Posts tagged innovation

The world’s most valuable resource is DATA


Source: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

Such dominance has prompted calls for the tech giants to be broken up, as Standard Oil was in the early 20th century. This newspaper has argued against such drastic action in the past. Size alone is not a crime. The giants’ success has benefited consumers. Few want to live without Google’s search engine, Amazon’s one-day delivery or Facebook’s newsfeed. Nor do these firms raise the alarm when standard antitrust tests are applied. Far from gouging consumers, many of their services are free (users pay, in effect, by handing over yet more data). Take account of offline rivals, and their market shares look less worrying. And the emergence of upstarts like Snapchat suggests that new entrants can still make waves.

But there is cause for concern. Internet companies’ control of data gives them enormous power. Old ways of thinking about competition, devised in the era of oil, look outdated in what has come to be called the “data economy”. A new approach is needed.

Quantity has a quality all its own

What has changed? Smartphones and the internet have made data abundant, ubiquitous and far more valuable. Whether you are going for a run, watching TV or even just sitting in traffic, virtually every activity creates a digital trace—more raw material for the data distilleries. As devices from watches to cars connect to the internet, the volume is increasing: some estimate that a self-driving car will generate 100 gigabytes per second. Meanwhile, artificial-intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learning extract more value from data. Algorithms can predict when a customer is ready to buy, a jet-engine needs servicing or a person is at risk of a disease. Industrial giants such as GE and Siemens now sell themselves as data firms.

This abundance of data changes the nature of competition. Technology giants have always benefited from network effects: the more users Facebook signs up, the more attractive signing up becomes for others. With data there are extra network effects. By collecting more data, a firm has more scope to improve its products, which attracts more users, generating even more data, and so on. The more data Tesla gathers from its self-driving cars, the better it can make them at driving themselves—part of the reason the firm, which sold only 25,000 cars in the first quarter, is now worth more than GM, which sold 2.3m. Vast pools of data can thus act as protective moats.

Access to data also protects companies from rivals in another way. The case for being sanguine about competition in the tech industry rests on the potential for incumbents to be blindsided by a startup in a garage or an unexpected technological shift. But both are less likely in the data age. The giants’ surveillance systems span the entire economy: Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy. They own app stores and operating systems, and rent out computing power to startups. They have a “God’s eye view” of activities in their own markets and beyond. They can see when a new product or service gains traction, allowing them to copy it or simply buy the upstart before it becomes too great a threat. Many think Facebook’s $22bn purchase in 2014 of WhatsApp, a messaging app with fewer than 60 employees, falls into this category of “shoot-out acquisitions” that eliminate potential rivals. By providing barriers to entry and early-warning systems, data can stifle competition.

Who ya gonna call, trustbusters?

The nature of data makes the antitrust remedies of the past less useful. Breaking up a firm like Google into five Googlets would not stop network effects from reasserting themselves: in time, one of them would become dominant again. A radical rethink is required—and as the outlines of a new approach start to become apparent, two ideas stand out.

The first is that antitrust authorities need to move from the industrial era into the 21st century. When considering a merger, for example, they have traditionally used size to determine when to intervene. They now need to take into account the extent of firms’ data assets when assessing the impact of deals. The purchase price could also be a signal that an incumbent is buying a nascent threat. On these measures, Facebook’s willingness to pay so much for WhatsApp, which had no revenue to speak of, would have raised red flags. Trustbusters must also become more data-savvy in their analysis of market dynamics, for example by using simulations to hunt for algorithms colluding over prices or to determine how best to promote competition.

The second principle is to loosen the grip that providers of online services have over data and give more control to those who supply them. More transparency would help: companies could be forced to reveal to consumers what information they hold and how much money they make from it. Governments could encourage the emergence of new services by opening up more of their own data vaults or managing crucial parts of the data economy as public infrastructure, as India does with its digital-identity system, Aadhaar. They could also mandate the sharing of certain kinds of data, with users’ consent—an approach Europe is taking in financial services by requiring banks to make customers’ data accessible to third parties.

Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy. It will entail new risks: more data sharing, for instance, could threaten privacy. But if governments don’t want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon.


Upgrade your Supply Chain or become less relevant, the choice is yours


Source: Upgrade your Supply Chain or become less relevant, the choice is yours | Alex Rotenberg

Unlike others, with limited expectations about the impact of technology, who dream of going back to the glorious days of ERP or MRP systems, and order-based solutions, my core belief and experience, is that operational excellence comes from the introduction of new technologies, and applying them now to get on the learning curve before anyone else, and not in a distant future. We can become more agile, compress order-to-cash lead-times, and re-invent how to deliver products and services. Thus creating very new sources of competitive advantage for our customers.

