AI is the future of trade

Paola Copka
Written by
Paola Copka

The integration and innovation of artificial intelligence in international trade

Who would have thought that the last decade would be one of the most influential for trade and technology?

Foreign trade moves the world; 90% of all the products we use in our daily lives travel by ocean through thousands of routes that cargo ships carry out to more than 800 existing ports.

In 2012, I moved to New York with the challenge of opening Frutikas Distributing LLC. We Ataulfo mangoes from Chiapas and Oaxaca. Our containers crossed Laredo's border with Mexico to reach our customers in the Bronx and distribution centres in NJ. Starting sales was a huge challenge, but our biggest one was the traditional and complex processes of international trade—with several areas of opportunity to evolve and innovate.

Ten years later, the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has grown unavoidably. It revolutionised the industry from supply-chain processes, improving costs, collection, packaging and delivery times. It has also made routes more efficient according to weather conditions in each port, inventory optimisation, and simplified customs processes.

Imagine AI applied to more than 17 million TEUs moving goods annually worldwide, with digital screens that can predict delivery times with a predictor of tariff fractions. This scenario may happen towards 2030, although there are still hundreds of challenges.

One application is the collaboration between ports and technology providers from blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), AI and big data. Some of the ports are already in the process of becoming "smart ports", the new digitised ports that sustainably manage port services.

An example of a smart port is the one in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With a traffic of 140,000 ships per year, it has implemented an IoT ecosystem that groups the data from the sensors in a single platform. The data is validated in real-time for analysis and adding geographic information.

There is no doubt that digitisation is marking the future of logistics infrastructure. If all this happened in 10 years, we could imagine what would happen in the next decade.

Shipping companies will bring innovation with autonomous ships, and containers will be able to make decisions as if they were the customers with sensors and transmitters. All will be interconnected with a logistics system, and the current containers will have another use. We have already seen the first removable stadium made from containers at the World Cup in Qatar.

And although we have yet to see flying cars and space travel in the movies of the 80s, we are on the right track to facilitating the work of our future generations, focusing on the data and its implementation in our daily activities.

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