2019 has been a huge year for PUBLIC. From launching the first ever pan-European GovTech program and taking on 14 new companies, to moving into PUBLIC Hall and doubling our team across four offices – here are some of our top achievements from this year.
GovStart company Patchwork is nominated for the 2019 HSJ partnership awards
GovStart company Valerann closes $5m seed funding round
Novoville Survey: Bridging the gap between citizens and their city
Local authorities run the risk of letting down citizens that depend on them if they fail to respond to consumer appetites for digitisation of basic services. Earlier this year, citizen engagement startup (and GovStart 2018 participant) Novoville issued a survey, with the purpose of identifying citizens perceptions about the services their local government provides. Here we take a look at the results of the survey, and explore some of the key findings surrounding the digitalisation of local services.
Survey results posted by citizen engagement startup Novoville – in partnership with PUBLIC and Socitm (The Society for Innovation, technology and modernisation) – found that the impact of slow adoption of digital services may hit younger generations hardest: less than 1 in 5 18-24 year olds (17%) are satisfied with their local council. When asked how councils could improve, younger people favoured greater transparency and better access to local authority services through digital channels, including apps and social media.
Overall, local authorities should take a degree of comfort from the survey. Across all demographics, 51% of citizens consider council services ‘quite satisfactory’, up from 45% in 2018. It is possible that this increase can be attributed – at least in part – to improvements in councils’ e-services, combined with increased usage of mobile apps and social media by local authorities.
However, nearly 10% stated that they were ‘not satisfied at all’, with levels of dissatisfaction highest among young people aged 18-24. Limitations in the accessibility of transactions is likely a key driver of citizens frustration: results indicate that perceptions of accessibility have increased since the survey was first undertaken, but the 2019 results indicate only two fifths (40%) of citizens agreed that online transactions with their local authority are accessible; almost one fifth (18%) still feel that these transactions are very rarely completed easily.
With just 11% of citizens considering themselves ‘very satisfied’ with their local council, it is evident that councils need to dedicate greater effort towards making services more efficient, more intuitive and more accessible.
What does this mean for councils?
A key takeaway from the survey is citizens’ desire to see their local councils go digital. When asked about their preferred method of participation, 34% said that they wanted to interact with their council by computer and 31% said by app. The vast majority (75%) said that they would use a mobile app to communicate with their local council, report issues, and receive real-time information about the progress of their report. This demonstrates a growing demand for local government to communicate with their citizens online rather than by post or over the phone.
With over a third of all respondents interactions with their local authorities relating to rubbish collection, it is important that councils recognise that the appetite for digitisation of the core and basic services they provide is already high; and only going to grow as millennial and Generation-Z engagement with public services increases.
For this age group, it is possible that the impact of slow adoption of digital interfaces is already having an impact on civic engagement. Almost two thirds (60%) of survey respondents interact with their council monthly, but this engagement drops significantly among 18-34 year olds; this age group is also statistically less likely than others surveyed to have responded to public consultations.
Local Government digital transformation is happening now
Digitisation of government services isn’t a new concept – in 2017, Gloucester City Council developed and implemented a ‘My Council Report It’ app which allows its citizens to send real-time information identifying the nature of an issue, its location and status directly to the council. Other apps and services have been developed for authorities across the United Kingdom – but with demand reaching a fever pitch, Novoville’s results conclusively demonstrate the need for councils across Britain to reconsider their approach to digitisation and engagement.
Having cottoned on to a nationwide demand for councils to digitalise, the British Government has begun investment in digital technology innovations for local councils. In October this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government awarded local councils across the UK £500,000 for projects exploring the use of digital technology to improve local public services. The research and development projects will look at enabling better information sharing to drive improvements in local services.
“Councils across the country are working to embrace digital technology to adapt, innovate and drive improvements in public services for their residents”.
Local Government Minister, Luke Hall MP
Whether it’s startups like Novoville leading the way on civic engagement, or local councils using government funding to fix problems in real time, digital innovation holds the key to bridging gaps between citizens and their city.
