episode #5

Frank is the industry lead for customs and trade at Fujitsu. 

He has over 20 years experience working for global technology organisations delivering services and solutions to the retail industry, the supply chain industry, as well as major government programmes, including the Government’s DVLA electronic vehicle licencing. 

Frank specialises in new and emerging technologies and his current focus is to support Government with its preparations for the UK’s EU exit, together with the development of a vision of its future border capability for the UK, which will support growth in global trade and GDP. 

He was tasked with considering if he had a magic wand and could create a smart vehicle that intelligently tells the border agencies what it’s doing, where it’s going, what it’s carrying, where it’s come from, then automatically give it permission to move through the border – what would he do? With that vision in mind he worked backwards to solve all the problems along the way. 


Demonstrating in practice is really, really critical. So Fujitsu built the system, put smart locks on the back of trucks, they then followed those trucks using tracking devices and showed all of this information to the border agencies as the journeys were unfolding. 

They could see on a dashboard electronically where the vehicle had come from, who had locked it, they could see the fact that it hadn’t been opened or tampered with during its journey. It passed the port at this particular time and it arrived in its destination as it said it would and didn’t go anywhere else. 

And with that, they also shared all of the data about the truck, the owner of the trucks, the traders that put goods in into the vehicle, the customs declarations, and any certificates as well. 

So all of the data had a digital equivalent on the system. And what that did is it showed the technology works. But equally, it showed that the hauliers could use the smart locks and therefore adoption of the technology was easy.

Frank says that now that we have a border strategy, the Government’s published that the 2025 strategy, we need to invest in delivering that strategy to the point where solutions like smart freight are readily adopted. And we move the checks away from the border. It happens in other regions or programmes in Sweden and the American/Canadian border. where these sorts of schemes are developing at pace and are being used today. 

He believes the UK needs to be best in class because 50% of our trade is with the EU – and following Brexit the issue of borders is not going to go away any time soon.



Frank Dunsmuir, Dom Burch

Dom Burch  00:08

Welcome back to the ubloquity podcast with me Dom Burch. This is the podcast where we get to speak to thought leaders across the industry and try and piece together all the different elements so that this blockchain world begins to make sense. I’m absolutely delighted this week to be joined by Frank Dunsmuir. Now Frank is the industry lead for customs and trade at Fujitsu. He has over 20 years experience working for global technology organisations delivering services and solutions to the retail industry, the supply chain industry, as well as major government programmes, including. I’m pleased to say, the government’s DVLA electronic vehicle licencing. I just got my new driver’s licence last week. And Frank specialises in new and emerging technologies. Frank, I’m gonna stop there, because there’s a danger, if I give you too much of an introduction, we won’t have time to speak. Welcome to the podcast. 

Frank Dunsmuir  00:56

Thank you, Dom, and glad to be here. 

Dom Burch  00:58

So just give us a little bit about you, then what brings you to Fujitsu and to this world of, I guess preparing us for our exit from the EU and and trying to get borders working more effectively, I suppose.

Frank Dunsmuir  01:11

So my background, I have a foot in both camps of technology and business. So I’m able to look across both areas. And that gives us an advantage of thinking about an entire area and an entire solution. So it moves away from creating a technology gadget like a smart device of some sort and saying here’s a gadget, and actually looking at the entire end to end particular topic that we’re talking about or particular issue and come up with a solution that works operationally as well. So I’m in both of those camps, I’ve spent the last four years working in the customs and intermediary part of our business. And so my my knowledge base is both within how customs works, how border operations work. What does best practice look like on a global basis? Where do we see that happening? What are we doing around our borders today? What are the demands on the borders? What does it look like going forward? And pulling together ideas and thoughts on if we if we could wave a magic wand if we could have what we wanted., what would a really good border operating model look like? And what what role would technology play in helping achieve that end? So it’s a really, really interesting and varied job.

Dom Burch  02:24

I love that idea that waving the magic wand, that sense of being able to kind of set that vision without immediately worrying about all of the barriers, the technical problems, the, even the legal framework or the changes in regulation? How do you then go from that position of seeing what the solution is and then having to kind of work backwards, I guess, to to figure out what’s the best way to get there?

