Written by Michiel Leen, for Flows.be. (Translated by Logiqstar)
Flows.be has granted permission for us to republish this article.

Antwerp sets an example and strives to become the leader in ‘Internet of Things’. By embracing brand exciting new technologies, the harbour wants to make lost containers a thing of the past.

On June 27th, The city of Antwerp, Port of Antwerp, The University of Antwerp and support and R&D center Imec have signed an ambitious collaboration agreement which will make Antwerp the ‘Capital of Things’. This means Antwerp will play a leading part in the construction of a new “Internet Of Things” where apps and sensors will generate new and transparant flows of data. This data will engage research facilities and innovative entrepreneurs to conceptualize and deploy clever new solutions to make life in the city more pleasant, durable and healthy. Improved insights in traffic and cargo flows could provide solid answers to the heavy traffic congestion the city suffers.

A smart harbour

Port Of Antwerp plays a great part in transforming Antwerp to a ‘Smart City’. On a short term the harbor will evolve to a true ‘smart’ and digitized harbour. “Today we have a healthy ‘analogue’ harbour”, explains Jaques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port Of Antwerp. “But the target is a digital, more connected model. Today we’re taking steps in this direction with NxtPort, which is already causing a lot of disruption and excitement in the entire harbour community.”

But a lot more is about to happen. Today he Antwerp based start-up T-Mining is engineering a ‘Proof of Concept’ on the PSA-terminal which should make handling containers both safer and more efficiënt. The system will first identify and the follow a container on its entire journey, even when it changes owner during its trip. This entire system is built on the relatively new Blockchain technology.

Bitcoin technology

CEO Nico Wauters loves to explain the concept: “Today, managing containers requires a lot of administrative hassle. Each container gets identified with a special Pin-code, which gets copied again and again, for example when a forwarder receives it. Yet on a regular basis containers tend to disappear. This makes sense because whenever a code is copied, it can end up in the wrong hands. Blockchain technology will change this entirely. For example; today, when you send something over the internet, you basically send a copy. In a blockchain based system, a small ‘package’ of data actually departs from your system and ends up on in the receivers’ hands. That’s why the technology is such a groundbreaking innovation for applications like the digital currency Bitcoin. By cutting the middle man, you are always ensured you, and you alone have the exact and 100% verified piece of data. through blockchain technology we can give a truck driver the right to pick up a certain container without anybody ever being able to pick it up unauthorized. Today our platform is still in test phase in partnership with MSC. We hope to open up the platform by the end of this year.”

Keeping the digital spirit in mind, all important players – including the mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever – sign the agreement on an iPad. You can rest assured, soon it will be just bits and bites flowing through the entire world of Antwerp’s harbour environment.