Can blockchain and the Internet of Things mitigate supply chain reputation risk?

Supply chains are complex, unwieldy beasts, which are notoriously hard to tame, but a solution could be in the offing, using Blockchain, and Internet of Things technologies.

“Mommy, I want to be a supply chain manager when I grow up”, said no-one. Ever.

Supply chain management has to be one of the most difficult, thankless jobs in business. In this globalised age, it becomes increasingly complex, all the more so, the bigger an organisation becomes.

Getting a company’s supply chain right, can transform a company’s fortunes. Witness Apple Computers, a large part of Apple’s resurrection was due to having the best supply chain in the world (as ranked by Gartner for the last 5 years in a row).

Getting you supply chain wrong on the other hand can have serious consequences. Tesco saw €360m knocked off its value overnight when it was discovered that it’s beef burgers were found to be 29% horse meat. Investigations subsequently showed that the horse meat entered the supply chain without Tesco’s knowledge, but the issue still had significant implications for people’s trust in the brand.

In another famous example, taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s  Managing supply-chain risk for reward [pdf] report it noted

Nearly a decade ago, lightning struck a Philips microchip plant in New Mexico, causing a fire that contaminated millions of mobile phone chips. Among Philips’ biggest customers were Nokia and Ericsson, the mobile phone manufacturers, but each reacted differently to the disaster. Nokia’s supplychain management strategy allowed it to switch suppliers quickly; it even re-engineered some of its phones to accept both American and Japanese chips, which meant its production line was relatively unaffected. Ericsson, however, accepted Philips’ word that production at the plant would be back on track in a week and took no action. That decision cost Ericsson more than US$400m in annual earnings and, perhaps more significantly, the company lost market share. By contrast, Nokia’s profits rose by 42% that year.

And then there is the issue of conflict minerals. These are natural resources (such as cassiterite (for tin), wolframite (for tungsten), coltan (for tantalum), and gold ore) mined in a conflict zone and sold to help finance the fighting. These minerals are required for the manufacture of electronics such as tablets, laptops, and mobile phones. Coincidentally, Apple announced yesterday that it is now auditing 100 percent of its suppliers for the use of conflict minerals.

How best to gain and enforce transparency into supply chains? Traditionally this has been done with audits, a resource intensive process if carried out correctly.

However two more recent technologies may help significantly improve this procedure – blockchain, and the Internet of Things.

Blockchain, the technology which underpins cryptocurriencies like bitcoin, is basically a cryptographically secure, immutable record of transactions. And recently it has been used to set up and enforce smart contracts for things such as managing community energy exchange transactions in New York, to issue equity to drivers in a cooperatively owned ride sharing platform, and to authenticate users, and manage the billing process when charging electric vehicles in Germany.

If every item in your supply chain is part of a blockchain, then it has a proven provenance. Add to this always-on traceability using Internet of Things technologies, and you suddenly have a robust, transparent, virtually bullet-proof supply chain.

Has anyone rolled this out for their supply chain yet? Not that I know of, but it can only be a matter of time (did I mention supply chains are complex?).

 

Photo credit Neville Hobson

Sign up for my new newsletter here

I started a new newsletter last week.

It is quick and easy to read with 5-6 story links maximum. But the stories which will relate to the topics I regularly research (the Internet of Things, Energy, and CleanTech), will be the most important stories in these areas for that week.

I will be publishing the newsletter every Friday, so you can enjoy the stories, just as we head into (or during) the weekend 🙂

You can check out my first newsletter here.

And if you wish to be included in the weekly mailing, you should sign up for it here.

Finally, if you have any feedback on the newsletter, please don’t hesitate to let me know either in the comments below, or you can email me on tom@tomraftery.com anytime.

Thanks.

Apple puts its environmental initiatives front and centre at its spring event

 

LisaJacksonAppleRenewableEnergyApple held it’s annual spring event yesterday in Palo Alto to make iPhone, iPad, and iOS related announcements (amongst others).

