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Artificial intelligence, big data take stage at WCS

By Adina Solomon on March 13, 2014
tagged wcs, technology, at&t

Steve Gunning, CEO for IAG Cargo, told the audience at the World Cargo Symposium’s Pushing Technology Boundaries track that all these air cargo conferences have a reason.

“Often, we’re stuck in the day-to-day,” Gunning said. “We don’t have time to think about where this industry’s going.”

He said the airfreight industry has been slow to innovate, saying that E-freight and the e-air waybill are not innovations – “just 21st century stuff.”

Gunning told the audience of about 60 people that the industry must adapt, whether that means new products or practices.

Shiraz Hasan, AVP-M2M (machine-to-machine) and mobile app solutions for AT&T, talked about how the supply chain can utilize big data.

Hasan said AT&T has seen more and more devices connect to its network, reaching 1 billion devices now.

“The big challenge now is how to process that information effectively,” he said.

With businesses receiving more data, air cargo must learn how to use it effectively.

“As you prepare for the future from a cargo and logistics standpoint, the key thing is: Do you just want to plan for today?” Hasan said. “You probably want to think about what the world’s going to be like in five years.”

For the next five years, the amount of data coming in will increase, an important factor to take into account when making decisions, he said. The big topic is being able to aggregate the multitude of information, create analytics on it and then make business decisions with that data.

“Is planning for big data really any different than planning for air cargo operations?” Hasan asked.

An example he gave of how AT&T uses big data is the company’s Cargo View product, which provides monitoring of airfreight.

Niall van de Wouw, managing director of software company Clive BV, discussed how the airfreight industry can use artificial intelligence to have shipments proactively report issues.

“It can make all the difference between making a cheap connection or taking up space on a busy flight the next day,” van de Wouw said.

Artificial intelligence software can also keep track of all shipments planned for a flight, he said. If a piece of cargo won’t reach a flight in time, the software can assess how much room is left on the plane – and possibly fill the space.

The rail industry is already using artificial intelligence to manage logistics.

“No fairy tale. It’s happening,” van de Wouw said.

He talked about a recent Oxford University study that found that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are under threat from computerization. In fact, it is likely that in the next 20 years, the jobs of cargo agent, load planner, logistics service representative and operations manager won’t exist.

The future is “software that is so good, you can hardly distinguish it from a human being,” van de Wouw said.

Torsten Nordentoft, chief technology officer at Cardlab, talked about his company’s biometric card, which creates what he called simple cargo and baggage handling infrastructure. The card uses RFID to track cargo and luggage.

This biometric card was released this year, Nordentoft said.