This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

drones 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jesse Lin, Project Specialist, Digital Trade, World Economic Forum LLC & Ali Al Shidhani, Group VP Technology, ASYAD Group,


  • Digitalization is the key to unlocking trade potential post COVID-19 and harnessing Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations for the Great Reset.
  • Tradetech and innovative solutions for trade facilitation are already being piloted successfully.
  • For example, drones used for underwater inspection and port infrastructure maintenance already show how the acceleration of a tech-ready mindset coming out of the crisis could be turned into trade facilitation’s opportunity of the century.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies. Telehealth services, including remote clinical services offered by telemedicine, is on course to top one billion interactions by the year’s end. E-commerce platforms and online retailers will likely see an 18% increase in sales by the end of the year even as overall retail sales decline. As the pandemic pushes more retail sales online, so has the surge in B2C parcel volume with FedEx and UPS reporting daily volumes at and exceeding “peak” holiday volumes.

Resistance to tech across many sectors is certainly waning and international trade is no exception. While much of international trade operations are still paper-based, the ongoing digitization efforts have raised global GDP by 10.1 percent in the past decade. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), international trade costs declined by 15 percent between 1996 and 2014 and new technologies play a key role in further reductions.

Technologies have long been used to facilitate trade from digitizing traditional paper-based processes to using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) to optimize delivery routes and predict consumer demand.

Tradetech, or the technologies and innovations that aim to enable trade to be more efficient, inclusive, and equitable, has begun to take root. Ideally, this tech will harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good.

Drones have taken off

Emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), and smart border systems are increasingly considered key enablers of trade. Drones and unmanned aircraft systems come into this bracket and have been used successfully in the facilitation of logistics and transport – which have been particularly challenged during the COVID-19 crisis.

ASYAD Group, an Oman-based integrated end-to-end logistics provider serving the Middle East and North Africa region, has launched a tradetech initiative, Tech Try, aimed at demonstrating technologies that can facilitate and improve trade by identifying use cases, selecting relevant technologies, and piloting and developing business cases for sustainable technology adoption.

Image: ASYAD Group Oman

ASYAD launched several pilots relating to the use of drones. These included: underwater drones; port infrastructure drones; drone delivery; and warehouse stock-counting drones. Underwater drones were used to inspect marine infrastructure in the port, detecting cracks and corrosion in the understructure.

The drones were more easily manoeuvered and penetrated tight angles to provide more visibility to the port operators. They replaced human divers performing risky and potentially fatal operations. These drones were also able to inspect hard-to-reach areas above ground such as fenders, cracks in jetties, and other potential defects in addition to the inspection of cranes and other equipment.

This helps to tackle the problem of downtimes, which is one of the inefficiencies that challenge logistics operations. According to a Trelleborg barometer report, 90% of ports surveyed suffer from unscheduled downtime. With an estimated $40 billion market value, ports can improve operations by utilizing complementary predictive maintenance tech to ensure minimum downtimes and guarantee a short turnaround time. The most recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Review of Maritime Transport acknowledged the importance of turnaround times, citing that a shorter time in the port is generally indicative of high port efficiency and trade competitiveness.

As contact-less trade became the new norm of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of aerial drones for delivery and warehouse stock-counting offered an ideal solution. Warehouse drones have been shown to scan pallets in under 30 minutes with 99.7% accuracy for a task that usually takes 100 minutes. This application is not unique, however. Other entities, like the Port of Rotterdam, are also implementing similar solutions.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – driven by rapid technological change and digitalization – has already had a profound impact on global trade, economic growth and social progress. Cross-border e-commerce has generated trillions of dollars in economic activity continues to accelerate and the ability of data to move across borders underpins new business models, boosting global GDP by 10% in the last decade alone.

The application of emerging technologies in trade looks to increase efficiency and inclusivity in global trade by enabling more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to repeat its benefits and by closing the economic gap between developed and developing countries.

However, digital trade barriers including outdated regulations and fragmented governance of emerging technologies could potentially hamper these gains. We are leading the charge to apply 4IR technologies to make international trade more inclusive and efficient, ranging from enabling e-commerce and digital payments to designing norms and trade policies around emerging technologies (‘TradeTech’).

Challenges to technology adoption

Drones offer just one success story. Other trade-enabling technologies include virtual and augmented reality, 5G connectivity, open supply chain information systems, and the use of robotics and automation.

But there are still several challenges to fully unlocking the benefits of tradetech. These span complementary technologies, regulatory and policy challenges, and the impact on the future of work.

In the case of drones, complementary technologies such as AI or machine learning and IoT improve efficacy and productivity. Consistent data analysis with the help of AI will lead to improved decision-making. Port infrastructure drones will be able to identify exact areas where restoration is needed.

