International trade has always made the headlines across the globe and much of the debate revolves around the looming threat of trade war, vengeful tariffs and overall health of global trade order. Without sidestepping the importance, all this conversation still overlooked the most important factor of the international trade and that is ‘innovative technologies’ and the way they’re redefining the industry while making the process more efficient, broad and engaging.
Speaking of technological disruption, it isn’t something novel for the global trade system. Recall the steam power riot which connected the world unlike anything experienced before. Then came the shipping containers on which foundations of globalisation were imbued followed by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to decipher the container numbers, QR Codes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for tracing and identification of the consignments with basic digitalisation and trade documents being more reliable and efficient in light of international trade.
In the meantime, trade agreements presented before digital commerce age, transactions performed with a huge pile of paperwork and hassle, traditional banking and finance methods so on, global trade system previously lacked cutting edge technologies that promised efficiency, inclusiveness and cost-effectiveness. But not all are that bad as we’re now at the brink of transformational technology whereas most of it is already in the adoption lifecycle. When combined with available resources, international trade operations would surely move ahead and remain competitive for longer.
Listed below are some of the most important tech innovations we’re likely to witness in the shipping and logistics sector:
- Big Data, AI & IoT
The Internet of Things (IoT) takes on the application of sensor and networking technology bringing almost everything from devices, buildings, infrastructure and more on one platform.
In the shipping industry, it’s used to share valuable supply chain information without any human interaction thereby creating a rich user experience with data accuracy and deeper intelligence for all parties involved in the process.
The true potential of Big Data can only be experienced when removing all human involvement from the decision-making process which makes Artificial Intelligence (AI) all the more critical.
- 3D Printing
If there’s something that can potentially reshape the supply chain by bringing the balance between trade-offs and low-cost labour forces, inventory holding and transportation costs; its3D Printing. Upstream supply chains are localised as production is brought back in-house, no more outsourced to tiered suppliers.
- Automation & Robotics
The rise of ecommerce logistics is driven by the disruptive adoption of industrial automation and adoption as can be seen in some of the most advanced trade routes like the Dubai Free Zone. Though the tech revolution enhanced logistics efficiency, there’re a few repercussions due to the looming threat of loss of employment in the logistics.
A permanent digital record and solution of transactions is Blockchain technology as data is stored in a decentralised computer network. In particular procedures like cost-saving, data verification, asset tracking, accountability and compliance, paperless transactions, blockchain technology has proved its true potential.
- Digital Logistics
A pool of new and innovative technology platforms have entered the freight forwarding and warehouse market with the significant potential to remove discrepancy between supply and demand, thus leading to better utilisation of the assets and improved rate of participants in the shipping industry.
- Crowd Shipping & On Demand
Introduced to enable small food retailers and outlets for catering home delivery service, on-demand technologies can truly leverage by other sectors when it comes to the last mile delivery market. Crowd shipping, on the contrary, means involvement of human personnel delivering parcels following their journey which can truly create major new capacity in the market.
- Self-Driving/Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous or self-driving technology can and is already revolutionizing the face of global logistics industry. With technology giants in play like Google in line with vehicle manufacturers namely Tesla and Mercedes Benz investing heavily in the concept, it’s imminent before these vehicles find their way in the industry, on the international scale.