Archive for March, 2018

How Blockchain Will Transform The Supply Chain And Logistics Industry

March 24th, 2018

Managing today’s supply chains—all the links to creating and distributing goods—is extraordinarily complex. Depending on the product, the supply chain can span over hundreds of stages, multiple geographical (international) locations, a multitude of invoices and payments have several individuals and entities involved, and extend over months of time. Due to the complexity and lack of transparency of our current supply chains, there is interest in how block chains might transform the supply chain and logistics industry.

Let’s look at what is broken, how the unique attributes of blockchain could help and look at a few examples of blockchain already impacting supply chains.

How is the supply chain broken?

Our current supply chain is broken in several ways. Over a hundred years ago, supply chains were relatively simple because commerce was local, but they have grown incredibly complex. Throughout the history of supply chains there have been innovations such as the shift to haul freight via trucks rather than rail or the emergence of personal computers in the 1980s that led to dramatic shifts in supply chain management. Since manufacturing has been globalized, and a large portion of it is done in China, our supply chains are heavy with their own complexity.

It’s incredibly difficult for customers or buyers to truly know the value of products because there is a significant lack of transparency in our current system. In a similar way, it’s extremely difficult to investigate supply chains when there is suspicion of illegal or unethical practices. They can also be highly inefficient as vendors and suppliers try to connect the dots on who needs what, when and how.

What is blockchain and how could it help supply chains?

While the most prominent use of blockchain is in the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, the reality is that blockchain—essentially a distributed, digital ledger—has many applications and can be used for any exchange, agreements/contracts, tracking and, of course, payment. Since every transaction is recorded on a block and across multiple copies of the ledger that are distributed over many nodes (computers), it is highly transparent. It’s also highly secure since every block links to the one before it and after it. There is not one central authority over the blockchain, and it’s extremely efficient and scalable. Ultimately, blockchain can increase the efficiency and transparency of supply chains and positively impact everything from warehousing to delivery to payment. Chain of command is essential for many things, and blockchain has the chain of command built in.

The very things that are necessary for reliability and integrity in a supply chain are provided by blockchain. Blockchain provides consensus—there is no dispute in the chain regarding transactions because all entities on the chain have the same version of the ledger. Everyone on the blockchain can see the chain of ownership for an asset on the blockchain. Records on the blockchain cannot be erased which is important for a transparent supply chain.

Examples of blockchain being used in supply chains today

Since blockchains allow for transfer of funds anywhere in the world without the use of a traditional bank, it’s very convenient for a supply chain that is globalized. That’s exactly how Australian vehicle manufacturer Tomcar pays its suppliers—through Bitcoin.

In the food industry, it’s imperative to have solid records to trace each product to its source. So, Walmart uses blockchain to keep track of its pork it sources from China and the blockchain records where each piece of meat came from, processed, stored and its sell-by-date. Unilever, Nestle, Tyson and Dole also use blockchain for similar purposes.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining firm, announced it will use blockchain to better track and record data throughout the mining process with its vendors. Not only will it increase efficiency internally, but it allows the company to have more effective communication with its partners.

The transparency of blockchain is also crucial to allow consumers to know they are supporting companies who they share the same values of environmental stewardship and sustainable manufacturing. This is what the project Provenance hopes to provide with its blockchain record of transparency.

Diamond-giant De Beers uses blockchain technology to track stones form the point they are minded right up to the point when they are sold to consumers. This ensures the company avoids ‘conflict’ or ‘blood diamonds’ and assures the consumers that they are buying the genuine article.

There are several supply chain start-ups such as Cloud Logistics who saw an opportunity to provide blockchain-enabled supply chain solutions to improve efficiencies and reduce costs for the massive supply chain industry. More will most certainly join them as they realize the potential and demand for blockchain-enabled solutions to transform the supply chain and logistics industry.


Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Bernard Marr.


Bitcoin Facts You Should Know

March 18th, 2018

Bitcoin is not a fraud, nor is it a golden nugget. People continue to have strong views and positions on what bitcoin is and debate on its potential, legitimacy and relevance. The discussions are meaningful and leave many more thoughts for us to ponder. But those are opinions, and while useful, facts are critical and important to know. Knowing facts will contribute to meaningful dialogue and questions. Here are some to start with.

Bitcoin is programmable money. Bitcoin introduced a new form of money – programmable money. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (or cryptoassets) operate under the same philosophy as past monies and money we are more familiar with. What determines money is a shared set of rules for exchanging value. The difference with cryptocurrency is that the rules are determined by the payer and payee. They decide the terms and conditions of the transaction, which are codified. This system will, and has started to, extend beyond cryptocurrency and ultimately allows for a huge array of transactions including contracts, expertise, assets and services.

