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WCS 2018: Making a business case for cargo innovations

DALLAS – Blockchain, artificial intelligence (A.I.), augmented reality, the “internet of things” (IoT) – the formerly lowtech air cargo industry has become clogged with technical buzzwords that few cargo managers seem to truly understand. But at Monday’s Horizon Innovation Workshop, held during IATA’s World Cargo Symposium, moderators sparked an interactive discussion about how technology can be applied to the air cargo business and the hurdles ahead.

Speaker DeviPrasad Rambhatla, a vice president at IT services firm Wipro Ltd., said technological advances in aviation are no longer just made on the passenger side and then handed down to the cargo department. “We find that the head of cargo are mandating their teams to explore new technology,” he said. “It’s a cultural mindset… and it’s possible only when the whole industry is growing.”

By using mobile app, workshop participants responded to questions about their comfort with, and belief in, these new tech tools. Responses were then shared in real time on a large display screen. For instance, 60 percent of the audience said they knew the concept of blockchain and felt there was a positive argument to adopt it, and 63 percent said they believed that, in the next three-to-five years, the industry would regularly track individual packages in real time.

In the second half of the forum, attendees broke into smaller groups and discussed the opportunities, challenges and next steps to take regarding three of the most promising technological advances: blockchain, A.I. and IoT. For each, the groups identified promising uses of the technologies, especially in the form of item-level tracking.

However, the biggest hurdles facing nearly all new technologies are the difficulty in establishing trust to share data with the entire supply chain, and building a business case for justifying the initial costs.

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