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Like the German industry is proving  most recently with Industry 4.0, I firmly believe that digitization, robotics, and the Internet of Things, will help us leverage the continuous data-stream from the internet, and transform the manufacturing base with new and more flexible technologies, aiming at making production planning more responsive to forecasted market changes and customer preferences.

The opportunities are unlimited. And it is the task of supply chain consultants to help companies upgrade their supply chains, introducing these new technologies, and fundamentally redefine how our supply chain and businesses operate, not with the narrow mindset of cost control, inventory reduction and efficiency gains, but rather with the ambitious goal of redefining the value equation in each industry, with a continuous eye on tangible outcomes for the customers.

The value provided to companies, is radical redesign of the processes of your company, putting the customer at the centre, and providing them a totally new level of experiences and satisfaction, contributing to better margins and increased revenue.

It will make your business:

  • Cheaper
  • Faster
  • More Value add

The enablers are methodologies supported by data, to redesign physical supply chain networks, and digitize the underlying processes. In today’s world, what happens in the information world, is more important than the physical product flow. Wise use of technologies can overcome any dysfunctional supply chain and help a company operate at its maximum capabilities.

The supply chain innovation is introduced by making the supply chain more customer-driven, and the business more customer-centric. These are not empty words but efforts to redesign processes providing a maximum of value to each customer, and redefining the meaning of operational excellence. Segmentation, predictive analytics and value chain orchestration are at the core of this revolution.

The operational excellence results from strategic alignment and process integration, across silos and aligning objectives and business priorities, based on customer-driven insights, across the extended supply chain, breaking walls inside and across organizations, divisions and companies, give a direct operational benefit and a step change in supply chain performance.

Powered by this vision of transforming the actors of the supply chain, into a collaborative value network, where any node can add value to the overall community, and being rewarded accordingly, supported by Industry 4.0 technologies, we can provide customers with that so much desired instant gratification, the internet and companies like Amazon have started to make a standard expectation of the new customer.

The bonus is that this customer-driven revolution also significantly improves the companies top-and bottomline performance.

That is why it is important you join this Customer-led SC revolution.  Upgrade your supply chain or become less relevant, the choice is yours.

Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media


Source: The Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media

Even years into the deployment of the internet, many believed that it was still a fad. Of course, the internet has since become a major influence on our lives, from how we buy goods and services, to the ways we socialize with friends, to the Arab Spring, to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Yet, in the 1990s, the mainstream press scoffed when Nicholas Negroponte predicted that most of us would soon be reading our news online rather than from a newspaper.

Fast forward two decades: Will we soon be seeing a similar impact from cryptocurrencies and blockchains? There are certainly many parallels. Like the internet, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are driven by advances in core technologies along with a new, open architecture — the Bitcoin blockchain. Like the internet, this technology is designed to be decentralized, with “layers,” where each layer is defined by an interoperable open protocol on top of which companies, as well as individuals, can build products and services.

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Like the internet, in the early stages of development there are many competing technologies, so it’s important to specify which blockchain you’re talking about. And, like the internet, blockchain technology is strongest when everyone is using the same network, so in the future we might all be talking about “the” blockchain.

The internet and its layers took decades to develop, with each technical layer unlocking an explosion of creative and entrepreneurial activity. Early on, Ethernet standardized the way in which computers transmitted bits over wires, and companies such as 3Com were able to build empires on their network switching products. The TCP/IP protocol was used to address and control how packets of data were routed between computers. Cisco built products like network routers, capitalizing on that protocol, and by March 2000 Cisco was the most valuable company in the world. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee developed HTTP, another open, permissionless protocol, and the web enabled businesses such as eBay, Google, and Amazon.

The Killer App for Blockchains

But here’s one major difference: The early internet was noncommercial, developed initially through defense funding and used primarily to connect research institutions and universities. It wasn’t designed to make money, but rather to develop the most robust and effective way to build a network. This initial lack of commercial players and interests was critical — it allowed the formation of a network architecture that shared resources in a way that would not have occurred in a market-driven system.

The “killer app” for the early internet was email; it’s what drove adoption and strengthened the network. Bitcoin is the killer app for the blockchain. Bitcoin drives adoption of its underlying blockchain, and its strong technical community and robust code review process make it the most secure and reliable of the various blockchains. Like email, it’s likely that some form of Bitcoin will persist. But the blockchain will also support a variety of other applications, including smart contracts, asset registries, and many new types of transactions that will go beyond financial and legal uses.

We might best understand Bitcoin as a microcosm of how a new, decentralized, and automated financial system could work. While its current capabilities are still limited (for example, there’s a low transaction volume when compared to conventional payment systems), it offers a compelling vision of a possible future because the code describes both a regulatory and an economic system. For example, transactions must satisfy certain rules before they can be accepted into the Bitcoin blockchain. Instead of writing rules and appointing a regulator to monitor for breaches, which is how the current financial system works, Bitcoin’s code sets the rules and the network checks for compliance. If a transaction breaks the rules (for example, if the digital signatures don’t tally), it is rejected by the network. Even Bitcoin’s “monetary policy” is written into its code: New money is issued every 10 minutes, and the supply is limited so there will only ever be 21 million Bitcoins, a hard money rule similar to the gold standard (i.e., a system in which the money supply is fixed to a commodity and not determined by government).

