A new era for transport and logistics: AI and 5G at AntwerpXL

Published on 28/12/2022 in Inspire

The transport and logistics sector may have been slow to get going but now the digitalization of the sector is progressing rapidly. The availability of AI and 5G are more than ever having an impact.

A new era for transport and logistics: AI and 5G at AntwerpXL

Platforms for data exchange

Digitalization in the sector is happening on several fronts simultaneously. Time and again, data underpins everything that is done. Transport and logistics were once the sector that championed paper document flows. These were first replaced by e-mail, then by platforms for data exchange. Thanks to AI, those platforms now lead to the right information much faster.

At the same time, it is AI that is enabling the evolution towards unmanned, self-driving, -flying, or -propelling devices. That change also relies on data that is analyzed lightning-fast.

A panel discussion at the AntwerpXL event highlighted how AI plays a role in fully autonomous shipping of products.

It's not about the tracking data per se. The customer wants predictable information. They want to know where their cargo is.

Nick Fedorov, CCO at Moeco

Drones as a service

6th NeTWorK is a good example of how the sector is picking up innovation. 6th NeTWorK develops drone solutions in the form of a service: “drones as a service”. "We have twelve drones available in the port of Antwerp that do work such as detecting oil spills on the water, or counting stocks," says Jurgen De Klerck, Business Development Manager 5G at Proximus.

Drone flight on demand

Port operators have no need for a drone every day. The idea is that, through the platform, they order a drone flight tailored to their needs. "This way, terminal operators and the companies in the port do not have to invest in everything that is needed for these drone flights," says Jurgen De Klerck. The availability of 5G is an essential part in this. "The fact that 5G connectivity is there also simultaneously provides options for self-propelled vessels in the port." We need 5G to control self-propelled ships, especially for the real-time analysis of camera images from the ships.

Most companies do not have the resources to build their own AI solution. It is much easier to buy into something that already exists.

Joe Caprara, VP Intelligence & Automation at Sedna

Analyzing emails with AI

The route such a ship takes – self-propelled or not – is part of a bigger picture. Which brings us back to the logistics sector's greatest challenge: the flow of data. "We can see a shift towards data platforms now," says Joe Caprara, VP Intelligence & Automation at Sedna, "even though e-mail remains an important communication channel in the industry."

But that channel is now so oversaturated that logistics companies no longer manage to extract the right info from all those e-mails. Sedna solves that by analyzing e-mails with AI. "That lets you extract the right information from a system much faster," Joe Caprara explains. "It also allows you to automate and further streamline processes."

AI to work more efficiently

Eight out of ten of logistics companies still work with Outlook, it seems. That is obviously not the right channel to receive real-time notifications from sensors sending out data during a transport journey. "It's also not at all about that tracking information per se," says Nick Fedorov, CCO at Moeco, a US start-up that builds data solutions for the logistics sector.

"It's all about visibility," says Nick Fedorov. Customers want to know where their cargo is." Real-time tracking should therefore not be done at the level of a shipping container, but of the product itself. The customer does not want data, but usable information. "Ultimately, companies – as a link within a larger supply chain – want to perform better," Jurgen De Klerck says. "You don't do that by selling more or cutting extra costs but by working more efficiently. That is precisely where AI can make a difference."

The answer to today's greatest challenges lies in co-creation.

Jurgen De Klerck, Business Development Manager 5G at Proximus

Approachable thanks to co-creation

It is important for companies that they do not take a wait-and-see attitude. "If you do, you will soon be too late," says Jurgen De Klerck. "The answer lies in co-creation." "That is true," says Joe Caprara. "Most companies do not have the resources to build their own AI solution. What they can do is to buy into something that already exists." That makes AI not only within reach, but is also getting closer and closer to the decision-making level.

AI is changing the content of jobs

"Before, you had to analyze a customer's e-mail yourself," says Alexander Varvarenko, CEO at digital shipping platform Shipnext. "That often took hours." Employees had to calculate the volume of the cargo, see if the cargo would fit in a container, check if a container was available, which ship the cargo could go with, and so on.

"AI collects and analyses all the necessary data in a split second," says Alexander Varvarenko. "You then have the answer right away." This will not make the role of the logistics service provider disappear, although AI is changing the content of some jobs quite dramatically.

6th NeTWorK is the partnership between DroneMatrix, a developer of drones and drone software, SkeyDrone, service provider for drone aviation, and Proximus.

Joe Caprara is VP Intelligence & Automation at Sedna.

Nick Fedorov is CCO at Moeco.

Alexander Varvarenko is CEO at Shipnext.

Jurgen De Klerck is Business Development Manager 5G at Proximus.

Smart stock management, asset tracking, and mobile warehouse employees. These are only a few of the solutions Proximus has to offer the Transport and Logistics sector. Would you like to know more?

Discover all the possibilities

Would you like to know more about 5G or understand this technology better? Find out everything on our 5G page.

Find out more


One magazine is the Proximus B2B magazine for CIOs and IT professionals in large and medium-sized organisations.

Other articles of One