However, this year for a change the first executive invited to address the audience was Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, former EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson.

Lisa was greeted by warm applause which became more enthusiastic when she announced that 93% of Apple’s facilities worldwide are now powered by renewable energy. This means Apple is now well on its way to achieving its stated aim of being fully renewably powered globally. And in 23 countries, including the United States and China, Apple is already 100% renewably powered.

In China Jackson explained, Apple has a 40MW solar farm which has a minimal impact on the local environment, and allows for the local Yak farmers to graze their animals and grow hay under the panels (seen above). This solar farm produces more electricity than Apple uses currently in all of China.

Apple’s data centres are also fully renewably powered, and it has a policy of siting new data centres only if the site has access to renewable power. This was one of the reasons behind Apple’s choosing Ireland and Denmark for its two newest data centres last year.

In fact, since hiring Jackson away from the EPA, Apple has made some extremely positive moves in reducing its footprint, and greatly increasing its transparency. This focus on transparency may go some of the way to explaining Apple’s decision last week to move a significant portion of its iCloud storage business away from notoriously opaque Amazon to Google (although, it is as likely to do with diversifying suppliers, moving to a supplier more in line with Apple’s views on data privacy, and possibly easing the transition to eventually self-hosting the data).

Jackson also talked about Apple’s investments in forestry, and how Apple are using paper sourced from sustainably farmed forests for 99% of its packaging now.

Apple is demonstrating tremendous leadership in the energy and sustainability space (as well as the privacy space, but that another story!). Kudos to them, and interestingly Amazon appears to be finally getting around to supplying some of its operations with renewable energy too – though, it still shuns any kind of auditing or reporting on its energy and emissions. Sigh, maybe someday after seeing Apple put their environmental initiatives front and centre, Amazon will also see the value of doing this.

More prestigious speaking engagements

I recently received an invitation to address the bi-annual meeting of the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) in Athens.

CEPIS, if you are not familiar with it is

a non-profit organisation seeking to improve and promote a high standard among ICT professionals, in recognition of the impact that ICT has on employment, business and society. CEPIS currently represents 33 member societies in 32 countries across greater Europe. Through its members, who are the professional ICT bodies at national level, CEPIS represents 450,000 ICT professionals

Quite an honour to be asked to address them.

This got me to thinking of all the prestigious talks I’ve given in the last few months.

I addressed the European Commission’s European technology platform for Smart Grids on Energy Digitalisation last November.

DrivingATesla

I addressed the TeslaWorld event in Antwerp last year (see video above). This was a spectacular event with two Tesla Model S cars on either side of the stage, a phenomenal line-up of speakers, and I got to drive a Tesla on the way back to the airport! So that was pretty awesome, and I have to admit to seeing my Prius in a less favourable light when I arrived home 😦

I gave the opening keynote at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach last September on the topic of The convergence of the Internet of Things and Energy, and I was bowled over by the positive feedback I received afterwards from the attendees.

And I was very honoured to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the EclipseCon event in Toulouse last year.

There were other events I spoke at last year as well (SAP TechEd and ThingMonk off the top of my head).

But with the CEPIS invite, and another I’m not allowed to reveal just yet, 2016 is definitely shaping up to be an even better year for speaking engagements!

 

Libelium launches its IoT Marketplace to make Internet of Things projects as painless as possible

In a time when Spain’s economy is in the doldrums, it is nice to see some good news coming out of the Iberian peninsula, especially in the Internet of Things (IoT) space – technology’s new hotness!

Libelium, an IoT hardware and software provider based in the North of Spain, and recently profiled in a Financial Times piece where they were referred to as a “baby unicorn”, just announced that it has launched an IoT Marketplace.

The marketplace currently has 15 boxed IoT solutions for sale, but Libelium plans to increase this to 50 as the year progresses.

The solutions cover the Smart Cities, Smart Environment, Smart Parking, Smart Agriculture, Smart Water, and Air Quality verticals.