This is not to say the choices Bitcoin currently offers are perfect. In fact, many economists disagree with Bitcoin’s hard money rule, and lawyers argue that regulation through code alone is inflexible and doesn’t permit any role for useful discretion. What cannot be disputed, however, is that Bitcoin is real, and it works. People ascribe real economic value to Bitcoins. “Miners,” who maintain the Bitcoin blockchain, and “wallet providers,” who write the software people use to transact in Bitcoin, follow the rules without exception. Its blockchain has remained resilient to attack, and it supports a robust, if basic, payment system. This opportunity to extend the use of the blockchain to remake the financial system unnerves and enthralls in equal measure.

Too Much Too Soon?

Unfortunately, the exuberance of fintech investors is way ahead of the development of the technology. We’re often seeing so-called blockchains that are not really innovative, but instead are merely databases, which have existed for decades, calling themselves blockchains to jump on the buzzword bandwagon.

There were many “pre-internet” players, for example telecom operators and cable companies trying to provide interactive multimedia over their networks, but none could generate enough traction to create names that you would remember. We may be seeing a similar trend for blockchain technology. Currently, the landscape is a combination of incumbent financial institutions making incremental improvements and new startups building on top of rapidly changing infrastructure, hoping that the quicksand will harden before they run out of runway.

In the case of cryptocurrencies, we’re seeing far more aggressive investments of venture capital than we did for the internet during similar early stages of development. This excessive interest by investors and businesses makes cryptocurrencies fundamentally different from the internet because they haven’t had several decades of relative obscurity where noncommercial researchers could fiddle, experiment, iterate on, and rethink the architecture. This is one reason why the work that we’re doing at the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab is so important: It is one of the few places a substantial effort is being made to work on the technology and infrastructure clear of financial interests and motivations. This is critical.

The existing financial system is very complex at the moment, and that complexity creates risk. A new decentralized financial system made possible with cryptocurrencies could be much simpler by removing layers of intermediation. It could help insure against risk, and by moving money in different ways could open up the possibility for different types of financial products. Cryptocurrencies could open up the financial system to people who are currently excluded, lower barriers to entry, and enable greater competition. Regulators could remake the financial system by rethinking the best way to achieve policy goals, without diluting standards. We could also have an opportunity to reduce systemic risk: Like users, regulators suffer from opacity. Research shows that making the system more transparent reduces intermediation chains and costs to users of the financial system.

The Takeaway

The primary use and even the values of the people using new technologies and infrastructure tend to change drastically as these technologies mature. This will certainly be true for blockchain technology.

Bitcoin was first created as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. The originating community had a strong libertarian and antiestablishment spin that, in many ways, was similar to the free-software culture, with its strong anticommercial values. However, it is likely that, just as Linux is now embedded in almost every kind of commercial application or service, many of the ultimate use cases of the blockchain could become standard fare for established players like large companies, governments, and central banks.

Similarly, many view blockchain technology and fintech as merely a new technology for delivery — maybe something akin to CD-ROMs. In fact, it is more likely to do to the financial system and regulation what the internet has done to media companies and advertising firms. Such a fundamental restructuring of a core part of the economy is a big challenge to incumbent firms that make their living from it. Preparing for these changes means investing in research and experimentation. Those who do so will be well placed to thrive in the new, emerging financial system.

Internet of Things Revolutionizes the Wine & Spirits Industry


Source: Beverage Alcohol Gets a LOT Smarter | James Fellowes 

The adult beverage industry is transforming as the ‘Internet of Things’ revolutionizes everything from packaging to how we order drinks.

Smart technology is profoundly influencing the way people buy and consume things across every category, and the alcohol segment in no different. We can be sure that in the very near future it will be impossible to imagine how we functioned in a world of ‘dumb’ disconnected products. It has been reported by the World Economic Forum that the overall number of connected devices is expected to double within the next four years, from 22.9 billion in 2016 to 50.1 billion by 2020.

In this nascent era of connectivity, new devices help us buy our favorite products more efficiently and new packaging informs us about everything from terroir to tampering. Brands can utilize the data collected from smart systems to improve their products and tailor them to consumer tastes. With an eye on innovation and efficiency, smart technology developers are quickly revolutionizing the way we live – and drink.

