28 Novembre 2023

3 keys to transforming customs and port operations with generative AI

The power of AI to improve customs is showing up in the baggage screening process at Heathrow Airport in London.   

Scanners designed to examine luggage and cargo are using a multispecies AI model to find evidence of illegal wildlife tracking, such as ivory pieces or animal skulls. This technology is part of a Microsoft AI for Good initiative called Project SEEKER which, in its first trial, had a 70% detection rate in scanning 250,000 items per day.  

Project SEEKER was introduced in 2021 and it was a harbinger of the transformative impact that advanced AI can have on customs and port operations. Since then, Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service and Microsoft copilots have given virtually every individual the opportunity to experience the power of generative AI for themselves. This has inspired governments around the world to seriously evaluate how they can employ AI to improve operations and efficiencies—a topic that was center stage at the World Customs Organization (WCO) Technology Conference 2023, which took place in Hanoi, Vietnam from October 10 to 12, 2023.  

Below, I’d like to share the insights gained at this year’s event and offer my point of view on how government organizations can address the unique challenges that customs and port operations face in adopting AI.   

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The promise of AI innovation in customs and port operations 

Data analytics, AI, and machine learning were central topics at the 2023 WCO event, where the theme was “Embracing the Digital Age: Leveraging Technology, Fostering Innovation, and Nurturing the Next Generation of Customs Professionals.” Most attendees arrived with a recognition of AI’s potential to enable entirely new ways of engaging with people and employees, delivering essential services and processes, and saving money.   

4 essentials for the successful government adoption of generative A

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We see this at Microsoft in cases like Project SEEKER and other relevant customer experiences around the world. Governments are building a new class of intelligent ports and customs operations that bring the power of AI to their existing investments in the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and devices, edge computing, advanced analytics, and blockchain. In operations, AI can improve situational awareness and enhance revenue collection through better fraud detection. In trade facilitation, it can improve supply chain transparency and protect IP and project origin certification. And in customs, it can improve key functions and enable new services with trusted data collaboration and secure identity. Here are just a few examples of how AI is being used by our customers today in customs and port operations:  

  • The Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations (CIAT) and Microsoft have collaborated to build a Microsoft Electronic Invoice Anomaly Detector that helps strengthen electronic invoicing and reduce tax fraud and evasion for tax administrators in its member and associate member countries worldwide.   
  • A national marine security operations center is developing an AI-powered correlation engine with data, video, and analytics from multiple sources and departments to protect restricted spaces, improve monitoring of vessels and trucks, and stop accidents before they happen.   
  • A major maritime country is building AI-enhanced digital twins of its port facilities with IoT and real-time 3D modeling to enhance port and customs operations, improve situational awareness, and reduce environmental impacts.  

3 keys to successful AI adoption in customs and ports 

The announcements and conversations at the WCO event signaled a clear shift to embracing AI in customs and port operations—uncovering various dimensions associated with the challenge. The “Good” was seen in the promise of productivity gains, non-intrusive solutions for inspections, transformed automation, and better real-time insights. The “Bad” was reflected in poor quality data and data stuck in silos, including challenges with interoperability and problems extracting data from physical equipment.   

To tackle these important considerations and fast track adoption of AI in ports and customs, we advise governments to focus on a few key areas.

1. Enable the digital infrastructure with the right building blocks   

Many governments and agencies understand that generative AI represents more than a technology shift but rather a profound transformation of critical processes and decision making. Notably, their employees are helping to drive the change by initiating foundational use cases and innovating at a grass-roots level. To realize the greatest long-term benefits of generative AI, it’s critical that organizations ensure that the key elements are in place—specifically, a hyperscale cloud platform, such as the Microsoft Cloud, that can handle the volumes of data and traffic that AI demands, plus a data and analytics platform, such as Microsoft Fabric, that can integrate and manage a wide range of data sources and make them available for AI. Then, democratize generative AI by putting it into the hands of users with tools such as Microsoft 365 Copilot and Microsoft Copilot.  

2. Pay special attention to cybersecurity and interoperability 

In recent years, there has been a surge in cyberattacks against customs organizations, which are prime targets for cybercriminals who want to exploit vulnerabilities to steal data, smuggle illegal goods, or commit financial crimes such as tax evasion or money laundering. The challenge is further complicated by the fact that the level of IT maturity varies greatly around the world, from the United States, where the Zero Trust framework has been embraced, to other nations that are only recently adopting guidelines for business continuity. Ultimately, customs organizations need to take proactive measures to bolster their security postures and resilience. This is another area in which cloud and AI can help governments level the cybersecurity playing field.   

How governments are leveling the cybersecurity playing field with cloud and AI

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The right security approach also helps ensure the flow of goods and services across borders by enabling interoperability that can allow disparate systems to connect and exchange data. This is a promising step in fostering a transparent, seamless, and secure global supply chain.   

3. Develop workforce skills and plan for innovation 

The potential of even the best technology cannot be realized without employees who are empowered, and excited to use it. This is a challenge for governments, who face stiff competition for talented workers and who often have an aging workforce with skills that are rapidly becoming outdated. When every worker has access to generative AI tools, organizations should focus on skilling with a workforce education and adoption plan that suits their specific requirements and provides resources such as baseline training on AI essentials by role, as offered by Microsoft Learn.   

With your workforce primed to adopt generative AI, you can fast-track early use cases that provide a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to learn and realize immediate benefits. Start with a clear business goal that you want to achieve in a specific timeframe. An excellent example is the solution implemented by Ports of Jersey. To help bring together employees working remotely due to COVID-19, the agency used a bot platform built for Microsoft Teams to create custom bots that make it easier for employees to ask questions during executive briefings. The solution led to a 250% increase in questions asked during briefings, and it created a domino effect sparking more innovation. Because of the intuitive, no-code design, the solution enables port staff to build new custom bots in 30 minutes.   

Continue your generative AI journey 

When you build new solutions with Azure OpenAI Service, you get the power of generative AI while all of your data and content stay within the bounds of the organization, and security and compliance are assured. We’re committed to the principle that government data should never be made available externally or used by other AI training models unless specifically required, as codified in our responsible AI practices.  

You can learn more by visiting Microsoft for Public Finance, where you can discover how Microsoft and our partners are working together to help our customers transform customs and port operations. To explore additional possibilities and appropriate next steps, reach out to your Microsoft representative or technology partner.   

The post 3 keys to transforming customs and port operations with generative AI appeared first on Microsoft Industry Blogs.

Source: Microsoft Industry Blog