Novoville is a Citizen Engagement Platform that allows citizens to directly communicate with their councils. Since its creation in 2016, the startup already has over 45 local authorities onboard and 2.13m citizens have access to the app.
With 75% of citizens hungry for greater access to digitalised services, CivicTech startups like Novoville have flourished over the past few years. Between September and October this year, Novoville launched a survey collecting the data of citizens across the UK using state-of-the-art survey technology including conversational chatbots and context-aware mobile polls. Completed by a varied demographic of over 3,500 citizens of all ages from across the UK, the survey was designed to record the level of citizen satisfaction, citizens’ preferred way of communicating with their local government and the most common problems they face.
Last week PUBLIC released Time For Launch, our latest space report, in partnership with the Satellite Applications Catapult. Here, we discuss more about the work we’ve done for the report and how governments can take advantage of the space and satellites opportunity.
The UK hopes to capture 10% of this expanding global market, with ambitions to grow to £40b per annum over the next 10 years. However, for Government to reach this target in light of Brexit it will have to take active steps now to secure the future of the UK space industry. PUBLIC’s new report Time For Launch outlines the measures Government needs to take to grow the industry to hit its targets.
First and foremost, it is imperative that the UK develops a framework for working together with European space bodies, to secure access to the data, technology, and talent necessary to sustain the UK space industry. The UK is the fourth largest recipient of funding from the European Space Agency (ESA), having received approximately €369m from ESA in 2019. Space startups, who are a large source of innovation in the sector, are particularly reliant on funding and support from the ESA Business Applications Programme. Groundbreaking UK startups who have benefitted from ESA support include Hummingbird Technologies, Energeo, and Vidrona. Although the UK’s membership in ESA is independent of EU membership, ensuring access to ESA funds in the future will be vital to maintaining growth in the sector.
In addition to maintain access to European funding streams, both governmental and non-governmental space bodies should consider how to stimulate greater venture activity in the commercial space sector. A reoccuring theme arising in the interviews PUBLIC conducted with 50 space startups is a shortage of venture funding. As startups play a large role in driving the commercial sector forward, if they are starved for funding the industry will ultimately lose an important source of technological and business innovation. Providing startups with more systematic opportunities and programmes to pitch their products and services to investors, such as the UK Space Tech Angels, will greatly contribute to solving this problem.
Government also needs to consider how its position as a large potential buyer of space products and services will propel the industry forward. As our report examines in detail, there are opportunities to utilise space and satellites in a broad range of public services. From policing and emergency services, to health care, energy, transport, and the environment, space solutions offer efficiency gains across the public sector. To name a few examples:
SiHealth uses Earth Observation data from satellites to help individuals monitor their UV exposure and associated health risks.
Earth-i identifies water pipe leakages by monitoring vegetation growth using Earth Observation, and identifying abnormalities which could indicate pipe leakage.
SiruisInsights.AI produces a ‘pattern of life’ for ships using satellite sensors, geospatial data, and artificial intelligence, enabling it to evaluate the performance of vessels along a route and detect unusual changes in environment.
If Government takes the necessary steps to ensure widespread adoption of space solutions in the public sector, it will be a bedrock of support for the industry by providing space businesses with long term contracts and guaranteed revenue streams. That being said, we will never see widespread adoption of space solutions if civil servants and decision makers are not aware of the opportunities and benefits on offer. This is one of the fundamental motivations of PUBLIC’s report, to alert those who are in a position to implement change in the public sector, to the cost-effective solutions space has to offer.
Chris Skidmore’s attendance at the report launch is an indication of the Department for Health and Social Care’s commitment to strategically using space technologies to meet the Department’s goals and aims. We encourage others to follow his lead, and learn more about using space to solve public sector challenges. The UK space sector is ready for launch, is Government ready to support it?