Frank Dunsmuir  02:47

Yes, it’s an interesting one. And that’s very much what we do, or the way I work is, what would happen if we could do the following? So we now know we have a customs border with the EU that particularly hits the freight industry for for road traffic and road movement. So when you’re moving stuff by trucks, they now have new processes and procedures, and they have to stop at the border, additional checks, additional paperwork, etc. So what what if that truck became smart, and it could just electronically announce itself and drive through the border? And it will drive through the border, if all of that electronic information that it shares with the border agents is proved to be correct and valid. And I know this organisation, we know them well. They’re a low risk organisation with a low risk set of goods, everything about the data tracks out really nicely. So why would we want to stop them and see a bit of paper from the driver? What’s the advantage? And we work back from that, there’s the wish list. There’s a magic wand, smart vehicle, that intelligently tells the border agencies, what it’s doing, where it’s going, what it’s carrying, where it’s come from. And it automatically has permission to move through the border, if everything checks out. And we work backwards from that. So what’s stopping that? What’s preventing that happening? The technology, surprisingly, is often the easiest bit, they might, my colleagues will not thanking me for saying. But to make a digital twin to share information digitally, rechnology is quite good at that, it handles that sort of thing. And it can do it securely. It can do it in a way that is restricted to certain parties. So I’m going to share this with border force or with DEFRA in a controlled manner, etc. that bit we’re really good at and so we can build systems that will do that. It then becomes more of an operational and a policy focus. So operationally, how would that work at the border? How would I know that truck is the digital truck that’s giving me the information and the other one isn’t? How do I get the data and how do I know and trust that it is the right data? What do I need to know about that company in order to be able to give it some sort of trusted status? I don’t like the word trusted because it kind of suggests that everyone isn’t trusted. So that’s not the implication there. How do I operationally give that organisation some level of trust that they can use this digital model? And how would it work? Operationally at the border itself, would I have a fast lane? Would I have an automatic barrier? And then finally, what does the EU think of this as borders, you have to move between two regions. So whilst the UK might agree to it, the EU would have to agree to it as well. So there is a policy process as well. So is there a customs policy or a transport policy that we could hook on to that will enable this to happen, and by policy, the EU has a policy called the UCC, universal customs code, which, which sets out in lots of legislation, how you can move goods and how you can’t move goods, and under what conditions you can move them etc. and deep within there, there are lots of lovely facilitations, like transit and things like that. And we can hook on to those policies with our digital solutions and our operational solution to say, put all those three together. And it looks like that, that magic truck solution could actually work. It’s viable.

Dom Burch  06:08

And I guess not only is it viable, but you’re demonstrating through some of the pilots that have already been run that it does work and it will work and it’s going to work, talk to me about how that’s actually manifesting in the in the real world, because I guess people at home will be listening to that, and going, it makes great sense. And I’m glad Frank’s got a brain big enough to to figure it all out. Because it is lots of moving parts there. I was immediately imagining myself with a VIP pass at Disneyland, you know, and walking past the queue. And so how do you validate that, that that truck is a trusted trader and can get the green light? How have you demonstrated that in practice?

Frank Dunsmuir  06:43

The demonstrating in practice is really, really critical, because it’s lovely to have a PowerPoint slide or a description of we could do this and okay. But immediately different stakeholders, like the border agencies, or the truckers will will will think, yeah, but do you really understand our business? Do you really know what we’re doing? And the answer is no, you’ve got to do some testing some real life real world tests, which means you set the whole thing up, and you pilot it with all of the stakeholders. So we did this we, we built the system, platform, we put some smart locks. And I’ll tell you a bit more about those. On the back of these trucks, we then followed those trucks using the smart locks electronically. And we showed all of this information to the border agencies as we were, as the journeys were unfolding, as the vehicles crossed, etc. So they could see on a dashboard electronically, where the vehicle had come from, who had locked it, they could see the fact that it hadn’t been opened or tampered with during its journey. So whatever went in the truck has not been tampered with. It passed the port at this particular time. And it arrived in its destination as it said it would and didn’t go anywhere else. So very nice. And with that, we also shared all of the data about the truck, the owner of the trucks, the traders that put goods in into the vehicle, the customs declarations, and any certificates as well. So all of the data had a digital equivalent on the system. And what that did is it showed us first of all, the technology works, which we knew it would. But equally, it shows us that the hauliers could use the smart locks, it works, they had no problem sticking it on the back, locking their vehicle with it. And dealing with the codes to open and close it, the traders had no problem with it. And the border agencies, if they wanted to inspect the lock, it was there to see and inspect. So all through that chain, we showed that it actually works. And there was some there was some interesting side benefits that we hadn’t really thought about. So for example, the hauliers, the ones that provide the transport, were able to say to their customers now, we give you secure transport, and we can also show you where your goods are during the journey and when they arrive. So all of a sudden, there were these side benefits cropping out that we hadn’t really anticipated, which often happens in pilots as well. So the traders, the retailers and the suppliers could see that their goods are on the way and where they were. And again, it’s up to the haulier if they want to share that information or not. And the haulier is able to say to their customers, we are sealing this truck, so it’s safer, more secure, more reliable than a truck that’s not sealed or locked as part of a value added service.

