Swinburne partners with world-first crowdsourced delivery company

Wednesday 26 June 2019 by Rachel Martens, Communications and Media

Swinburne and Passel team members

The Swinburne and Passel team, L – R: Dr Pei-Wei Tsai, Dr Hadi Ghaderi, Passel co-founder Marshall Hughes, Passel co-founder Julian Kelabora, Passel community engagement manager, Rebecca Campbell.

In summary

  • Swinburne is developing advancing algorithms to improve the crowdsourced delivery company’s service
  • Passel is a first of its kind delivery company operating through a sharing economy model
  • The project is being undertaken at the Data Science Research Institute

Swinburne has partnered with Passel, the world’s first crowdsourced delivery company, to develop advanced algorithms that will improve the company’s unique delivery service model.

The Melbourne-based delivery company was founded by Marshall Hughes, who saw a gap in the market for a delivery service that rivals expensive same-day couriers.

“The challenge for transport companies has always been managing supply and demand. You have to make sure there are enough drivers around to do deliveries so you can maintain a service, but if you have too many drivers your costs go out of control and people aren’t prepared to pay,” Mr Hughes says.

Mr Hughes says that Passel is modelled on a sharing economy framework. Anyone who signs up via the app – called ‘passers’ – are alerted when they could potentially make a delivery that fits with their daily routine.

“The idea behind Passel is that you could be at a store and the app notifies you that someone who lives in your area bought something at that store. If you deliver the item on your way home you’ll be paid $10,” Mr Hughes says.

Enhancing the Passel algorithm at Swinburne

Through the supply chain analytics program at Swinburne’s Data Science Research Institute, a team of researchers are working with Passel to apply data science techniques that will identify the best passer to notify about a potential delivery.

Project leader, Dr Hadi Ghaderi, says his team is analysing Passel’s data to create an assignment model that will make the app more efficient.

The challenge for Passel is to identify the passer who would be least inconvenienced by the delivery and offer them the job. At scale, it’s not possible to do this with the current systems,” he says.

 “From the data Passel has shared with us, we are using advanced analytics and real time optimisation methods that will consider a potential passer’s trajectory. We look at the routes passers travel and target those whose trajectory matches the delivery needs.”

Mr Hughes says he is delighted to partner with Swinburne to improve the capabilities of the platform.

“Connecting with Swinburne on this project is going to allow us to do a lot more, a lot smarter and a lot faster. We’re excited to partner with this university because of its reputation as being a really engaged, results-oriented research facility.”

The partnership is also valuable to Swinburne and its research efforts, says Dr Ghaderi.

“Passel has been really open entering into this collaboration with us and has shared its data with us. This data will enable us to undertake more research in personal mobility and logistics.”

Delivering for good

Aside from cutting the cost of deliveries, Swinburne’s contribution is also helping Passel address environmental issues associated with traditional couriers.

“Because Passel takes advantage of a journey someone is already on, net increase in pollution or congestion is either zero, or quite minimal. People don’t even have to drive to do deliveries – they can be walking, on a bike or taking public transport,” Mr Hughes says.

“We think we can help other sharing companies, once we perfect our platform, to enable the right person to help someone at the right time.”

There are currently 3,000 people signed up to Passel and more than 30 stores in Australia are using the service. The company is about to launch in Ireland and has had significant interest in The Netherlands and China.