The Future of Cross-Border Freight Trade


According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report, there are 125.8 million households and almost 7.7 million business establishments in the United States. Consequently, as one of the largest economies in the world, the U.S. cannot get by without the “efficient movement of freight.”[i] This is accomplished with state-of-the-art logistics. While the demand for robust logistics will only increase, freight experts believe augmented reality headsets, blockchain technology, chatbots, and predictive analytics software will be part of cross-border trade in the coming years.

Augmented Reality

Unlike virtual reality that completely immerses a user into a digital environment, augmented reality (AR) takes computer-generated apps and overlays them into the real world. Software developers create programs that enhance a worker’s task experience with holograms. Early adopters of this technology note it increased productivity.

U.S Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will benefit from AR because it provides real-time logistics data. Logistics managers have long since used general arrangement (GA) drawings to see the entire supply chain. AR puts a 3D map of the supply chain on a table, giving the manager the ability to interact with it. The CBP agent can then zoom in and examine any part of the supply chain. And because much of the computer hardware would be obsolete, the CBP agent could work from anywhere using cloud-based real-time information. Using AR headsets, the CBP agent would be able to examine a supply chain as it crosses the border.

Blockchain Technology

Essentially, blockchain is a digital ledger that self-records where it’s been. It cannot be altered, which makes it ideal for protecting intellectual property. The CBP will use blockchain to exchange data with manufacturers, exporters, intellectual rights holders, and retailers. This will help agents curtail smuggling across the border. Using the ledger capabilities inside blockchain means real-time tracking of where a shipment is supposed to go. Indeed, the CBP uses blockchain to determine the country of origin. Most importantly, blockchain technology will bring transparency to cross-border shipping.

Of course, if any part of the supply chain crosses the U.S./Mexico border, any freight factoring issues will need to contend with government regulations. When mixed with logistics ecosystems, blockchain technology adds much-needed layers of optimization and transparency. An end-to-end ecosystem from one source gives those who manage the supply greater control over the individual parts.


Chatbots and the Predictive Analytics Software

Since the adoption of the U.S.M.C.A., NAFTA’s replacement, the CBP has been streamlining its workflows. The CBP recently installed a smart search engine chatbot on their website. It gives users 24-hour access to finding answers to common questions. In the coming years, the CBP will implement a technology called Advanced Trade Analytics Platform (ATAP). Used in conjunction with AR, ATAP will improve transparency by housing all trade data at a single source. This enhances their enforcement capabilities in that the ATAP will help the CBP conduct predictive and prescriptive analytics.

In closing, the CBP’s use of advanced technology will help streamline the flow of trade across the border. This will help freight factoring by facilitating greater transparency across the supply chain ecosystem.


[i] U.S. Department of Transportation. Freight Facts and Figures 2017.