MapMechanics’ GeoConcept drives routing engine for PARIS container transport planning system

November 24, 2010 — The GeoConcept geographic information system from MapMechanics has been used by Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd, the developer of the widely-used PARIS container transport planning system, to streamline the product’s ability to calculate journey times and distances in real time, taking advantage of GeoConcept’s time/distance calculation capabilities.

The upgraded system is now in use with several container shipping lines and transport operators, some of whom are using it daily to manage fleet operations involving hundreds of vehicles each.

The PARIS system works by creating the optimal transport plan, automatically matching import container loads with export reloads, allocating containers to rail, barge and feeder services, and optimally positioning empty containers to produce the overall least cost transport plan instantly, saving planning time, cost and resources.

PARIS enables transport operators to plan complex vehicle movements involving multiple collection and delivery points, taking account of fleet availability, cost, distance, time and many other variable factors – and it can do this in real time, adjusting the plan constantly as resources and requirements change.

As part of the optimisation process, the system has to consider many thousands of possible vehicle movements in order to establish the “best fit” in cost terms for current requirements. To make these calculations, PARIS accesses a time/distance matrix calculation engine, which works out how long each possible journey would take.

As part of its continual improvement programme, Hutchison decided to look for a time-distance calculation system that could be integrated more tightly with the core product. In particular, it wanted a system that incorporated a full API (application programming interface), which meant it could interact with PARIS’s C++ programming environment at a low level, opening up new development opportunities for the future.

Few off-the-shelf routing products offered this kind of API, but GeoConcept matched its requirements closely. GeoConcept is one of the leading geographic information systems, offering an extensive range of powerful map-based analysis and display capabilities. It comes into its own in applications such as Hutchison’s PARIS through its ability to provide seamless “black box” integration with third-party software.

In this case GeoConcept’s SmartRouting functionality has provided PARIS with the ability to handle very complex routing problems at high speed. It takes multiple pairs of origin and destination map coordinates such as start and finish points of container movements, and generates drivetime and distance values “on the fly”. Its fast programming algorithms allow it to perform this task extremely quickly, returning the results in milliseconds.

In addition to providing a flexible path to future developments of the PARIS product, GeoConcept has also introduced some additional capabilities to the system. In particular, using GeoConcept makes it possible to vary the speeds allocated to individual road segments, which means speed parameters can be amended to reflect the “real-world” experience of drivers in the field.

This is invaluable, for instance, where a stretch of road is subject to frequent traffic congestion, reducing typical speeds to a level that is not necessarily indicated by its classification.

Having an accurate, configurable distance calculation system is also important because container operators tend to charge customers on the basis of distance bands, so these need to be calculated as accurately as possible. In addition, GeoConcept allows speeds to be modified on a broader basis. As an example, the system can use this ability to set a low speed for the whole London area to simulate the cost penalty imposed by the Congestion Charge.

MapMechanics has supplied both GeoConcept itself and the GeoXplorer Professional and SmartRouting run-times, along with digital mapping in the form of AA 1:200,000 vector mapping for GB and Geoplan Pro sector, district and area points for the UK.

About MapMechanics

  • MapMechanics has been providing innovative solutions in logistics planning, sales and marketing, digital mapping and geographic analysis for over twenty years.
  • MapMechanics uses digital map-based technologies to offer an extensive range of Web, desktop, paper and component solutions for a variety of business applications, from atlas production to business analysis, site selection, customer profiling and vehicle routing and scheduling.
  • MapMechanics distributes a wide range of data products including AA, NAVTEQ and Ordnance Survey digital mapping, as well as leading business and demographic datasets from many sources throughout the world. This data is listed in the Data Catalogue, which is probably the most extensive and up-to-date printed listing of its kind in Britain. It is published at least once a year, and is also available on the Internet.
  • MapMechanics is a major supplier of software solutions. It is the UK distributor of the GeoConcept geographic information system, which is used extensively in a diverse range of fields such as retail planning, marketing, healthcare, environmental planning and management, transport and logistics, site selection, network planning and territory allocation, telematics and command and control applications, policing and broadcasting, and central and local government.
  • MapMechanics also develops, supplies and supports TruckStops, one of the world’s best-established scheduling solution, and OptiSite, a widely-deployed network modelling tool. Backing up its extensive product range, MapMechanics offers a comprehensive service of implementation support and training.


Katy McKenna
Canal Court, 155 High Street
Brentford, London, TW8 8JA
Tel: +44 (020) 8568 7000
Fax:+44 (020) 8568 7400
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