auctioning - How the Package finds the best route to it's destination.
Switching and Sorting Protocols - How Packages in Package Routers are handled.
The Dispatch Data Log - How charges are calculated and paid.
Top Image CC 3.0: Track Gauges in China Railway Museum