In the analog world, we have physical forms of money such as goods and paper money and are limited by distance. In the digital world, we attained further reach with our transactions, eliminating the constraint and dependency of human distance and speed. However, in the digital world, we are governed by the speed and mercy of banks. In the crypto world of programmable money, we eliminate both human and institutional constraints. These frictions are expensive and reduced.

Bitcoin is not created out of thin air. Bitcoin is created through a process called mining. Blockchain, the technology that bitcoin is built on top of, is dependent on a network of nodes that ensures the integrity of transaction history by achieving consensus. Validation is one part of the process. After validating a transaction, the nodes then need to race, using trial and error, to solve a difficult mathematical puzzle that requires heavy computing resources. The first computer in the network that solves the equation will be rewarded with bitcoins. This is known as ‘mining bitcoins’. This protocol is referred to as Proof of Work (PoW).

Bitcoin mining serves two purposes: it allows for the creation of new coins and facilitates the processing of transactions in the network. Mining requires energy, hardware and bandwidth. If you try to mine bitcoins on your computer, you will find the cost of electricity will likely outweigh the value of bitcoins you can mine. Other cryptocurrencies also use PoW. Another emerging protocol is Proof of Stake (PoS) which does not need energy or hardware to achieve consensus, but rather uses staking or bonding tokens to determine the next block.

Bitcoin has value. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoins created, which is deflationary and the opposite of paper money which is inflationary. Bitcoin’s value and security is derived from the fact that it is easy to prove that substantial computing power and electric energy was expended to solve a math puzzle. This protects against fraud and counterfeit information. When bitcoin is created by PoW, the mining is authenticated and backed by a verifiable network.

Anyone can create their own currency. But a community is needed to accept the creation in order for it to have value. The world has been transacting with bitcoin for over nine years with a global community. Bitcoin also acts like a stock in that the price can go up and down arbitrarily. A stock price represents what another party is willing to pay for it. Cryptocurrencies function in the same way.

Bitcoin can be used for payment locally and globally – A vacuum existed for a faster, more efficient, and hassle free way to exchange money. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to fill this white space and was created for payments and storing value. This new form of money enables online money transfers, peer-to-peer, without an intermediary like a bank. Generally, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be transferred faster and with lower fees. (As bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have gained more popularity, fees may be impacted by congestion and traffic on the blockchain).

In the earlier years of bitcoin, one could buy everyday items such as coffee, beer and dinner and transfer money for a few cents. The price wasn’t so volatile and the transaction time was fairly quick as usage on the blockchain wasn’t high. The charm was that no banks or financial institutions were involved. It was especially attractive if one wanted to transfer money to someone in another country. One could have sent $1MM worth of bitcoin to someone in another country at a cost of less than USD $1 and the receiver could convert it to fiat (aka paper money) in that country in less than an hour. Today with bitcoin’s price volatility and potential higher fees, it may not be practical for payments of everyday items. However, if you are transferring $1MM worth of bitcoin cross border, it may still be worth it.

Bitcoin as the first successful programmable money on the blockchain gave us universal, virtual and borderless cash – which is only the beginning. Bitcoin and blockchain didn’t just define the future of money. It is shaping the future of economies and transactions, and ultimately the future.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Jamie Moy.

10 Ways Blockchain Could Change the Marketing Industry This Year

March 12th, 2018

Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency. Ethereum. These related buzzwords have been in just about every business publication lately, and it seems that everyone wants to learn more about blockchain, the decentralized ledger technology behind it all.

Experts predict that 2018 will be a huge year for blockchain, noting that the technology is poised to dramatically change a wide range of existing industries. What does the rise of blockchain mean for digital marketing? We asked members of the Forbes Agency Council to share their thoughts.

FAC members weigh in on the blockchain.