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” hundred_percent_height=”no” hundred_percent_height_scroll=”no” hundred_percent_height_center_content=”yes” equal_height_columns=”no” menu_anchor=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_mp4=”” video_webm=”” video_ogv=”” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” video_preview_image=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” admin_toggled=”no”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding=”” dimension_margin=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]This week PUBLIC launched its latest report – ‘Future Technologies Review’ – a survey of the latest technology transforming the geospatial sector, produced in partnership with the Cabinet Office’s Geospatial Commission. The report highlights areas where technologies such as artificial intelligence, drones, Internet of Things and advanced mapping and scanning technology could transform industries. At the forefront of these developments are tech startups. Here are a few of the best and brightest companies utilising geospatial technologies to shape multiple industries across the UK. Gyana Gyana was founded in 2015 and is currently a global startup based in London using geospatial data generated by human movement to uncover previously unseen insights and aid business decision-making. Gyana works in a number of sectors including retail, real estate, and financial services to predict competitive market share, reveal customer behaviour preferences, determine physical catchment areas and analyse marketing return of investment. By combining anonymised big data generated by the movement of people with physical locations, Gyana derives consumer patterns, quantifies human behaviour, uncovers hidden opportunities and helps predict financial success. In The Future Technologies Review report, we predict that with companies like Gyana, the future machine learning systems will be able to find patterns in human behaviour far faster and more accurately if they continue to develop at their expected rate. Urban Intelligence Urban Intelligence uses data science to identify inefficiencies in the planning and development sector. The company was founded in 2014 by Daniel Mohamed, a planning consultant frustrated with the number of unproductive and labour intensive processes required to provide advice on development potential. In order to solve this problem, Urban Intelligence has built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system which aims to provide a ‘credit score’ for plots of land, based on their sustainability for development. The company draws its data from a range of public and private sources, as well as their own, in order to gain an advanced view of the land market. Urban Intelligence are driving ‘smart cities’ to be intelligent all the way down to the land they are built on, with data being used to optimise quality of life in UK towns and cities.
Travel AI Travel AI is one of a number of companies using crowdsourced mobile data to provide transport insights to cities and local councils. One of the most anticipated uses of geospatial technologies is within the ‘smart city domain’ and Travel AI analyses data to provide cities with insights about how its residents use transportation infrastructure. The company has launched two apps – Catch and WeCycle. Catch is a journey planner which uses data to give better routing through using live travel conditions on all methods of transport shared automatically by the community. The anonymised community data feeds back into the journey planner to improve results and is available to cities and transport operators to help improve transport services. Similarly, WeCycle is an app which uses data to make cycling safer for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. WeCycle gathered data from a survey which was sent out to cyclists using the app who revealed their routes when cycling. This was used to generate a ‘community canvas’ which shows where and when people cycled, and where they had to share space with other road users, demonstrating where investment could have the biggest impact on cycle safety. The technology is particularly innovative as it is optimised to make intelligent use of sensors such as GPS and minimise battery drain.
Hummingbird Tech Hummingbird Technologies apply geospatial technologies to agriculture and farming. The company is an Artificial Intelligence business that provides advanced crop analytics to its customers. The company was founded in 2015 and use geospatial data to provide actionable insights such as weed and disease detection across six different countries: UK, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Ukraine, and Russia. Hummingbird collects imagery of arable fields from satellites, planes, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and then analyses these images using machine learning techniques. From this they can create crop specific maps which provide actionable information to farmers. Hummingbird’s technology allows its customers to increase their yields, optimise chemical inputs, and make earlier, more informed decisions. Their mission is to improve the efficiency of global crop production and to feed the world’s growing population sustainably. Slanted Theory Slanted Theory is a Sheffield-based startup which offers companies the ability to visualise their operational geospatial data. The company offers an intuitive interface which allows users the ability to collaborate with team members and perform specialised analysis without the need to code. This is in part enabled by the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets which helps users to create 3D visualisation of geospatial data – a more efficient way than is possible on a 2D screen. Part of the company’s vision for immersive technology is to communicate geospatial data through storytelling. For example, Slanted Theory used its VR data visualisation to display 100 years worth of UK rainfall data.
