Simon Dennis, director of AI and Analytics Innovation at SAS UK, told Express.co.uk he was “confident” a suitable system could be built which would “deliver” a secure and open border which would do away for the need for real-life border security guards after Britain leaves the bloc. Mr Dennis said: “The question of what happens to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as the UK leaves the European Union is one of the most taxing challenges affecting the Brexit negotiations. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not something that magically produces an answer to every difficult question – however, it’s already in use elsewhere around the globe and offers innovative new techniques to address challenges facing border and port management should the United Kingdom exit the EU Customs Union.”
In matters concerning Brexit there has been an “unfortunate habit of obscuring facts with fiction”, Mr Dennis said.
He explained: “In this particular domain that is perhaps justifiable as much of the work of the authorities is by its nature sensitive and secret.
“The critical question is: without a physical border, can the UK maintain its constitutional and border integrity whilst honouring the Good Friday Agreement as a country outside of the EU customs union.”
He suggested a revised approach and innovative thinking from those involved could provide the answer, adding: “One very workable scheme that could help to deliver expeditious yet secure operations at the national boundary comes in the form of an AI-based trusted trader scheme.
“A scheme such as this would typically allow businesses to apply for pre-vetted status.”
A workable system would involve participating companies agreeing to supply enough information about their business to allow machine-assisted decisions to be taken in order to vet each transaction.
Mr Dennis said: “This means that using these schemes, vehicles do not normally stop for inspection at borders.
“This solution is being deployed in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The approach would offer assurances to people concerned various security aspects, he stressed, explaining: “Here, statistical and network analysis across a variety of data give early warnings to those responsible for the border.
“For example, it may be suspected that a business has changed ownership.
“Its risk profile would change if it passed into the hands or influence of known or suspicious persons.
“In such instances arrangements can be made to assess and check goods elsewhere along its route, at a suitable waypoint or delivery location or perhaps for surveillance to be initiated.
“In such a case the present close collaboration between the RoI and UK authorities would enable joint decisions to be made as to the approach.”
He said the Internet of Things (IoT), defined as the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, offered another another way to “expedite and secure” a trusted-trader programme.
Using on-board tracking systems that are fairly standard these days, vehicle journeys could be monitored for any dubious activity, such as detours and unscheduled stoppages.
Mr Dennis said: “AI-systems may be used to develop activity signatures from data feeds from tracking devices to detect anomalous or potentially high-risk events.
“Bona fide truckers would clearly find the reduction in potential delays far outweighs any possible privacy concern and furthermore agreed data retention processes would be applied.
“These systems would alert officials to take near real-time action to mitigate risks for vehicles so-equipped and allow other techniques to focus on the less high tech.”
The issue of the backstop has proved a massive sticking point for Brexit, with critics accusing opponents of using the issue as a way of trying to derail the process.
Shankar Singham, Director of the International Trade and Competition Unit (ICTU) at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank told Express.co.uk in November he believed the problems associated with the border could have been resolved long ago, had Prime Minister Mrs May and her administration treated it as a priority.
He said Government departments had not been prepared to invest any time in investigating solutions, adding: “Looking at the situation, I find it absolutely extraordinary that nobody has been tasked with this.”