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Parcels Find Their Way to You Via the Crowd

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An individual carrying a package for delivery.

The proposed TwedEx system would deliver packages via a chain of people, based on an algorithm and aggregated Twitter location data to determine the quickest, most economical route.

Credit: Radius Images/Alamy

Microsoft researchers have developed a concept for a crowd-powered delivery system called TwedEx, which would deliver packages to consumers without requiring them to deviate from normal routes.

TwedEx would deliver packages via a chain of people based on an algorithm and aggregated Twitter location data to determine the fastest route while also lowering costs, says Microsoft Research's Eric Horvitz. He notes that TwedEx is based on existing user routes and only requires that senders write the recipient's unique identifier on the package, such as their Twitter handle.

TwedEx forecasts users' average movements from past Twitter data to determine which people to hand a package to at intermediate locations based on the package's final destination. Users inform the network that they have a package, and the system deduces an optimal route and provides each person in the chain with information about where, when, and to whom the next handoff should occur.

Simulations of the system have been highly successful, with packages typically making it across the country in only five hours, Horvitz says.

The most likely initial scenario for TwedEx would be for the distribution of vaccines in developing countries, says TwedEx contributor Adam Sadilek.

From New Scientist
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