Dom Burch  09:20

And those side benefits. I guess people who are sat at home are thinking, how does that come to life in other areas? And it would be things like when you get a delivery from a courier firm or from Amazon. Actually some of the tools they built for internal reasons just to be able to flow their goods and make sure their drivers were being efficient. They could flip those into being customer facing and now suddenly you can look on your app and go my parcel is three stops away.

Frank Dunsmuir  09:43

The likes of the chat parcel operators as we call them and last mile delivery organisations like Amazon, they they are already doing this sort of thing. So we are four stops away. It will be with you soon. So they’re tracking that last mile bit which is useful. What what organisations tend to struggle with is, is the previous part of that journey, so getting parcels from the local distribution centre to your home, very trackable, the bit before that is it’s travelling on mass in a big container, etc. So there’s far more great visibility in that section of the journey now. And in particular, if you think about supermarkets, supplying from a distribution centre to their shops, they don’t typically know what’s arriving until it arrives at the shop. And they typically don’t know what’s in the truck to to any great detail until it’s there. It’s not always the case, some retailers have more detail on that when the truck’s loaded, but but quite a few don’t. And so, again, this is giving the store and the store managers and the store operations people far more insight and control over their goods management and goods in processes. So it’s a really interesting side product. But our focus was mainly on could we create the magic truck, the smart truck, as we call it, smart freight solutions, and enable it to have enough confidence and trust in that product. Perhaps the easiest analogy would be on the motorway. If you, if you go across Europe on the motorway, you go to the toll booth and you’ll notice some some cars drive through the fast, fast lane, where there’s there’s just a reader, and it reads an RFID tag in the car. For those that have registered for the auto toll. Those of us that aren’t registered have to queue up and pay. And it’s a little bit like that. If you have the smart freight solution, you’re in the auto auto toll route and you should get through the port with with far less checks, provided you’re compliant.

Dom Burch  11:38

I love that. Oh, absolutely. I also want to say thank you and well done because we’ve got this far into the conversation and neither of us has actually said the word blockchain. And it would be remiss of us not to I guess, but just help people understand them because you know, part of our role here at ubloquity is to help people actually visualise what on earth is this blockchain thing? I keep hearing about it. There’s a lot of hype around it. I don’t really understand it. But actually all of the things you’ve just described, the technology that underpins it, I guess is is equivalent to a blockchain.