  1. Brands Will Be Able To Better Target Consumers

Like many emerging technologies, it is very early to truly understand how blockchain will impact marketing. It has the ability to remove the middleman in digital advertising. However, that may take years to displace Google and Facebook, if ever. Because of blockchain’s transparency, it will initially help brands build trust with consumers. – Lisa Allocca, Red Javelin Communications

  1. Malicious Ads Will Grow

JavaScript-based cryptocurrency miners have already been found in the wild, wasting visitors’ CPU power to send “coins” back to website owners. 2018 will see an explosion of this type of shady ad to top-tier sites, especially as “on by default” ad blockers become more popular. Website owners will be searching for new ways to monetize but must balance the ethical use of their visitors’ resources. – Marc Hardgrove, The HOTH

  1. Privacy Concerns Will Be Resolved And Advertiser Trust Will Increase

Giving users control over the amount of personal information they reveal appeases privacy concerns from the user perspective and promotes social responsibility from the advertiser’s side. Studies routinely show that if you ask permission first, users are more than willing to give you personal information if there’s a reward in turn. That reward is paying users directly to view ads. – Kristopher Jones,

  1. 4. Decentralization Will Remove The Media Middlemen

Marketing and advertising start-ups in the blockchain space are already popping up. These aim to tokenize user behaviour and offer a sort of credit system between advertisers and the consumer, which completely removes the massive middlemen managing big media. As we continue to decentralize our world, this is inevitable. Be smart. Move away from being a middleman. Be the source. – Trevor Chapman, Trevor Chapman Group

  1. The Fraud Verification Industry Will Grow

Advertising online is complex when it comes to ensuring media is bought and delivered as intended. Blockchain will make this more transparent. I predict that fraud verification companies will, or have already begun, the blockchain process to evaluate how we can stop bots and fraudsters from stealing ad dollars from brands. Blockchain will allow us to verify who, how and where ads run. – Ashley Walters, Empower Media Marketing

  1. Delivery And Reporting Will Transform

The first marketing area affected last year by blockchain, even on a small scale, was video content delivery. That will extend beyond video to more content producers this year. They will love how they can control how their assets are delivered and ensure it’s properly tracked. Then, once advertisers experience verified delivery and reporting, it will be required. – Todd Earwood, MoneyPath Marketing

  1. Advertising Will Become More Transparent

Marketers love to publish case studies of their outliers that are getting amazing results. The gradual implementation of blockchain will provide transparency on marketing claims by every journey having the ability to be analyzed and validated. This will even lead to the ability to also negotiate contracts and accept terms based on those results. – Douglas Karr, DK New Media

  1. Influencers Will Become Fewer In Number But Better In Quality

Influencer marketing campaigns are going to change dramatically. With blockchain, marketers will be able to see if the influencer’s followers are true people or simply bots. Essentially, it will reduce the number of influencers but leave the top influencers at the top. – Loren Baker, Foundation Digital

  1. Publishers Will Become More Accountable

Technologies like Ethereum make publishers more accountable as transactions become more transparent. Advertisers can see exactly where their traffic is going. Ad data is paramount — it’s shocking how much information we don’t have. Measuring impressions doesn’t cut it. Blockchain technology will unveil everything, decreasing fraud and increasing attribution. – Michael Weinhouse, Logical Position

  1. It Will Solve Numerous Industry Issues

There are blockchain projects being created that might provide solutions around payment processing or fraud prevention within the ad exchange environment. Other areas of interest blockchain technology could solve for are measurement, invoice reconciliation and publisher/advertiser transactions. – Chad Recchia, Awlogy

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Forbes Agency Council.



How Data Protection Platforms Can Power A New Generation Of Apps, AI And Data Science

March 5th, 2018

One of the strongest beliefs is that companies that learn to make the most of their data by effectively building, managing, and evolving their data supply chains will gain a lasting competitive advantage. With so much data now available, companies have to treat their data as one of their most valuable assets. These data supply chains must operate as smoothly as any other system or distribution network.

Yet data supply chains present unique challenges. It’s very difficult to get a data supply chain working seamlessly because it must gather data from many sources, distill it into a useful form, and then be able to deliver the specific subset as needed to the business. Data is not one-size-fits-all, so your data supply chain must be as flexible as your data is diverse.

To build the best data supply chains, companies should recognize an asset they already have in their inventory. And it’s one they often overlook, as there is one repository at almost every company that is woefully underutilized as a source of business insights: Backups.

Backups don’t just have to sit on a shelf and be pulled in only when other data is lost. In fact, they can drive innovation. How? Well, the whole process of what is now called data protection has become far more sophisticated. In this story, we’re going to use Commvault as an example of how data protection systems have created a central and comprehensive repository of data that can not only serve as a backup, but can also be the foundation for new ways of using data to create value.

In other words, we will explore how a modern data protection platform can help you build and run a data supply chain that supports new types of apps, AI, and data science.

How data protection has become a comprehensive data platform

In the past, data protection was all about backups. We all remember floppy disks and how no great late 80s tech movie could avoid involving some drama about the state of a backup. But for the enterprise writ large, backups have served as a key form of insurance. The whole backup system existed as a worst-case scenario setup, a way to transfer data to a safe place and then restore it if something went wrong.

