New ICT Infrastructure & Reference Architecture to Support Operations in Future PI Logistics Networks

ICONET was a 30 month EU-funded project focussing on the Physical Internet (PI) and improving its infrastructure, architecture, and future operations within it.

ICONET was launched in September 2018 with 16 partners from 10 European countries coordinated by the Belgian Inlecom group and ended in February 2021.


The key objectives of the ICONET project were:

  • Research, under the PI umbrella, into new business models that underpin intermodal transport, warehousing and ecommerce fulfilment;
  • Development of an experimental ICT proof of concept (PoC) Infrastructure Platform to support the simulation and testing of the PI concepts;
  • Development of new PI solutions for the corresponding Living Labs and verification of their efficiencies by representative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).


The ICONET PoC was deployed, tested, refined and extended in four industry-driven PI Living Labs, each focusing on one of four Key PI Capabilities (KIPC):

  • PI Hub, which refers to the capabilities of different hub types and the possible connections (topologies) to support optimised PI networks in which PI containers travel according to synchromodality principles, i.e. making use of the most suitable transport mode at the time, while taking into account the type of cargo, the available transport resources, optimisation criteria and SLAs, thereby setting up an interesting industry-supported use case where PI Hubs, PI Routing, PI Containers, etc., seamlessly mix with new Business Strategies and Models. PI movements between PI nodes include: from terminal to terminal within a PI hub; from terminal in one PI hub to terminal in another PI hub; between PI nodes (warehouses, distribution centres, others) in a PI corridor.
  • PI Corridor, which examines the transformation (modelling) of TEN-T corridors into IoT-enabled PI corridors, to support optimised movement of PI containers between two PI hubs and the broader PI network.
  • e-Commerce Fulfilment as a Service, which explores the impact of the PI on e-commerce fulfilment models, since last-mile transport is an important aspect of the overall PI landscape. Redesigning last-mile distribution centres to fulfil PI hub roles and investigating the role of other forms of mobile or multirole last-mile hubs fall within this scope.
  • Warehousing as a Service, which investigates the role of the warehouse as a key PI node acting as a dynamic buffer for flow between other PI hubs, so as to increase throughput of hubs, reduce congestion, etc.


Whilst these Living Labs were based in real industrial settings, the PI based solutions and improvements were achieved by simulations, carefully reviewed by the relevant industrial partners involved in the LLs. Results from these simulations are published on the project’s website (for links see below) and by means of publicly available reports.

ESC's contribution

ESC was a partner in ICONET with key contributions in three main areas:

  • disseminating the results to the logistics and supply chain stakeholders;
  • developing and evaluating the business models around the Physical Internet; and
  • developing e-learning modules explaining the benefits and potential achievements of applying the PI principles but also the hurdles and open issues.

Further information

For more information, please check the ICONET project website. The ICONET flyer can be downloaded here.

The ICONET project was funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 769119.