During the COVID-19 pandemic, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Innovative Solutions Canada Program awarded funding to BlueNode, a Halifax start-up. The funding was used to develop technology that could better organize and locate shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medicine.
The team at BlueNode wanted a better way to locate PPE within the supply chain, determine where it was coming from and where it was going. While they could find this information in trade records, the records were organized using systems built in the 1980s. This meant that much of the information was sorted based on human knowledge, and as a result, was usually unreliable.
To solve this issue, BlueNode used an artificial intelligence (AI) they’ve developed. The software took a large amount trade data, imported it, and integrated it into a common data framework. Traditionally this work would be done manually, and would take a long time to complete.
Once in a common data framework, a suite of algorithms (a problem-solving process used by the software) analyzed the data and looked for issues. This meant errors could be traced to issues with the data, like when a product code didn’t match the rest of the products being shipped in the same container. The software learned to identify these issues by analyzing large sets of data and learning common patterns.
The software did a good job of organizing data and tracking product locations. Working together, staff from both BlueNode and Transport Canada used the software to identify and locate supplies at a 90% accuracy rate. This means that the software’s results were correct 90% of the time - far better than the traditional method used for this task.
This type of artificial intelligence could definitely benefit Canada’s supply chains. By accurately identifying and locating products, the software decreases supply chain disruptions. The software can also predict risks and unsafe capacity levels on cargo ships, which can lead to safer voyages and fewer damaged goods.
Based on the results of this project, it may expand to improve supply chains across Canada.