The rapid rise of AI – in logistics, too

Not a day goes by without the mention of AI in connection to some part of daily life – whether it be medical, maintenance, marketing, or – in our case – movement. So, it is no surprise that one of the first press releases to come out of the recent Multimodal at the NEC Birmingham, last week, lauded progress in the AI field. Yet, many people are still largely skeptical about the direction AI is taking and the effect this will have on livelihoods and society in general.

James Coombes, CEO and Co-founder, Raft at Multimodal 2024. Image: Raft

“The demand for AI-integrated software solutions is rapidly increasing, and so is its market capitalization. The world has witnessed an enormous increase in AI software development, and the market for AI technologies stands at 200 billion U.S. dollars in 2023. It is expected to grow to over 1.8 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030,” is one of the opening paragraphs in a piece by Vivek Sadh, published by Jellyfish Technologies last year. Without a doubt, the application opportunities are enormous, and we are still very much just at the start of the AI adventure.

USD 10 billion in freight invoices processed
Raft, which by its own proclamation is “the world’s largest AI-powered logistics platform, used by more than 50 logistics providers – companies that together help run 80% of the Global 1000 supply chains,” announced last week, that its AI is being trained by more than 5 billion data points and documents, and that Raft AI has now processed over USD 10 billion in freight invoices. “Each year, more than 10,000 users manage over 5 million shipments on the platform, representing every commodity, transit mode, and trade lane.” Impressive figures that cover one crucial point in AI: it needs to learn from verified, good quality data, so as to be able to function correctly and reliably. The better and greater the data, the more effective the system. In such a fragmented industry as air cargo, with its many stakeholders all at different stages of their digital journey and with varying quality input and a myriad of formats, this is not an easy endeavor.

Blend, Configure, and Automate
Raft’s proprietary platform has multiple innovation layers that blend the data extraction capabilities of AI with a suite of business applications, collaboration tools and integration flexibility. Customers are able to configure shipments, flows, processes, events, and tasks and then intelligently interact with different systems of record, such as TMS, CRM, and ERP. AI is embedded throughout the Raft platform, which learns from high volumes of transactional activities across all customers. As the LLMs get smarter, they become more proficient at automating workflows and processing transactions at a rate of thousands of times per second. This frees human operations teams to focus on delivering value to customers,” the release promises. The company suite of business applications addresses logistics’ financial, customs, and operations processes, automating and speeding up administration and providing intelligent information for improved customer service and more efficient use of human resources. “Commercial invoices, bills of lading, bookings, packing lists, and shipment status alerts are the kinds of unstructured documents that AI has transformed from an analog burden to digital advantage for Raft customers,” it gives as examples.

On a mission to unleash the power of AI
James Coombes, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of Raft, illustrated: “After decades of effort and hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, the logistics industry is still reliant on emails, PDFs, and spreadsheets to keep goods moving. We are on a mission to unleash the power of AI on global logistics and put an end to manual, disconnected processes once and for all. The transactional scale on the Raft platform along with our active customer base demonstrates we are well on our way to achieving that goal. The AI freight train has left the station and there’s a lot of excitement and hope about where things are headed. Raft is the leader and the ever-increasing level of engagement scale we’re experiencing shows that we are well positioned to bring AI into the supply chains of the world.”

Skepticism and fear
Those on the programming side of AI are far more relaxed than those facing IT developments that appear anxiety-inducing in their capabilities, as a LinkedIn mini-poll recently showed. Particularly people whose jobs are directly ‘at risk’ of being replaced by AI, are skeptical: a) because they can see the errors still being made and the limitations of a system not steered by emotional understanding, and b) because they fear redundancy. In a recent Canva event focused on AI, the positive message to the latter point, was that 60% of today’s jobs did not exist in the 1950s. Many of them not even 20 years ago. We are constantly adapting and growing through the opportunities that tech and innovation present to us.

Yet, cybersecurity and cyber-manipulation are also serious issues that require proper regulation. In a world, where it is now possible to manipulate videos in such a way that language, mouth-shapes and dialect can be modified to suit the occasion, or where AI can create images, songs, paintings or information completely digitally, borders between reality and virtual reality become blurred beyond recognition.

In as much as we work to provide AI solutions to facilitate everyday life, we must also work on strategies to educate, regulate, and safeguard our society. The computer may not always be right, after all.

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