Policies and regulations have to remain agile and adopt holistic approaches to implementation. The use of drones often requires approvals from local, national, and aviation authorities, and this can be a challenge as certification takes time and money, which may limit access to only the most well-funded companies and manufacturers. Agile policies such as performance-based regulation enables the government to close policy gaps as the technology continues to develop.

The increasing use of technologies will also have significant impact on labour and the future of work. Instead of divers checking underwater port infrastructure or warehouse workers performing a daily count of available pallets in a warehouse, we will need to either upskill or reskill current workers to manage the application of these technologies. Some have equated the magnitude of this challenge to the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing in the early 20th century.

 

What’s next: the Tradetech Intitiative

The World Economic Forum’s Tradetech Initiative looks to identify the landscape of technologies and innovations that aim to enable trade to be more efficient, inclusive, and equitable. Through a combination of expert consultations with industry leaders, and industry surveys on what technologies will have the biggest impact on global trade going forward, we have the opportunity to identify potential barriers for adoption and development needs in line with the Sustainable Development Goals for small and medium enterprises and developing countries.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Commission Vice-President Rehn exaggerates Eurozone’s growth prospects

Industrial policy: recommendations to support Europe’s leadership in six strategic business areas

Number of MEPs to be reduced after EU elections in 2019

5 ways to break down the barriers for women to access leadership roles

A Sting Exclusive: “On the road to Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement”, by Ambassador Katakami of the Japanese Mission to the European Union

AI can help us unlock the world’s most complex operating system – the human body

5 amazing schools that will make you wish you were young again

Healthcare guidance apps to professional’s continued education?

The world needs a circular economy. Help us make it happen

Victims of terrorism remembered

Banks cannot die but can be fined

The next generation is key for a European renaissance

UN appeals for international support as flood waters rise in wake of second Mozambique cyclone

UN expert calls for international investigation into ‘evident murder’ of Jamal Khashoggi

‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

A Monday to watch the final act of a Greek tragedy; will there be catharsis or more fear?

Syrian Constitutional Committee a ‘sign of hope’: UN envoy tells Security Council

Coronavirus: Commission stands ready to continue supporting EU’s agri-food sector

Norway is returning Easter Island artefacts to Chile (Will Britain ever return the marbles to Greece?)

MWC 2016 Live: Mobile ad industry still waiting for “revolution”

Brexit casts a shadow over the LSE – Deutsche Börse merger: a tracer of how or if brexit is to be implemented

MWC 2016 Live: Roshan CEO opens up on Afghanistan challenges

EU Commission announces Safe Harbour 2.0 and a wider Data protection reform

Commission sets moderate greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

Sudan Prime Minister survives attempted assassination

Monday’s Daily Brief: WFP mulls ‘last resort’ Yemen aid suspension, top peacekeeping awardee announced, abuzz over Bee Day, Ebola threat ‘very high’

EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: Second review shows improvements but a permanent Ombudsperson should be nominated by 28 February 2019

Why helping cross-border commuters is key to fighting COVID-19

Future EU-UK Partnership: European Commission takes first step to launch negotiations with the United Kingdom

Emotional control and introspectivity in times of pandemic

Why economic growth depends on closing the interview gap

The Khashoggi affair: A global complot staged behind closed doors

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

EU-Turkey relations: EU considers imposing sanctions while Turkey keeps violating Cyprus’ sovereignty

What if Trump wins the November election and Renzi loses the December referendum?

Nicaragua crisis: One year in, more than 60,000 have fled, seeking refuge

Trump after marginalizing G20 attacks Europe and China where it hurts, brandishes currency war

EU-Ukraine Summit: moving forward together in solidarity

MEPs to prioritise environment and climate action in next long-term budget

In Libya, Guterres ‘deeply concerned’ by risk of fresh military confrontation, urges restraint

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

The 5 lessons from New York Climate Week to help us combat deforestation

More than four in 10 women, live in fear of refusing partner’s sexual demands, new UN global study finds

Poverty and social exclusion skyrocket with austerity

3 ways to use digital identity systems in global supply chains

EU leads the torn away South Sudan to a new bloody civil war

Gender parity can boost economic growth. Here’s how

Technology can help solve the climate crisis – but it will need our help

An open letter from business to world leaders: “Be ambitious, and together we can address climate change”

Cyclone Idai: UNICEF warns of ‘race against time’ to protect children, prevent spread of disease in flood-ravaged Mozambique

EU-US trade war? EU calls for logic while Trump’s administration is a loose cannon in a dangerous lose-lose situation for global prosperity

This AI outperformed 20 corporate lawyers at legal work

We spend half our time at work in meetings – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Is history a new NATO weapons against Russia?

How three US cities are using data to end homelessness

2013, a Political Odyssey: What future for Italy?

The jobs forecast is unsettled. It’s time for a reskilling revolution

The European Parliament fails to really restrict the rating agencies

UPDATED: Thousands flee fighting around Libyan capital as Guterres condemns escalation, urges ‘immediate halt’ to all military operations

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s