Three key technologies for forwarders to monitor in the future

What is coming to forwarder offices not today - but in the not-too-distant future?

Three key technologies for forwarders to monitor in the future

by Mark Ketcham
April 28, 2017 / Editorial

Moore’s Law states that computing power doubles every eighteen months. While Moore’s Law appears to be slowing down, bumping up against limitations in material development, manufacturing and the laws of physics, technology in other areas continues to advance at breakneck speed.

As someone who has been in the technology side of logistics since the early 90’s but around air cargo all my life (my father worked in IT at Flying Tigers), I’ve seen more than my fair share of technology change over time. From computers the size of rooms to, well…computers that now fit on our wrists.

While we can get lost in the day-to-day operations of our business, I think it is important to realize that there are a few areas where increasing computing power and more powerful, collaborative software are going to come together and change the landscape of how we handle cargo in the future.

Before delving into the three things that we have identified, I would be remiss to not call attention to the increasing appearance and discussion of AI, or Artificial Intelligence. Certainly one of the most visible representations of this to date is IB&M’s Watson who is helping consumers and businesses alike solve problems as simple as their taxes or more complex issues that require analyzing business intelligence and helping companies make key financial decisions on investments and infrastructure planning.

Information sharing and collaboration through blockchain.

Blockchain is the technology which underpins the internet currency known as Bitcoin. In my travels, I’ve now actually seen some retail locations that take payment via Bitcoin. The simplest description of blockchain is that multiple parties to a transaction can contribute information about a transaction while maintaining control and verifying the authenticity of what they are providing. More importantly, the data cannot be changed by any other party other than whomever provided it initially. This means that forwarders can receive notification of a shipment, create the air waybill and other documents and electronically contribute that information to a “file” that will then be added to by the airline with status messages and by a Customs broker and trucker at the receiving end all the way through proof of delivery. This has the potential to bring additional transparency and visibility through the supply chain while securing the information that is contributed from adulteration by someone other than an authorized party to the transaction.

Payments between partners and across borders will accelerate dramatically.

Think of how long credit card payments or wire transfers take to complete. The time is measured in days, and somebody is sitting on the money between the time it leaves your account and arrives at the recipient. The European Union is looking to reduce that to seconds, ensuring that funds are directly sent between the two transacting parties with no delays or time for someone to use that money for their own financial float purposes. What if we could instantaneously and securely be paid for our work, or if we have cargo held up for payment of charges like freight or handling or breakdown or storage, we could immediately secure its release by rapidly sending money to the party who is owed? There are payment platforms offering these guarantee services to facilitate shipments now, and it will only expand as time goes on.

Augmented reality and virtual reality aren’t only for gamers.

Strap a pair of goggles powered by a smartphone to your face and listen to the comments you’ll draw from the audience. But there are legitimate business uses for technology such as this. Imagine being half a world away from your agent and helping them determine how best to load a ULD or charter aircraft. Imagine wearing a pair of augmented reality glasses or goggles that will project information about a shipment into your field of vision and how especially helpful this could be for things like proper hazardous materials compatibility or loading. The more a shipment can tell us about itself without having to refer to paperwork or other sources, the more efficient we can be in handling it quickly, effectively and ensuring the customer’s expectations being met or exceeded while also provided the user additional productivity and overall job satisfaction.

Riege is focused intently on researching and deploying the most viable current technologies for our clients. Our Scope product for forwarders enables collaboration, visibility and communication between stakeholders in the supply chain. We know that our customers ultimately want to provide the best possible service to their shippers and deliver technology and solutions that help them compete and win business from multinational competitors and integrators alike.

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