Can AI help companies navigate Brexit?

Business, Guest Blog, Technology | Fri 26 Oct | Author – Business & Finance

AI-enabled systems might just hold the key to managing the changes in trade and logistics post-Brexit

There is no denying the fact that Brexit will have a profound effect on businesses in the UK, particularly in the realm of logistics. Mazars’ Cormac Kelleher previously explained to us the implications of Brexit on businesses, pointing out how the move will lead to significant changes not just in where businesses operate, but in how.

In this light, 3T Logistics Chief Executive Steve Twydell tells The Week that British industries will have to be more flexible to remain competitive. Although Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has brought about issues of productivity and challenges in trade, it has also created an opportunity for corporations to find more creative and efficient ways to deal with the separation.

Ireland and AI

There is no better example of this than Ireland and its unique exposure to Brexit. The country faces the possibility of devastating cuts in exports and production levels, as well as job cuts that could cost Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland billions. Experts say that the best possible trade negotiations that could work for Ireland include the elimination of tariffs, open land bridge transit, low regulatory divergence, low barriers for service trade, and low border costs. These are particularly crucial for logistics and transport firms.

But imagine if Ireland employed a more technologically advanced way of dealing with the looming limitations that Brexit might cause: artificial intelligence (AI). Forbes has already dubbed Ireland as the AI Island, as it is brimming with tech talent capable of creative AI-powered engines as well as image and voice recognition technologies. These can help ensure that Irish companies’ supply chains and work processes are working efficiently despite any and all complications that the Brexit transition process might bring about. After all, Ireland is already home to AI-based startups like Nuritas, which uses machine learning for DNA analysis, as well as Popertee, an AI platform for retail and marketing. AI-enabled systems might just hold the key to managing the changes in trade and logistics post-Brexit.

AI might help border management

An Irish Times article points out that emerging technologies all play an important role in border management. Since one of the possible problems that could arise from Brexit has a lot to do with trade barriers, startups are pushing businesses to use AI not only to meet shipping needs, but also to improve on issues like risk mitigation. AI can also help monitor the cost of shipping, which varies from season to season and would normally be tricky to predict without advanced technology. With AI, businesses can choose the right price, delivery time, and route through algorithms that monitor ever-changing parameters in traffic, weather conditions, and socio-economic challenges.

Tracking unforeseen circumstances that affect delivery are also made easier with emerging technologies. AI can be trained to learn from contingency plans and subsequently offer corrective actions in the future in tandem with other forms of older, but more widespread technology. A feature article by Verizon Connect explains that telematics tracks vehicles through a combination of GPS satellites, GPS receivers, GPRS (mobile phone) networks and cloud computing. It handles onboard diagnostics, too, which helps in numerous ways, such as vehicle tracking, trailer tracking, and insurance risk assessment. When connected to AI-powered systems that can automate and accelerate functions like scheduling and brokerage, these can significantly improve the margin of error and generate more cost savings.

Limitations of AI

But despite the impressive number of AI-driven technology that can solve most, if not all, problems with logistics, security research specialists have expressed their doubts about the technology. According to Sadhbh McCarthy, who set up and led the Centre for Irish and European Security (CIES), “invisible” or “frictionless” digital borders dividing the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are not very feasible. He said,

You can put in as many complex technology solutions as you like but you will never get over the need for personnel on the ground.

McCarthy’s hesitation is understandable, since AI and machine learning do not come without their limitations. Dr Mark Maguire, head of Maynooth University’s Department of Anthropology, echoes this by saying,

There’s no magic bullet. It just doesn’t exist. The technology is certainly there to produce a smart border and in fact there are many of them in existence already, such as between the US and Canada and Israel and Palestine. But the reality is that this involves a crossing between Newry into Europe and you simply can’t allow for the border of Europe to be porous.

At the end of the day, however, it all boils down to the Brexit final deal — whether or not there would be restrictive tariffs or border checks. Until then, it is difficult to fully know how all this will affect trade.

Written by Amanda Crawford for businessandfinance.com.