But we need to expand how we think about backups to catch up with today’s technology. In the modern world, data protection platforms have gone far beyond traditional backups in the following ways.

Creating metadata catalogs. Today, a massive amount of metadata is captured, so companies know much more about where data came from and how it is being used. These catalogs can help companies:

  • Analyze data usage
  • Understand growth of data
  • Track down data
  • Observe and monitor data sprawl
  • Establish thresholds and institute alerts about capacity limitations
  • Use REST APIs to add data to a dynamic index (for example, adding GPS data to an entity such as an asset)

Using data crawls. Data protection platforms can also empower companies to crawl their data and create an index of the results usable by anyone in the business, to find and categorize people, products, locations, and other vital information, such as:

  • Entity identification and extraction
  • Harvesting of data related to a particular analysis or AI use
  • Identification of data needed for regulatory compliance

Establishing better search functionality within the data. Data protection platforms can create inverted indexes to make their data more searchable. Commvault’s dynamic index creates such indexes to make searches go faster.

Serving as a transformation engine. The data within the platform can help to drive innovation across the business, as its accessibility allows users from data science to development to:

  • Work with data masking
  • Perform live Dev/Tests on cloud data
  • Employ appropriate redaction techniques on data, while still being able to use data while it’s live and relevant

Operating as a workflow engine. Once the platform is fully operationalized, companies can create workflows using visual coding and simplified methods to automate to expedite processes, including standard workflows and processes as well as third-party integration with platforms such as ticketing systems.

Analyzing the use of data over time. Finally, because of the nature of data protection platforms, users can get multiple viewpoints of the same dataset across time to see what has occurred with it. Such temporal analysis offers valuable insights.

What these platforms and data lakes have in common

When we look at the capabilities a data protection platform like Commvault offers, we see that it has many properties that people have been striving to gain from data lake projects, such as:

  • All important data kept in a repository with a common metadata layer
  • Ensuring data is indexed and searchable
  • The ability to run transformation jobs to analyze and distill data, and to use a workflow engine to manage execution of such jobs
  • API access to data, supporting processing and retrieval

Granted, there some key aspects of data lakes missing from data protection platforms, such as programming models for creating and running advanced analytics, and the ability to create new engines such as SQL engines and other machine learning technology that runs on Hadoop.

But when you include data protection platforms as part of your data infrastructure, you gain a tremendously powerful component in a data supply chain. The platforms might not do everything, but they do a lot, and no one data repository can actually provide companies with everything they need.

Putting a data protection platform to work

Now let’s imagine how applications, AI, and data science can be all made more powerful with a data protection platform. Here’s what these platforms provide.

Understanding what you have. You have a comprehensive view and index of your data. There’s no more guessing about what you have and what’s missing. This can be helpful, for instance, when you’re in an app and want to know everything about a customer, or in a data science context and need context about the data. The platforms provide a metadata repository that aids understanding.

Getting access to all the data. Because of its basis in providing data recovery, data protection platforms have all your data. Once you’ve understood there might be something interesting in a particular dataset, the platform can give you direct access to the data itself and not just the metadata. This is a huge advantage as you can get access to a lot of data that you couldn’t access otherwise. This expedites results, as applications, AI, and data scientists don’t have to wait around for data to be delivered — it’s readily available.

Extracting nuggets. Data protection platforms break through barriers. We all know that some data is harder to find and mine for value than others. By consolidating all your data in one place, this ornery data becomes more manageable. For instance, if you want to find all the places in your data where a product or customer was mentioned, you can run a crawl through the platform and retrieve relevant data, and use it to feed analysis, apps, or AI.

Looking back in time. As mentioned earlier, a temporal analysis that companies gain from data protection platforms is invaluable. You can see how data is changing over time, monitor key trends, document and track changes, and perform analysis based on this information, allowing you to make better decisions based on historical data.

Performing metadata analytics. The same temporal analysis can also be used on your metadata. Companies can look back at all metadata and understand the changes and relationships between data sets, as well as who has accessed data and when to get a better sense of the most vital data to the business.

A backup plan that is anything but

The great thing about a data protection platform is that it is created and updated automatically. Companies still have to work on the data to distill it and put it to use, but with such a platform, you’re starting with an incredibly powerful view of all the important data in your enterprise in one place.

Data protection platforms offer ready access to a vast amount of historical data that can add an untapped dimension to your data supply chain. In short, app developers, AI experts, and data scientists who have access to a data protection platform will crush those who don’t have access to one.

Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Dan Woods.