Rural villagers in China are now receiving same-day delivery of goods thanks to the world’s first intelligent cableway logistics network which uses 5G and AI technology.

iBosst, based in Guangdong Province in South China, officially announced its answer to futuristic drone delivery service Amazon Prime Air this month.

A vast network of cables suspended at utility-pole height, iBosst iLogistics Express uses 5G and artificial intelligence to shift shuttle robots each carrying up to 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs) of goods in an initiative seeking to bridge the final ‘county-town-village’ gap.

Crucially, the electrical cost of running each delivery shuttle for 100 kilometres (62 miles) is just 3 to 5 RMB (34 to 57 p).

Online orders for goods and even meals are collected at larger county-level ‘cloud warehouses’ before they are moved at speed to logistics stations in townships and villages within 60 minutes.

In November 2019, iBosst trialled a 15-kilometre (9-mile) network of aerial cable cars, and on 13th April the firm announced the official opening of a fully operational delivery system in the city of Huazhou.

Called the ‘first intelligent ilogistics express,’ the fully automated, bidirectional cableway is now zooming between the town of Xin’an and the village of Xintang, dropping off online orders to 8,600 villages living in 34 settlements in between.

Due to operating costs, household courier companies such as ZTO Express, STO Express and Yunda do not establish service centres in rural villages.

But now the logistics firms can also make use of iBosst’s network to deliver their goods to villages, allowing rural residents to avoid what would otherwise have been a 6-mile trip into the nearest town to send or collect parcels.

According to iBosst, which says interest from foreign buyers has also been high, the smart delivery system satisfies four crucial logistic demands: flexibility, punctuality, speed and low costs.

At current estimates, the cost of building 1 kilometre of suspended cables is 500,000 RMB (56,860 GBP), while a village-based logistics station costs roughly the same.

It means a county-level warehouse, capable of supplying all towns and villages under its administration using a network of just 6 miles, can be established at a cost of just 1 billion RMB (113 million GBP).

iBosst has also created its own e-commerce platform to rival that of Alibaba, calling the software and hardware combination the “largest and most efficient” in the world.

The logistics service, which is extremely scalable, will be rolled out in more than 2,000 counties in a similar ‘county-town-village’ model.

iBosst CEO Jack Ma – not to be confused with the Alibaba founder of the same name – announced: ‘In the past, no means of transportation could solve the problem of ‘the last mile’ in rural areas.

‘The human cost of transportation by motorcycle or by car was high, while the cost of energy consumption was high using drones. The invention of iBosst iLogistics Express solved this problem.

‘The cost of our shuttle robot transporting 100 kg of goods for 100 km is only 3-5 yuan of electricity fee. Moreover, our robot can travel between the county and villages within an hour.

‘This kind of low transportation cost and high timeliness will greatly release the productivity and consumption power of rural areas, bringing about a logistics revolution and an e-commerce revolution.’

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