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(Disruptive) Technologies in Foreign Trade

Article written by Monnike Garcia, Founder of LABCOMEX and the Women in Comex initiative, which aims to leverage women and small companies in Foreign Trade.

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Published by LABCOMEX

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I remember that in the year 2018, I attempted to write about this subject, but there was almost no information. I even wrote to some colleagues living abroad, to find out about the subject, but there was little information or almost nothing disclosed about it.

However, during the past year, we have seen an explosion of information about the use of technologies in Foreign Trade, which I will present below.

What are disruptive technologies?

Disruptive technology is “one that significantly revolutionizes the solution that was previously used or simply creates a new market, product or service”.

What are they worth?

The first time I heard about these technologies, it was in a lecture by Martha Gabriel in São Paulo, which very well represented the topic with this Pwc figure, addressing the types of technologies. The objective of these technologies is to improve the cost-benefit ratio of the processes, the performance of the improvement of the innovation it provides, according to Totvs' website.

However, at that time, I kept thinking: so what? Is this technology relevant to my area (foreign trade)? This question was the reason why I started to research and build this article, which aims to address each of these technologies applied to or related to Foreign Trade. 

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

This technology seeks to connect everyday things (appliances, means of transport and even sneakers, clothes, and doorknobs) to the worldwide web. In foreign trade, I mention two examples: the Yara ship and the autonomous truck AXL as an application of this technology.

Yara is an autonomous container vessel with zero gas emissions, a 100% electric and autonomous container ship in the world. Watch the video here.

AXL autonomous truck is monitored remotely. The vehicle has sensors, cameras, radars, and caps, which monitor the surrounding environment. According to the manufacturer, the operation is facilitated by having a logistics system already defined, which informs the vehicle how the task should be performed. Watch de video here.

  • Augmented Reality

Who hasn’t played Pokemon Go? Through this technology, the idea is to increase your immediate knowledge of the world around you. Making the experience very close to reality, stimulating the senses, and simulating realities in a virtual environment.

Once, I was visiting a cosmetics customer who had just returned from a trip. We were talking about trends in the sector, when he showed me a video of his girlfriend: she was at a cosmetics store, looking at herself in a mirror and when she touched the color of a lipstick, the mirror would automatically apply that shade to her reflection. She was able to test the color on herself without actually testing the product. Brazil moves millions of reais in this market and when it comes to exports, it competes with global markets like the USA, Argentina, and Mexico. The use of this technology would provide, in addition to enhancing the customer experience, a more accurate purchase of products at a retailer level.

Loreal Virtual Try on Makeup. With the virtual application feature, the customer can experience more than 100 different types of makeup in a fast, fun and smart way. Watch de video here.

  • Blockchain

This may be the technology with the greatest potential, due to the paperwork and bureaucracy and processes that characterize international trade. The technology is nothing more than a chain of blocks (Blockchain) that works as an accounting system, offering a way to clarify and validate a transaction. It is the chronological record of all transactions that occurred on the network, and that were compiled and validated. It is public, unique, and shared by participants in a specific system.

Corda blockchain. Applied in a soybean trading operation from Argentina to Malaysia, the technology allowed the conclusion of the negotiation in just 24 hours, instead of the traditional five to ten days with the participation of 12 banks. Source: Business Insider | Época Negócios.

Tradelens is a platform developed by IBM and Maerskthatmakes it possible to bring together all parts of the supply chain, including traders, freight forwarders, ports and terminals, sea carriers, customs, government authorities, and others. The solution is based on blockchain with a permission structure and a secure identity.

TradeLens provides continuous and secure sharing of actionable, real-time supply chain information between all parties involved in the negotiation. For example, shipping marks, cargo details, business documents, structured data embedded in business documents, customs records, sensor readings, and more.

Blockchain in government. At the end of last year, the Brazilian government, through Ordinance PORTARIA RFB Nº 2071, DE 03 DE DEZEMBRO DE 2019, made data available for a certain period (until July 31, 2020), with the requesting body or entity should adopt the mechanism data sharing through Blockchain allowed network or another authorized by Cotec.

  • Artificial Intelligence

As its name makes clear, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computing that focuses on developing devices that simulate the ability of human reasoning.

The purpose of this technology is to design machines that, beyond simply following pre-programmed routines, can learn to perform their tasks more efficiently and are able to adapt to new environments.

Parameterization channels. The famous channels, green, red, yellow, gray, use this technology that performs the verification of operations and data crossing and informs which processes should be checked, with those that do not offer risk being automatically released. 

  • Robots

Trained to perform work autonomously after being previously programmed, robots can be used in industrial areas, such as in automotive production lines. However, as they’ve become more popular, robots are being used in cleaning, gardening, or even in leisure activities. Just as robots have been found to be useful in areas of entertainment and home chores, so can they be an interesting alternative in the area of Foreign Trade.

The Startup Quattro control tower is a platform that will be launched at the end of the semester, according to the newspaper A Gazeta do Povo, the solution’s aim is to “control and automate logistics processes with the help of robots. Its function is to capture and monitor various data, including the clearance of cargo (clearance by customs) and location of containers and vehicles worldwide.”

Kestraa Chamber, through an integration with several systems (customer’s ERP, shipowners, freight forwarders, IRS systems, dispatchers, transporters, etc.), the system captures information and provides visibility of the operational steps to deliver goods to the importer.

  • Drones

The unmanned and remotely controlled aerial vehicles, also known as drones, can perform numerous tasks from being used for pizza delivery to documenting trajectories of vessels.

Wilhelmsen Airbus Drone allows the delivery of documents to anchored vessels in just 10 minutes. Watch de video here.

  • Virtual Reality

“Virtual reality is, as the name implies, a virtual environment in which the user can insert himself as if he were right there, but everything is just a computer system. The technology induces visual and sound effects, allowing total immersion in the simulated environment. virtually. The user can interact or not with what he sees around him, depending on the possibilities of the system used", according to Canal Tech.

Who doesn’t remember the Jetsons? In the drawing, there were holograms — virtual reality instruments, which allowed people to talk in the same environment, even though they were separated by kilometers. Through these resources, it is possible to hold meetings, training, and other activities without being physically present.

Mimesys, with the technology developed by them, people can see themselves as a hologram of any size, when looking through a tablet from anywhere in the world. Watch de video here.

  • 3D Printer

With 3D printing technology, it is possible to create a physical object quickly and accurately from a digital model on the computer. From the three-dimensional model, just send it to the 3D printing software, defining dimensions and texture details. Then the 3D drawing of this object will be sliced into several layers of printing and produced one by one until it forms the object.

Through this technology, we can reduce the logistics and operational costs, since the owner of the printer simply needs to acquire a license (service) for the product to be printed.

3D Printing project, by Wilhelmsen. This is a competition in which the participates will develop a project to innovate the traditional supply chain for marine spare parts. The winner’s announcement will be in June 2020.


There’s no coming back from the cost-cutting advantages that technology has brought upon us, be it in  Foreign Trade o other areas, as it adds peed, and reduces time and money.

So, to those of you who were skeptical that these technologies had arrived in foreign trade—have I changed your mind?

Monnike Garcia, 

Founder of Labcomex and the Women in Comex initiative and my purposes are to leverage women and small companies in Foreign Trade, ah, and I am an enthusiast on the subject of technology.

My sincere thanks to my colleague Roberta da Silva Reis who helped me with the translation of the article.


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