LibeliumMarketplacePurchase

As well as the kits covering verticals, there are also Application Development kits for developing IoT solutions for Microsoft Azure, esri, IBM Bluemix, Thingworx, and Telefonica’s cloud platforms.

And there specific Solution kits created together with partners like Indra, Thing+, IOTSENS, and elementblue. These kits include pre-configured hardware to speed up time to live.

In a move likely to be popular with their customers, Libelium took advantage of existing partnerships with cloud providers to ensure that kits were available with trial access to cloud offerings. This cleverly allows Marketplace customers to try the different cloud platforms, seeing which one works well, before buying.

And, this is a true marketplace. Clicking on the Buy button, brings the user to a screen with fields for entering credit card details, or using a Paypal account to buy the kit (I didn’t attempt to purchase an actual kit, so I can’t verify that part of the site works, but I’ve no reason to think it doesn’t).

I asked Libelium CEO Alicia Asín about the genesis of the marketplace and she explained that Libelium’s VARs were often not finding it easy to sell solutions to customers because they were working from a 70+ page catalog, and architecting a solution for a customer wasn’t something they were necessarily comfortable doing.

So in order to make it easier to come up with the right equipment Libelium launched a trial with four vertical kits last year in June. Despite being launched half way through the year, they were some of the company’s top selling products by the year’s end, and so the marketplace was born.

This marketplace idea is an interesting one for organisations looking to run a pilot or proof of concept, without too much risk. The variety of hardware, communications standards, and software protocols to be taken into account in any significant IoT project can be daunting, and any attempt to simplify this should be lauded.

 

Using the Internet of Things to keep people safe

At the 2014 SAP TechEd && d-code event in Las Vegas, I spoke to Dr Severin Kezeu of SK Solutions. His company has developed an Internet of Things based safety technology which has been deployed on building sites throughout the world.

What it does is to send in realtime, the positions of all vehicles, and workers on site, so that in the case a potential collision is detected, action can be taken to avert the collision, thereby saving expensive equipment, and more importantly, keeping people safe.

For a short time only…

 

Yesterday was my last day working for RedMonk. I headed up RedMonk’s cleantech, energy and sustainability practice which we called GreenMonk, for almost eight years, but all good things must come to an end.

Here’s some of what I got up to while I was with RedMonk.

I’m fortunate now that I’m talking to a number of people about next steps, and some exciting opportunities are already starting to present themselves. However, if you know of something you think could be interesting for me, or some organisation that you feel could do with my help, do please let me know.

Nothing has been signed yet, so all possibilities will be considered 🙂

My contact details are:

Email – tom@tomraftery.com

Mob – +34 677 695 468

Skype – TomRaftery

Twitter – @TomRaftery

LinkedIn – http://es.linkedin.com/in/tomraftery

My blogging will resume here once more, and I’ll drop the occasional post over on Medium as well, so do feel free to follow me there too.

 

 

 

Photo credit www.tradingacademy.com

Word Cloud of all my Tweets to-date

Word cloud of my 42,051 tweets to-date Word cloud of my 42,051 tweets to-date

Twitter announced last December that they were going to make it possible for any Twitter user to download a full archive of all their tweets.

Since then I have been occasionally checking my Settings in Twitter to see if the Your Twitter archive option had yet appeared, and today it did. Wohoo! The option when clicked, creates your archive, and then emails you a link to download it in zipped form.

I downloaded the archive and was delighted to find all my Tweets there (right back to my less than profound first Tweet!). *cringe*

Even more useful is that the archive is searchable and it contains links to the original tweets on Twitter.

I mentioned this on Facebook where Darren Barefoot spotted it and commented that he’d created a word cloud from his archive. Nice idea I thought.

He wrote a blog post on how to do this which boils down to:

  1. Concatenate the csv files in the data->csv folder into a single file (you can do this on a Mac by issuing “cat *.csv > outputfile” in Terminal)
  2. Sort and delete the surplus headings from your concatenated file and
  3. Copy the text of your tweets into the Create field in Wordle*

I was interested to see in the word cloud which emerged just how much I use the old style RT.

