Five years ago, everyone was talking about blockchain. It was viewed as a silver bullet for the logistics industry. Experts now fear that AI is following the same path.
At the peak of the blockchain hype, just touting the term blockchain was enough to attract huge investment. Even if its uses were not followed through to any great effect. But, as we saw with Maersk’s TradeLens - an attempt to implement a blockchain-based network for real - it failed to deliver. TradeLens folded last year, having failed to sign up enough customers to make it a going concern.
“For ECMRs, electronic bill of lading for containers, proof of delivery – in that sense blockchain makes sense. But [TradeLens] was too advanced, and didn’t actually solve any real problems. Considering that SMEs make up 98% of the logistics sector, a logistics professional could not begin to understand what it is supposed to do, from that perspective.” Sarunas Belickas, Chief Operating Officer, Cargo Stream
Companies are managing to triple their share prices by claiming to work with AI
In what seems like a repeat of the blockchain scenario, companies are managing to triple their share prices by claiming to work with AI. And again, there are no specifics provided on what AI will actually deliver.
I don’t think we learned our lesson from blockchain. We see evidence that investors are throwing money at anything that says ‘AI’ now,” says Belickas. “These are neural networks trained on data-sets, technology which has existed for some time. But it is also technology that is even harder to understand [than blockchain]. Investors will be attracted by this.”
We see evidence that investors are throwing money at anything that says ‘AI’ now
With opportunists now selling AI courses for upwards of $1000 per tutorial, it seems the hype around AI and ChatGPT is gathering momentum. But what can it actually do for logistics?
“It could improve visibility. People will perhaps not need to scroll and review every order – an AI could do this, say in a case where a shipment’s ETA has increased,” suggests Belickas.
“Perhaps not every bill of lading needs to be filled out manually. It’s possible that an AI could do this.”
These are undoubtedly useful shortcuts, but they’re hardly likely to revolutionise the industry. We need to stop viewing AI as a silver bullet.