Digital and Air Cargo: Seldom related to standards

by Alex Labonne

Why does digital matter?

At the risk of defining digital for a world that is already confused by the hype itself, one must understand why the digital evolution is occurring to begin with.

  • There is more data available about many more things.
  • Access to infrastructure and devices that consume and render data is more commoditised than ever thanks to the Cloud.
  • People communicate more and more digitally through social networks.

These social networks are accessible through many means, but mobile is by far the medium of choice, centring on the individual.

Where does that leave the air cargo industry? What could all these digital angles bring or disrupt?

Cargo produces a lot of events and data. From airlines to consolidators, forwarders and handlers are all constantly creating events that are rarely surfaced or shared.

One could think that the lack of standards would be reason enough, but this cannot be true, as other industries are sharing data constantly with very little standards.

Beyond the obvious benefits to the e-commerce industry in terms of refined, more precise accounting and tracking, there are other more interesting aspects of the digital trend for the cargo industry.

Automation of the warehouse, with constant feedback on the best performing configuration from AI, traffic estimation and loss prevention, shipment repurposing, exceptional shipment handling and planning (e.g. disaster relief cargo), linking to external events (weather, conflicts, etc.), insurance claim handling, predictive maintenance, the list goes on and on, and for everyone along the logistic chain.

In terms of human interaction, the ability to surface data in the Cloud on commoditised and serverless applications opens the gate to inter-agent communications, fast and simpler contract exchanges (AWB, Manifests) between service suppliers and government agencies, with little infrastructure requirements

The future is looking extremely bright, and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

What are the blockers?

Digital is happening fast primarily in the retail world, but health, energy and banking are also coming in hot. Giants, such as Amazon, are showing the world how it is done in the world of logistics, and air cargo is taking notes.

The costs are certainly a factor when it comes to digital transformation, but one of the biggest blockers is the move to the Cloud. There are still concerns about data regulations and security, sometimes unfounded, but deeply rooted in past beliefs than if one can see the database server from one’s desk, it is surely safer than out there in the ether.

The reticence is not unfounded and the new GDPR regulations certainly put the sting in data sharing. Add the hacking scandals currently all over the press into the mix and all this is enough to kick the adoption of digital transformation right into touch.

What is HLT doing about it?

The Hermes Logistics Technologies roadmap is angling for full digital transformation and towards a full Software as a Service (SaaS) platform running in the Cloud.

We believe that a platform that is open and well controlled with minimal friction in terms of infrastructure and setup is the way to help our customers fulfil their digital potential.

The ability for both ourselves and our customers to share data and events should trigger many more applications and feed AIs with what is needed for greater insights.

Over the coming weeks, we will talk about our digital roadmap, its technology components and how they could help air cargo operators and our customers.

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