Blog article

Mapping TradeTech: for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Florent Bardy
May 25, 2021

Late 2020, I was honored to contribute to the first World Economic Forum (WEF) report about TradeTech. Together with other industry pioneers we worked at defining TradeTech, assessing the maturity and standards of various technologies involved as well as identifying the challenges.

As AREA42 continues to engage with the Digital Trade working group of the World Economic Forum this year in a new report led by the World Trade Organisation focused on Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things I wanted to throwback to this first founding report for our industry: Mapping TradeTech – Trade in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Analysing TradeTech in two layers

There are two “layers” by which TradeTech is analyzed in the report. The first layer has to do with digitizing trade data and processes. The second layer is all about analyzing the optimization and which parties come together based on the transition of data and processes from analog to digital. The first being the prerequisite to the second.

International trade involves public and private institutions alike from governments to ports, corporates to SMEs and the digitisation and technology upgrade challenge concerns all of them.

It's high time for TradeTech

The pandemic and Suez canal blockage have exposed a lot of weaknesses and holes in international trade and supply chain. The use of automated clearance systems and new devices to perform inspections and track shipments have for instance been proven invaluable during this time. This year the World Customs Organisation (WCO) will be collaborating with the international community on recovery and preparedness. This is where TradeTech can really take centre stage.

Data is the key

The most transformative TradeTech currently is the Internet of Things (IoT) within the supply chain, digital payments, E-commerce platforms and Cloud Computing. These technologies will help trade move from a reactive environment to a more proactive environment. How? One word: data. It is easier to anticipate late shipments and other potential problems because there is visibility into the entire supply chain process. Data sharing initiatives across borders are capitalizing on the softening of attitudes among nations suspicious of each other in the interest of expediency and efficiency.

It seems all new technology will have an effect on trade, from AI to 5G and beyond. That is why here at AREA42 we are dedicated to facilitating innovation to create frictionless trade for a better world.

The report has other great nuggets of information you might find interesting. Especially, the challenges associated with the full adoption of TradeTech and what can be done to solve them.

TradeTech harnesses innovations

TradeTech, or the set of technologies and innovations that enable trade to be more efficient, inclusive, and equitable, is fundamental to harnessing the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good. Yet the incorporation of technologies in trade could result in unintended consequences that should be addressed to ensure TradeTech works for all companies regardless of their size, and for all countries regardless of their level of development.

This report aimed at defining TradeTech as an industry to identify the opportunities and challenges to be addressed next from AI to IoT or 3D printing.

For a short introduction to TradeTech, have a look at our What is TradeTech? article.

Please get in touch if you are interested in taking the next TradeTech challenges with us (

Photo by NASA on Unsplash