Want to learn more about geospatial technologies in the UK? Read the full report ‘Future Technologies Review’ here.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
Johnny Hugill, lead researcher at PUBLIC, and Nick Chubb, co-author of PUBLIC’s report Frictionless Trade, look into building the UK’s first Smart Port following its announcement in Maritime 2050.
Two weeks ago, the Department for Transport published its long-term strategy for the future of the UK’s maritime sector – Maritime 2050.
This strategy has arrived at a particularly important time for the UK. There has simply never been more public and political interest in this country surrounding international trade.
Indeed, with over 95% of our international trade going through our ports and across our seas, a successful maritime strategy is of critical importance for the UK economy.
Maritime 2050 represents an enormously encouraging and ambitious vision for the UK’s maritime sector. Not only does it outline key provisions to future-proof the UK from the global macro-trends shaping the industry, but it also targets areas where the UK has the potential to develop key strategic advantages.
More specifically, it makes the case for the UK to lead the way on clean energy growth, maritime safety and security, and the application of new and emerging technologies.
This is a vision for UK maritime that we share at PUBLIC. In October, we published our own report on the future of the UK’s maritime sector – ‘Frictionless Trade’ – which outlines the key technology capabilities that the UK must embrace to protect and consolidate its place as an international trading powerhouse.
In particular, Maritime 2050 makes a commitment to deliver on a key recommendation outlined in our report: to develop the first smart port in the UK by 2030.
What is a smart port?
As an island nation, the UK’s ports are vital pieces of infrastructure, facilitating the overwhelming majority of our trade with the rest of the world. In its most basic form, a smart port leverages digital technologies to continually improve the safety, efficiency, yield, and environmental impact of these trading operations.
Achieving this level of digital transformation requires the development of an ecosystem where innovation can flourish. Global seaports including Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Singapore have launched dedicated smart port ventures over the past few years, usually in partnership with the local port authority, government, academic institutions and corporate shipping and logistics companies.
The upshot of this is that these ports are far ahead of any port in the UK in terms of core technology capabilities, especially those relating to the seamless processing of imports and exports.
In the world-famous Port of Rotterdam for instance, there are autonomous gantry cranes and trucks handling the loading and discharging of cargo, as well as a dedicated data-driven application for optimising how ships come in and out of port (developed by Dutch startup Teqplay).
Indeed, the Port of Rotterdam provides a model for how to successfully execute a smart port: operating every day at full capacity, its operators move between 25-50% more containers per hour than any other port in Northern Europe.
Importantly, these innovations have largely been powered by support and funding from government, and have seen local high-tech maritime startups contribute to the national trading capacity.
What technologies should we have in our smart port?
There are a number of well-established and maturing technologies that could feature in the UK’s first smart port. Below, we review the technology systems that should be at the centre of any smart port:
Improved connectivity The underlying infrastructure behind any smart port will be the availability of the connectivity systems that are as strong as anywhere inland. Today, connectivity in ports (and coastal areas more generally) often lags behind the UK’s major cities. The rollout of industrial WiFi or 5G in a future smart port is a key enabler for a new wave of digital innovation.
Forward-thinking ports are already starting to build up their connectivity capacity. Last year, the Port of Hamburg launched a successful 5G pilot in partnership with Deutsche Telekom and Nokia. Indeed, connectivity solutions are not only being offered by major IT providers. Belgian startup Port-Wifi develops and implements tailor-made connectivity solutions for ports, making it possible and affordable to connect smart devices and assets to a network. Their first networks have been deployed to the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam and have not only made it possible to connect IoT devices, but also connect visiting seafarers to the internet.
Automation of physical assets
Every day, thousands of tonnes of goods are physically moved on or off ships safely and efficiently by cranes, conveyors, and pumps. From there, they are transported throughout the port for storage and further processing.
The ships, cranes, and port vehicles that support this process can all be automated, with a significant amount of progress already made in this area. In addition to the automation of gantry cranes, trucks and straddlers at ports around the world, we are now starting to see the automation of ships. Boston-based Sea Machines builds autonomous control and remote command systems to upgrade the operation of commercial vessels. They have recently worked with Danish shipping giant Maersk to install AI-powered situational awareness technology to their new ice-class container vessels.
