Cainiao and Alibaba Cloud are also researching various scenarios where edge computing can be employed to increase efficiency all along the supply chain.

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About Cainiao

Cainiao is the logistics arm of Alibaba Group. Simply put, they make sure things get from A-to-B, but in practice, it is often more complicated than what it might seem, especially in the world's most populous country. To ensure packages get to the destination, Cainiao relies on Alibaba Cloud's IaaS platform. To fulfill Cainiao's mission of supporting 24-hour delivery domestically and 72-hour delivery internationally, Cainiao has used the Alibaba Cloud IaaS platform and built a "logistics cloud” that tracks packages at every stage of the supply chain. To achieve this, Cainao has built a knowledge platform to serve their three primary customers, the package recipients, business owners who ship items, and freight companies who deliver packages. Caniao's strategy is to use technology and innovation-driven platform for social collaboration. Given that the biggest challenge in logistics is data cooperation, Cainiao relies on Alibaba Cloud to make data sharing a reality.


To understand how Cainiao employs Alibaba Cloud services, one must start with Cainiao's public cloud portal called "Link" which is a logistics information platform that provides real-time access to information for both buyers and sellers. In addition, machine learning models and algorithms provide delivery service with methods to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of their services. By operating a total of five networks through Alibaba Cloud, Cainiao offers data-driven services for every stakeholder in the supply chain. Through these networks, shipping companies and express carriers are armed with a data platform to perform such analysis as best route algorithms. Warehouse and domestic fulfillment centers employ AI-enabled smart supply chain development tools that track supply and demand. For instance, a global network monitors international packages and a last-mile system shows packages' real-time location in the last mile of transit. Finally, a rural interface ensures that even the most remote areas are accessible for two-way shipping. The data platform for express couriers built on Alibaba Cloud offers customers data management infrastructure that enables address standardization and e-shipping, cloud computing enables real-time logistics data sharing, and intelligent algorithms improve efficiency through methods such as volume forecasting.

Why Alibaba Cloud

Cainiao's reliance on cloud computing has made a significant impact on their business. Their fulfillment network alone has increased exponentially to yearly growth of 170 percent. Adding to business improvements, consumer experience has also improved, with Cainiao's help and mainly due to their ever-increasing cloud network, Cainiao boasts an on-time delivery rate of 98 percent. Internationally, cloud computing has allowed Cainiao to increase their worldwide coverage, they now track packages and analyze shipping trends in 224 counties and regions worldwide, with 100 plus warehouses and over 120 partners domestically. In rural areas and urban centers, Cainiao has introduced self-collection delivery hubs and local community service centers, so even the most remote areas have access to its first-rate services. Cloud technology and Alibaba Cloud also play an integral part in developing rural growth. Each unmanned logistics and service center Cainiao employs is highly reliant on the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, IoT allows delivery lockers to securely open and close in order to store and release delivered packages. While this might seem simple, such usage of technology has allowed for the most remote countryside village to have access to the same quality of service as China's urban population. Internationally, Cainiao's use of the cloud has enabled the business unit to post some incredible numbers including forging partnerships with over 3,000 global partners and three million delivery personnel. At a daily level, over nine trillion pieces of data are processed every day, and over 80 percent of routes are calculated using algorithms to process big data. Daily delivery distances are over 50 billion kilometers a day. To put this number into perspective: that is over 1,000 times the circumference of the earth and longer than the circumference of the sun. By leveraging state-of-the-art cloud technology in the logistics field, it has been estimated that Cainiao helps save 260 million hours a day in delivery time.

The Future of Logistics

Cainiao has only just started to leverage emerging technologies and its researchers are currently investigating new methods for the use of IoT including packages that communicate not only its location but also climatic temperature, which is very important when transporting perishable goods. Cainiao and Alibaba Cloud are also researching various scenarios where edge computing can be employed to increase efficiency all along the supply chain. Finally, delivery bots are already applied in multiple closed networks, but perhaps in the future, they too will leverage IoT and edge computing to increase delivery speed and accuracy. So stay tuned and be on the lookout for a delivery bot near you.