The Intersection of AI and Blockchain for Transportation Innovation

There are several complex, highly dynamic problems that can potentially be improved by AI—such as network planning and driver-to-load assignment and routing.

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There’s an app for everything in your life these days, from sleep trackers to tech that streamlines the 9-to-5 job. Even the transportation industry isn’t escaping the influence of apps—up to 90% of truck drivers use a smartphone on a daily basis, and tech has become a major part of a truck driver’s job. Android-based ecosystems have become commonplace in cabs, allowing drivers to leverage different apps and solutions to increase productivity, safety, and efficiency while on the road.

Amazon and other global consumer-oriented shippers have set a high bar when it comes to visibility in freight movement, tracking of delivery times and customer communications. The convenience and productivity that we experience as consumers with smartphones and tablets is now transcending into commercial fleets, where there is a growing demand for apps that are integrated into back-office systems. They are helping improve regular workflows to bolster safe driving, fuel coaching, navigation, route optimization and other key processes.

Creating Connectivity Through the Cloud

At the center of app development and connectivity is the Cloud. Most applications developed today are cloud-native, with transportation companies increasingly migrating their systems from on-premises to remote storage. This approach is creating efficiency to deliver higher productivity and automation, real-time insight and collaboration among users across the industry—essentially creating a more connected supply chain.

Using cloud-based solutions to house and analyze data can provide neutrality, meaning industry competitors are able to offer accessible solutions and products to create better outcomes for mutual customers. The shared value of data being available in one place, and the ability to connect to an industry ecosystem, enables participants to move data between parties seamlessly through integrations and augmented workflows for improved—and often faster—functionality.

The Data Movement

The transportation industry generates massive amounts of data. Good, bad, up, down; whatever a company has done across its years of operation, data reflects it down to the mile driven, dollar spent, deal closed and drop of fuel consumed. Data scientists and analysts collect this data from a variety of outlets, including partner companies and third-party vendors.

Many transportation companies are realizing they can monetize their data. This has traditionally been a difficult endeavor due to information privacy, safety and limitations on what data can and cannot be used. However, when fleets understand the benefits of sharing anonymized data, it can be a game-changer.

Monetizing available anonymized data offers companies a clear return on investment. For example, fleets looking to maximize uptime by avoiding busy docks can harness a vast amount of peak delivery-time data to determine when to arrive at a dock. Alternatively, data can also show quieter delivery times, which can help companies create efficiencies and fill those gaps.

There is also work happening around estimated arrival times, including more precise geofences for specific locations rather than just a circular radius for an address. The bar for delivery predictability continues to go up, with optimal routing for the fastest delivery as the primary goal.

Technology providers, truck manufacturers (OEMs) and carriers are all getting into the data game—it’s an exciting and dynamic time for our sector.

Data Evolves into AI-Powered Technologies

Data is behind all emerging technologies, with AI at the forefront. We already see AI dramatically changing the transportation industry, and the next five years will be monumental—especially when it comes to safety, operations optimization, efficiency and productivity. AI-powered video systems are already enhancing safety by detecting hazards on the road, analyzing and predicting risky driver behavior and alerting drivers to take preventive action.

AI will also optimize operations and boost efficiency and productivity as fleets seek to supplement their existing workforce. It will streamline repetitive tasks and offer clearer and faster solutions such as providing guidance on pricing and bidding, optimizing complex routes and enhancing driver performance and coaching.

There are several complex, highly dynamic problems that can potentially be improved by AI—such as network planning and driver-to-load assignment and routing. Industry decision-makers are increasingly relying on AI to collect and analyze vast amounts of data, specifically those produced from telemetry and video devices.

Autonomous procurement is another fitting example, as it leverages AI and behavioral science to automate the load matching process for spot procurement and transforming a once tedious manual process into a 90 percent “no touch” one. In many cases, the results are showing a 20% increase in loads handled over traditional spot procurement processes when properly set up.

Automated solutions are eliminating, replacing, and speeding up manual processes such as processing payroll for drivers. Thanks to AI, drivers receive their pay more quickly and efficiently for delivery of freight. AI-powered systems gather information surrounding proof of delivery more rapidly—including images captured—and create more intelligent workflows and swifter action as a result.

These examples demonstrate the power of AI-based applications to create more advanced systems for trucking companies, thus leveling up the entire supply chain.

Blockchain Technology for Future Evolution

When it comes to the future of innovation in the transportation industry, blockchain technology—an advanced database mechanism allowing information to be transparently shared with a business network—is worth paying attention to. When most people hear the term, they think of cryptocurrencies, which has been a trending topic for several years, but they may not realize it also has great potential for the supply chain.

Blockchain could reshape the logistics space, specifically intermodal freight transport, where freight is moved by multiple methods of transportation. This may include freight leaving Asia and arriving at a U.S. port where it is loaded onto a train. From there it heads to a terminal where it goes on a truck. This multi-stop route is commonly tracked in disparate ways. With blockchain, if implemented correctly, there could be holistic visibility of ownership throughout the entire journey, using several point solutions.

The concept of blockchain—with disintermediation (no one single person managing) at its core—could propel the supply chain forward, advancing transparency and connecting multiple stakeholders in real-time. It is worth watching and proactively joining the current tech revolution for the betterment of not only your business but our entire industry.