On top of the automation of physical assets, artificial intelligence has an important role to play in the implementation of smart storage and processing of goods and in port security. London startup Stowga has created an on-demand ‘Uber for warehousing’ platform which allows users to book space in one of 4,000 warehouses they currently have live.
Port-call optimisation platforms
Digital port-call optimisation platforms are transforming the flow of ships in and out of ports. Powered by geospatial location data, and the real-time tracking of document exchanges, these platforms provide ports, shipping companies, agents, terminal operators, and service providers with a shared operational view and joint window for the exchange of information related to their port calls.
Using a combination of publicly available data and private data submitted by participants, it is possible for any stakeholder to get a real time and planned overview of the port and vessel movements within.
In addition to the highly sophisticated platform developed by Teqplay at the Port of Rotterdam, London-based Intelligent Cargo Systems has recently launched a new free self-assessment tool for container ship operators. With just a few simple questions, their calculator helps container ship fleet management teams to assess the efficiency of their port-call process and how this is affecting their bunker consumption.
Secure digital communication systems
The global trade in goods generates an incredible amount of data but the shipping industry is still heavily reliant on phone calls, email, and even fax. Indeed, the principal method of contact between the ship’s crew and personnel on the shore is by VHF radio, which is a reliable but limited method of communication.
New communication platforms will allow more seamless and secure processing and exchange of operational and transactional data. Indeed, new workflow and communication platforms are not only the remit of office-based tools such as Slack and Teams: over the last few years, we have seen a proliferation of newer players in the market, such as Zaptic, and Blink in the UK, which offer single workflow platforms optimised for deskless field operations and multi-stakeholder management.
Creating cloud-based platforms that communicate the correct information to every stakeholder in the complicated shipping process will completely revolutionise the way ships are operated. London based Shipamax has developed a communication platform that automatically extracts important data from emails and attachments and feeds it into existing internal systems. Collaborative communication tools like this can reduce planning and administration time, with Shipamax’s platform able to cut freight forwarding admin costs by up to 70%.
IoT for maintenance of port assets Ports represent the perfect setting for the application of industrial IoT. They contain valuable assets deployed over vast areas. There are high costs for any disruption or downtime. Service visits to assets must be well-timed and well-prepared to avoid unnecessary operational disruption.
If a crane or cargo pump stops working for a prolonged period, it can cause major disruption, not just to the ship currently on the berth, but to all the ships that are waiting to come into the port. As such, emerging IoT technologies such as remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and performance analysis offer enormous potential for the safe and secure management of port key port assets.
This is the principle used by major engine manufacturer Wärtsilä, who have created a dynamic maintenance planning service which relies on IoT sensors to monitor engine condition, and provide automatic responses to maintenance staff as soon as an alert is flagged.
Real-time vehicle tracking
The flow of vehicles in and out of ports is also a further key area where technology can make a difference. In particular, new technology platforms allow shippers, hauliers and customers to have complete visibility over vehicles and assets across the supply chain.
There are two main models for the live tracking of vehicles in real-time. One (employed by Swedish company Automile) involves drivers simply downloading an app on their phone, allowing fleet managers to use geolocation data to track the movement and position of their vehicles in real-time. This allows enterprise companies running fleets to track their vehicles, which could have powerful potential applications coming in and out of ports.
The second (used by London-based startup ChillChain) requires connecting to driver’s operating systems via an API, without the need for them to download any additional software on their phones.
Both of these forms of tracking can provide unprecedented levels of information and transparency in the journey of vehicles carrying cargo. These kinds of systems will be crucial to delivering fully-joined up ports, operating at maximum operational efficiency.
Finally, the global shipping industry simply needs to move away from its reliance on fossil fuels to move goods around the world. Last year, the IMO introduced its new green new strategy, which aims for global greenhouse gas emissions from the industry to be halved from the 2008 levels by 2050, as well as a longer term vision to make the industry entirely emission-free beyond that.
