The physical internet – review, analysis and future research agenda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The Physical Internet (PI) is an emerging concept that applies the Digital Internet as a design metaphor for the development of sustainable, interoperable and collaborative freight transport. With the aim of aiding researchers and policy makers in their future efforts to develop efficient logistics systems, the purpose of this paper is to present a review of the existing literature on the PI, to critically discuss the concept and to outline a research agenda.

The literature review investigates scientific papers, project reports, specifications and other publications related to PI. In total, 46 publications were finally analyzed. The approach used in this paper is technology adoption by firms. The authors examine the PI based on four factors: organizational readiness (technological blueprints), external pressure (promised effects), perceived benefits (business model) and adoption.

A growing number of strategies, blueprints and specifications have been developed for PI, yet there are no currently developed models that illustrate how the move from the entrenched logistics business models to the PI could ensue. There is a lack of understanding of the business models needed that can involve critical actors and promote the adoption of the PI concept.

Research limitations/implications
While using the internet as a metaphor for reimagining physical transports is certainly exciting, this review and analysis suggest that several research questions need to be addressed before further PI blueprint work is carried out.

Practical implications
The “grand challenge” of sustainability in logistics needs to be addressed and improved, but the authors’ analysis suggests that, to some extent, it is uncertain how the PI will contribute to improving sustainability, and why logistics service providers should engage in PI. Policy makers and practitioners are provided with critical issues to consider in the practical development and adoption of the concept.

This paper provides an outsider and technology-adoption perspective of PI research, as well as important implications for policy makers and researchers.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Transport Systems and Logistics


  • Business model innovation, Grand challenge, Autonomous logistics, Intelligent Cargo, Open logistics, Physical Internet
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-762
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul
Publication categoryResearch