Other nice take-aways for me from this are that my Twitter stream seems to use mostly positive words (Thanks, good and great are some of the most used words in my stream), and that I seem to talk to @dahowlett, and @monkchips most of all (and for some reason I seem to talk to myself (@tomraftery) a lot too – first sign of madness?

Ok, now I have my archive down, I may need to do some more slicing and dicing on the Tweets – anyone have any suggestions for interesting things to look for?

Also, I need to check if the archive download link which Twitter emailed me is a perpetually updating archive, or if it was a point in time link. Hopefully the former.

*You will need to have Java turned on for this to work

My Twitter ‘Magic Number” is 16, what’s yours?

Twitter post

Twitter is a superb medium for getting a message out.

And it’s RT (ReTweet) convention means that tweets can go viral very quickly. However, if you want to be ReTweeted, you need to make it easy or people won’t do it.

What do I mean?

Well, if you have a tendency to fill up your 140 character allowance in your tweets, the chances are that you won’t be ReTweeted much – why? Because people wanting to ReTweet you will have to do work (edit the post) to get it to fit within their own 140 character limit! Reduce that workload by ensuring that your Tweet will fit within their 140 characters effortlessly and you will be ReTweeted more often.

Hence the Twitter “Magic Number”. What is the Twitter “Magic Number”? It is the number of unused characters you need to leave at the end of your tweet so people don’t have to edit your post if they want to ReTweet it.

My Twitter ‘magic number’ is 16 – I always try to write my tweets leaving at least 16 characters free at the end. this allows people to do a “RT @tomraftery: ” – so they can easily RT my tweets without having to edit the content to get it to fit in 140. Of course, leaving more than 16 spaces at the end of my tweets allows people to add a comment or bit of context to their RT which is even better.

How do you calculate your Twitter ‘Magic Number”? It is the number of characters in your username (11 for @tomraftery) + 5 (for the RT, the : and the requisite spaces).

Now might be a good time to take another look at your Twitter username and see if you can find a shorter one that works – obviously the smaller your ‘Magic Number’ the more you can fit in your own Tweet, while still facilitating easy RT’ing!

You should follow me on Twitter here.

How to use LinkedIn to land your dream job

Adrian Weckler Twitter Post

I was scanning Twitter this morning when I spotted a question from Adrian Weckler of the Sunday Business Post asking if anyone found LinkedIn useful and what for.

I emailed Adrian the following story of how I used LinkedIn to help me get my current job. I’ve told this story quite a few times now but having finally typed it out, I might as well blog it as well, then I could point ppl to it!!!

My wife is Spanish. She lived in Ireland with me for over 10 years before losing her head completely and saying she wanted to move back to Spain. That was in June 07. We had just enrolled our 4yr old in school for the coming Sept so we decided to give ourselves 12 months to organise the move – that way he’d also finish out his first year in school before we moved (don’t worry, I’m getting there!).

I was involved in a couple of businesses in Cork at the time, but nothing that would move with me, so I knew I needed to cast around for a new job. One that would allow me to work from Spain in English as my Spanish was poor (still is, but that’s another story!!!).

I put the word out on Twitter – but Tweets have a short half-life and that didn’t elicit much response. I also put the word out on FaceBook and I did receive on half-hearted offer of a possibility of a part-time position from a friend (but I think that was more a pity thing, than anything else tbh).

Then I decided to try LinkedIn. I took a slightly different tack there. I had built up quite a decent network there of very well known people in the Web 2.0 space internationally. I went through the list and cherry-picked about 70 of them. I sent them an email saying that I would soon be moving to Spain (this was around March 08), and that as I’d be looking for a new position, it’d be great if they would consider writing a recommendation on my LinkedIn profile.

Within a few short days I had over 20 stellar recommendations on my profile. And four job offers. I interviewed with the four and narrowed it down to two I was really interested in.

Then RedMonk came along, matched the offers, and the rest as they say, is history!!!