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The chaos of megacity supply chains, mapped

Researchers at MIT are gathering supply chain data to improve logistics in megacities.

Researchers at MIT have embarked on a seemingly impossible task: tracking supply chains in some of the most chaotic megacities in the world.

MIT’s Megacities Logistics Lab gathered data on the supply chains -- such as how many and what kinds of vehicles were used to make deliveries, where they parked, and how it impacted traffic --  in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Beijing and made the information available through an open-source web platform.

But what's the point of mapping megacity logistics other than creating something that could be confused with abstract art?

According to Edgar Blanco, research director at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics and the project lead, it's not information that cities have been able to keep track of, especially cities with booming populations. Instead, city planners focus on the essential logistics, "but they don’t think about how goods need to move to the cities," Blanco said, in a press release. "Once they reach a certain size, there can be chaos."

Blanco hopes the database can be used by cities of comparable sizes around the world to make better decisions like where and when to ban or encourage vehicles to help the city run more smoothly.

“We not only have to design better logistics systems in the cities, we need cities that are designed better for logistics,” Blanco said.

Of course, there's a potential cost benefit here. As the researchers point out, five percent of the cost of goods comes from transportation costs in North America. In South America, the number jumps to 25 percent, on average. Improve the supply chain efficiency and that number drops and so do, in theory, the costs of goods.

Explore the maps.

Image: MIT

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com