For the industry to hit these targets, all ships built from 2030 onwards will need to be emission-free. Electric power and hydrogen have both long been touted as marine fuels of the future, and their development and the infrastructure required to produce them represents a massive opportunity for the UK.
How can the UK build its own smart port?
Taking advantage of the smart port opportunity is not only a matter of developing new technologies. Creating a sustainable and effective smart port requires establishing a thriving innovation hub, powered by startups, government and leading research institutions. To make a success of our first smart port, we propose the following steps:
Build the infrastructure
First, the UK has to build the right infrastructure to make a success of its first smart port. That includes a strong connectivity system, and most importantly, a state-of-the-art solution to prevent the port’s digital assets from cybersecurity attacks.
Indeed, as well as building the physical and technological infrastructure required for a smart port, it is also important to ensure that there is also the regulatory and financial infrastructure in place to make it thrive.
Blend public and private funding
Building a hub for innovation will require a mixture of public and private finance initiatives, including grant funding for research and growth capital for emerging businesses. A strong anchor investment commitment from UK government to develop a world-leading smart port will encourage major private companies to match that funding, and co-create an ecosystem that will deliver better outcomes for all parties.
Use startups to drive innovation
Over the past few years, the UK has seen the growth of an emerging ecosystem of technology startups that are transforming the entire maritime value chain. To ensure cutting-edge innovation and technology in our ports, its vital that the digitisation of our ports is led by startups.
For major infrastructure projects that are too large for startups to deliver alone, we recommend adopting the same approach used by the UK government to develop a new dedicated vertical launch site in Sutherland, Scotland. This involved providing £23.5m of funding to the major prime contractor (Lockheed Martin) to deliver the majority of the infrastructural outlay, while funding a UK startup (Orbex) with £5.5m to help to deliver innovation to the sites micro-launch capabilities.
Foster close collaboration between startups and corporates
It is very difficult for large corporate incumbents in the sector to innovate quickly on their own. Equally, it is difficult for startups to get access to the industry and feedback on what drives real value. Facilitating the sharing of technological challenges and opportunities between corporate incumbents and startup innovators helps to close that feedback loop, making innovation faster and more effective.
Run an on-site accelerator
The UK’s first smart port should include an on-site accelerator for high-growth maritime technology businesses. A smart port represents the perfect place to create a physical cluster for startups in the sector, with the new technologies and platforms being developed within this accelerator being quickly implemented and commercialised on-site.
Attract and develop talent
The digital transformation of every industry is being fuelled by talent and the maritime industry is no different. The UK is a world-leading centre for maritime training, with close ties already in place between academic institutions and industry.
Involving local education and training institutions in the development of a smart port will give academic research a route to feed into viable commercial solutions for industry and create a pipeline of people with the right qualifications, skills, and experience to transform the sector.
Involve universities and research institutions
A local university should be the key anchor in any smart port. Not only will this provide the setting for more intensive R&D projects, but universities will also enable sustained academic teaching and mentoring required to train a new wave of maritime innovators.
Indeed, partnering with major anchor institutions such as universities is also crucial for local economic growth. In Liverpool, local cluster body Mersey Maritime, recently announced a partnership between Peel Ports, Liverpool John Moores University and Wirral Council to create a £25 million Maritime Knowledge Hub. The hub will work as a catalyst for business growth in the local area and will create 4,000 new jobs over five years.
Importantly, however, there must be a clear link between the R&D activities of these research institutions and the commercial innovation activities of the rest of the port. In particular, there must be a clear route to commercialisation for all cutting-edge research, primarily through the smart port’s dedicated on-site accelerator. The Maritime Masters programme run by industry body Maritime UK is a great example of commercially focused academic research. Students who take part in the scheme adopt research topics proposed by industry for their Masters’ Dissertation theses. Once complete, they have the opportunity to present their findings back to industry leaders and gain work experience opportunities within the sector.
The UK government’s commitment to building the first smart port is a serious one, and is a central part of its long-term vision of becoming the most digitally-advanced trading nation in the world.