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Smart On-Premise Devices

Two new products allow imbibers to replenish their drinks on-premise without waiting at the bar. Bacardi-owned Martini recently launched a new Smart Cube that communicates with bar staff when it’s time to pour another drink. The device is added to a customer’s drink like an ice cube and then monitors the drink level in real time. It also keeps track of how many drinks have been consumed to prevent over-serving.

Malibu recently introduced their ‘Coco-nect’ cups which allow consumers to place an order for a new drink by simply twisting the base of the cup. The cup sends the order to the bar while also pinpointing the customer’s location so that the drink can be delivered to them. Once the order has been received by a bartender, the bottom of the cup changes color to let the client know that their drink is on its way.

Iowa-based startup FliteBrite has created smart beer flight paddles that help drinkers keep track of which beer they’re trying. The device also connects to an interactive app that gives detailed information about each brew. While it doesn’t currently offer the option to order more beer, one imagines that this is the next step for devices such as the FliteBrite.

Tel Aviv-based startup Glassify have developed a line of ‘smart glasses’ embedded with an NFC chip that work with a smartphone app to offer consumers incentives like free chasers, happy hour specials or food combos. The app also hooks into a bank account, allowing customers to buy drinks for their friends or go out without their wallet. While it’s fun for consumers, the glasses could also be a boon for businesses interested in tracking specifics about their sales, from what time of day certain beers sell best to which brews are more likely to be drunk in sessions.


Several companies have introduced innovations to draught systems that provide businesses with helpful analytics. TAPP is a cloud-based battery-powered smart tap handle that can track beer sales in real-time and report the timestamped data back to beermakers. The system also has options for consumer interaction, either through their smartphones or through screens in the bars.

Indiana-based start-up SteadyServ offers a similar cloud-based system that helps outlets keep track of inventory, letting them know when something needs to be reordered or if a keg will need to be changed soon. The start-up’s technology uses electronic tags to identify each beer and puts a scale under each keg. The scale monitors beer levels, giving bars essential information about what is trending or what to run on special (for example, if a keg is getting old). Nevertheless, the exciting aspect for consumers is that SteadyServ integrates with social media, letting beer fans know what’s freshly on tap and what’s about to run out at their favorite pub.

European technology company WeissBeerger has created a similar smart bar system. With the goal of “turning drinks into data,” WeissBeerger offers an integrated Beverage Analytics Hub that connects with coordinating smart bar devices via cloud technology. From monitoring keg freshness and temperature controls to consumption data, the company helps businesses serve their customers more efficiently.

Smart Home Devices

Molson Coors has taken a page from Amazon’s book and launched a connected button that allows consumers to easily order more Carling beer in the UK. Similarly to the Amazon Dash button, the Carling Beer Button syncs with an accompanying smartphone app. When pressed, it adds Carling beer to an online shopping basket at one of four retailers, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

Bud Light created a smart mini fridge for the California market which holds up to 78 beers. The branded connected appliance connects with an app via wifi to let consumers know when supplies are running low. The app is also programmable with user’s favorite sports teams, allowing them to receive updates when game day is approaching. The app integrates with the beer-delivery service Saucey, allowing users to order beer for delivery in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

In Canada, The Bud-E Fridge is part of their Goal Lab range of smart offerings which also include the Goal Lamp Glasses.

Smart Packaging

Pernod Ricard recently launched 45,000 NFC-enabled smart bottles for its Malibu coconut rum brand in the UK. Consumers can access digital content and experiences by tapping their NFC-enabled android phone on the bottle’s sunset image. Content includes instant-win competitions, user-generated content competitions, drink recipes, a bar locator service and a music playlist. The connected bottles are available exclusively through Tesco.

Several brands have utilized smart bottles that can be authenticated and tracked in order to combat the uptick of counterfeit wine and spirits. Ferngrove Wine Group, Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Barbadillo sherry have both turned to Thinfilm enhanced bottles that monitor whether a bottle has been opened and wirelessly communicates with a coordinating app. The Thinfilm carries tagged information with unique identifiers that allow brands to authenticate and track their products, even after the factory seal is broken. Thinfilm can also be used to communicate product information to consumers through their smartphones.

Medea Vodka created a fun party trick with their bluetooth enabled bottles with customizable LED message bands. The bottles can be programmed with a bespoke message that will scroll across the band. Messages are controlled through an app developed by the Medea team. The app knows which bottles are nearby and available to be registered. Once a bottle is registered to one phone it cannot be controlled by anyone else. The customizable bottles allow users to create their own messages for any social occasion.

What’s Next

As our belongings become more connected, we will develop the expectation that these devices will take care of our everyday chores. For instance, a refrigerator could be programmed to automatically reorder beer once supplies drop to a pre-programmed level.

Smart sensors and devices help us collect data and buy and sell more efficiently. What will we do with all of this data? The biggest boon coming from the ‘internet of things’ is the amount of intelligence we are gathering that will drive innovation and inspire new products and services.

Source: RADIUS