Recently, we announced that Mango had bought Street Stream – but what exactly is this, and what will it mean for Mango Logistics and Street Stream Customers?
Street Stream started as the brainchild of James Middleton. James had spent a lot of time in San Francisco and seen Uber, Lyft and Airbnb in their infancy, long before they became popular household names. Developing a touch of the Silicon Valley bug, James had the idea of a simple app for hailing bike messengers, who would work for themselves and cut out the middleman (i.e. the controller) – much like Airbnb cut out the travel agent, and Uber cut out the minicab office. From these beginnings, the idea grew into something quite a bit bigger.
Street Stream launched in 2015, including bicycle, motorbike and van couriers. Now, as then, customers can access a flexible network of courier services through a website that works as a real-time marketplace, connecting businesses who have urgent delivery needs with couriers who want to work flexibly. In the early days, James and his wife did many deliveries themselves. With an almost naive can-do attitude, Street Stream earned a reputation for getting things done with a smile, and many of the clients gained then are still loyal today. The bespoke logistics platform proved popular with a particular type of courier – those who wanted greater independence and more personal responsibility for their work.
Street Stream developed further by building an e-commerce API, whose electronic integration allows businesses to offer their own customers same-day and customer-nominated-time-slot deliveries. This feature offers optimised delivery times – something that Mango Logistics have a reputation for providing.
Another new feature was a multiple drop booking function. This solves the ‘travelling salesman problem’ – i.e., what is the most effective order to complete a given set of deliveries? The customer either specifies an order for their deliveries or opts for drop-offs to be made in a robustly route-optimized sequence.
And Street Stream did not stop there. While many courier companies handle multiple-drop circuits, most rely on the customer or the controller to decide how to group drops into those circuits: not an easy task when 100, 200 or even 1,000 drops, each with a prescribed delivery window, are to go out in all directions. The ‘travelling salesman’ problem is now an advanced one: if lots of ‘salesmen’ are available and each can make a different number of drops (because they are bikes, motorbikes, cars and vans and can carry varying amounts), how do you minimize the cost for the customer while maintaining a high level of delivery service?
With several hundred drops, millions of permutations require enormous computer processing power (and a long time) to reach the optimal solution. The team at Street Stream wanted to solve this logistics challenge in seconds.
Machine learning techniques supplied the answer. The Street Stream Bulk API uses a genetic algorithm to arrive at a near-optimal solution very quickly.
As the name may suggest, genetic algorithms borrow something from evolutionary theory. Let’s extend the metaphor to explain how they work.
A random (or quasi-random) starting arrangement is selected, then tweaked, or ‘mutated’. Each mutation that fails to improve efficiency is discarded; those that will enhance things are retained and further mutated. The process continues until the arrangement can no longer be materially improved. A near-optimal solution is thus reached much more quickly than by trying every possible permutation in turn. Job done, and another valuable feature added to the Street Stream service.
How will Street Stream develop next? Now that it is part of the Mango Logistics family and can benefit from their vast experience of local and international logistic solutions, we are excited to see how the Street Stream offering to its customers – our customers – will evolve further.
We invite you to check out the Street Stream website. If you are interested in the Street Stream e-commerce API or the Bulk API, please email the team.
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Mango Logistics Group is one of London’s best-loved courier and storage companies. Based minutes away from London Bridge/Tower Bridge, the group is made up of three companies, Mango Couriers, Mango Storage and Mango International which individually and collectively offer bespoke logistics solutions to a varying number of industries