A thriving smart port, however, requires more than just building a few new digital capabilities. To fully seize on the smart port opportunity, government must demonstrate the investment and innovation appetite to build a new digitally-enabled maritime ecosystem. Not only will this guarantee better outcomes in our ports, but it will create a UK centre of excellence that will be the envy of all other trading nations around the world.
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Frictionless Trade: How New Technology Will Power International Trade
Johnny Hugill introduces PUBLIC’s latest report Frictionless Trade and outlines how new technologies have the potential to transform how the UK conducts trade with other nations, and why this is more important than ever for its future as an international trading partner after Brexit.
There has never been more public and political interest in this country surrounding international trade. Although the outcome of the UK-EU trading relationship after Brexit is still far from clear, it has been widely reported that a disruption to the status quo, especially the UK’s withdrawal from the Customs Union, risks creating major bottlenecks at our ports and borders. The latestport freight statistics from the Department for Transport, for instance, suggest that if the UK leaves the EU with no streamlined trade arrangements put in place, 14 million vehicles per year will become subject to customs and immigration checks: a situation that many commentators have claimed will amount to a national crisis. Technology could be crucial to overcoming these problems. Around the world, new and innovative uses of technology have been applied to solve major logistical challenges just like these, helping to deliver the secure and efficient flow of goods and information between multiple trading stakeholders. From Antwerp to Rotterdam, to Dubai, to Singapore, technology is shaping how international ports and borders conduct their business. The ambitions of this report, however, go beyond providing solutions to the specific and narrow technical challenges that might arise from the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Rather, it demonstrates that – across the entire supply chain – established and emerging digital technologies have the potential to absolutely transform how the entire sector functions. International examples abound, a brief review of high-tech initiatives in this sector shows the potential for new technologies and data-driven platforms:
First, to maximise the efficiency of ships coming in and out of ports, visualised port-call optimisation platforms can help port operators to better manage ships, cutting time and money wasted for ships currently forced to sit idle until they can come into port. One such platform, co-developed by Dutch startup Teqplay and the Port of Rotterdam, has allowed vessel operators to cut waiting times at the port by up to 20%.
Once ships are in port, autonomous, unmanned gantry cranes are now capable of handling and discharging cargo, with some systems capable of handling 2.35 million containers each year. A smart IoT network at the Port of Valencia includes 200 cranes straddle carriers, trucks, and forklifts in the terminal, collecting information on location, status of operations, and energy consumption.
For the problem of monitoring people crossing the border, 3D biometric recognition systems offer a solution. This could allow people to cross borders and have their identity automatically verified via a network of cameras connected to an app on their smartphone, without having to undergo passport checks at the border. Australian airline Qantas recently announced that it was implementing a similar facial recognition trial for international passengers at Sydney Airport.
Finally, Israeli startup AiDock has shown real promise in cracking the widely discussed customs problem. A graduate of world-leading maritime innovation hub theDock, the startup has developed an automated customs clearance platform that reduces the admin burden on freight forwarders and speeds up the customs process. AiDock’s system uses artificial intelligence to process and analyse all of the import documents required and generates customs clearance files automatically. Two things stand out about these initiatives. First, they have all been delivered by government support and investment, and sustained by deep relationships between the public and private sectors. This is why we recommend that the UK government takes the initiative and invests in building the country’s first ‘Smart Port’ initiative, inspired by the success of similar ventures in Rotterdam and Hamburg.
Second, startups and SMEs have made a significant contribution to the innovation landscape. This is hardly surprising: given the complexity of the trade sector, and the number of different interactions involved in the trading processes, startups with niche but deep expertise in one of these areas can have an enormous impact.
In our report, we showcase the 65 leading TradeTech startups from around the world: almost all of them do something different, but they all offer considerable value to shippers, freight forwarders, port operators, border agencies, and governments.
At this inflexion point in the UK’s international trading landscape, technology – especially new trade startups – has the potential help the UK to establish itself as a high-tech trading hub. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, we must seize this opportunity – or risk failing to keep up with the pace of innovation in borders and ports across the world.
PUBLIC’s report, Frictionless Trade, is out now. Read the full report here.