Frank Dunsmuir  12:07

Yes, it is. So underneath all of this lovely orchestration sits the data. And the data is the most important part of this process. It’s how we manage and move data around and how we share it is absolutely key to this process, the success of this process. If there’s any concern around the integrity of that data, or the management and movement of that data, then the whole process, it gets very, very flaky. So we need the most secure and consistent management of that data possible, and blockchain offers that. So the nice thing about blockchain is, once you’ve written the record to the blockchain database, it stays and you can’t change it, tamper with it or amend it. So you’ve always got this record of what you did, you know, nobody else has been able to tamper with, it’s tamper proof, you can certainly amend the record by writing another record, saying I’ve now got an update. But you’ll always have that history. And the beauty of this process is it creates a lot more integrity in the fact that that data hasn’t been manipulated or changed. It also allows us to share that data in a controlled manner. So if I’m supplying stuff to you, we might share access to some supply chain data on the blockchain, just you and I, we might have the rights to see that data. But and that’s, that’s great. And the big challenge with supply chain is there are lots of what we call handoffs, between organisations and stuff goes through the supply chain. So whether it’s goods coming from China, it would have to leave the factory in China. So there’s paperwork there, it arrives at the dock, there’s paperwork there, it goes onto the ship, there’s more paperwork there, it’s on the ship. It then arrives in the dock in Felixstowe or wherever, there’s more paperwork there. If you actually put into the dock, there’s more paperwork there. It gets collected by transport, and it goes on and on and on. And every time there’s a handoff of here’s the paperwork, here’s the documentation. And amazingly, it’s a very, very manual process. Today, it’s bits of paper and stamps. So the blockchain offers the ability to move that data chain from one party to another in a very, very secure way. So that we’re controlling who sees the data. And we know that data has not been tampered with. Nobody’s written on it, or altered it. So it has integrity from the very off. And that’s really key where I mentioned before you need trust in this system, we have to be confident the data is right. And absolutely ubloquity is using blockchain to retain the data to manage that data and create that integrity, which is why we’re partnering with ubloquity, because it’s a perfect platform for the vision that we have. And we will will work with blockchain to extend that vision, the smart trade vision into areas such as health care and safety side for livestock, for example, transport and livestock, which is another exciting development that we’re looking at together.

Dom Burch  15:00

What’s your hopes Frank for the future? And I sort of I almost I’m scared to ask because with the ability to wave your magic wand and see the vision that you know, and, pull together that vision into a reality, and actually make that work and know with absolute confidence thetechnology was going to work, but you needed to demonstrate it to people so they could see it, feel it, believe it. And then you see these kind of side benefits, as you look ahead, and maybe even only six months, 12 months down the line, what’s what’s coming our way that perhaps people need to be thinking about now and getting ready for because the world is beginning to change, isn’t it?

Frank Dunsmuir  15:34

We’ve left the EU, we now have our own Customs Union. And and whether you like that or not, it’s done. And I don’t see that being reversed in the short term. So it’s introduced a challenge, which is we now have a customs border first time in 47 years with the EU. So so that has created the current friction, as we now move goods between Great Britain and the EU. And by friction, I mean, it’s slowing the movement of goods across the border. And the UK Government to to minimise that impact is phasing in controls at the border. So at the moment, you can bring goods from the EU into the UK pretty much unhindered with a low level of administration and requirements. But by the end of the year, we’ll pretty much have a full lockdown border operating system with customs administration and checks at the border of Dover, Euro tunnel, Tilbury all of those ports, goods will have to be checked. So last year, you could you could put goods in the truck drive from Paris to Manchester in the same way you can put goods in the truck and drive from Birmingham to Manchester, the end of this year, that will require customs documentation and checks of those documents at the border. And if you’re not compliant, you get turned away. So it introduces cost administration and and treacle. So the opportunity for the UK if you counter that challenge with an opportunity, the opportunity is we now need as a country to invest in our border strategy. We have a border strategy, the government’s published that the 2025 strategy, we now need to invest in delivering that strategy to the point where solutions like smart freight are readily adopted. And we move the checks away from the border. It’s as simple as that. Don’t have the checks at the border, move them away from the border, it’s interventions can happen at the border. So if you need to do a physical check or intervene in some sort of way, of course, you don’t want to let dangerous goods into the country. But the check is done away from the border using smart freight type technologies and trusted trader programmes. And that’s very, very much best practice that we see around the world. It’s not new, it happens in other regions or programmes in Sweden and American Canadian border, etc. where these sorts of schemes are developing at pace and are being used today. And we just need to be best in class at that, because 50% of our trade is with the EU, you know that will continue to be a large percentage going forward. So we cannot afford to hinder and put costs on that trade. So my view for the future is that is that we we move towards being best in class globally on our border operations and we start dealing with the hotspots, which at the moment is road freight. And then we look to move that best in class learning towards seafreight, airfreight and others, so we become the easiest and most efficient country to deal with and that will drive trade, and with trade drives economic prosperity for us. It’s a nice little dream.

Dom Burch  18:24

It’s a great dream and I have every confidence Frank you’re going to help make that a reality. Thank you so much for coming on to the ubloquity podcast Frank Dunsmuir who’s the industry lead for customs and trade at Fujitsu it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on.

Frank Dunsmuir  18:36

Thank you Dom. Pleasure.