INSIGHTS

Onboarding the blockchain

Published 2019-10-21

All industries are becoming more and more technology-driven. We are always looking for new technologies to solve old frustrating problems, or to give us a competitive edge in fast-moving business environments.

It has been predicted for a few years now that supply chain will be a great place to introduce blockchain technology. It is because of the blockchain's inherent characteristics such as transparency, immutable records, resilience against attacks etc.

When starting a blockchain project, it is for obvious reasons easy to focus on the blockchain technology itself. However, in this article, I will point out one area that is of specific interest when implementing a blockchain project. It has little to do with the technology and more to do with new challenges regarding business structures, business relationships and related interfacing technologies that arise because of the nature of blockchain technology.

The first challenge to look at is the onboarding/offboarding process to/from the blockchain. Imagine a complex supply chain with tier 3, tier 2 and tier 1 suppliers and several manufacturers. These relationships are not static. They can be quite dynamic. Let's say a number of these actors agreed to use a blockchain to track their interactions and the flow of goods from one to the other. It would be necessary for the parties to agree on how you would join and onboard the blockchain, as well as offboard. For the blockchain to function in a way that it serves the purpose of tracking the provenance of the goods that flow through the blockchain the on/offboarding process needs to ensure that only qualified suppliers can join. If any dodgy counterfeit supplier could join, the blockchain would not be able to serve its purpose. It could not provide the supply chain with integrity ensuring the provenance of the items flowing through the supply chain.

The challenge is similar to the "Know Your Customer" (KYC) regulation in the banking sector. Banks must ensure that they have thoroughly verified the identity of a new customer before opening a bank account. The regulation makes it harder for criminals to launder money or commit tax fraud. Who in the supply chain should have the role of enforcing the on/offboarding of suppliers? And take on the cost of that administration? If the question is answered from a business perspective, it is a great start. A dominant player in the supply chain, e.g. a huge manufacturer, may enforce the policy by stating - "if you want us to buy your products you must join the blockchain, and this is the process"! In heavily regulated industries there might already be suitable actors/regulators who can stipulate the rules and take on the verification and administration. It should also be in their interest. In many business domains, there are already purchasing portal that essentially provides the services of vendor auditing and verification. Regardless of the solution, it is a process and solution that must be defined and implemented when using blockchain for supply chain integrity and visibility.

Countering Counterfeit Consumer Goods Proving Authenticity with Blockchain And Material Fingerprint Technology

Published 2018-11-22

With technology at our hands from the “Internet of Things” and “Blockchain” we still struggle to tackle counterfeit goods.  In today’s digital world, materials and assets that were previously unreachable are available from countless online marketplaces. But are they genuine? 
Unless a customer purchases an item at a reputable store, they can’t guarantee it’s the real thing.  Almost anything can be cloned - an exact replica with tags and logos to match. How do we know if an item on an e-commerce site is counterfeit?  Even if it isn’t, how can we be sure it hasn’t been stolen and resold over the Internet?  This is costing the luxury consumer goods industry billions every year and law enforcement are fighting an uphill battle.  
What if the consumer herself could distinguish between an authentic item and a counterfeit item just using a mobile phone? What if honest second-hand e-commerce sites could prove that they are only selling authentic objects, and the buyer did not have to worry? What if this technology could be applied to art, bags, clothes, etc.?

An explosion of tagging and scanning technologies are available to protect and authenticate goods: QR codes, NFC & RFID chips, BLE and others.  Many rely on expensive scanning technologies or complex, new business processes.  Scanning equipment isn’t readily available outside of the production line or store and not to the consumer. Tagging and scanning don’t often traverse boundaries between corporations, reseller and consumers. The challenge is the transition between the physical and digital worlds, and making the tagging truly seamless between production, resellers, consumers, second-hand e-commerce sites etc.

United Vanning and our partners have solved this problem.  We create unique, unambiguous “fingerprints” detectable using a standard mobile camera with standard tagging technologies.  A blockchain tracks ownership and responsibility for the item as it travels through production, supply chain, warehouse, retailers, consumers, e-commerce sites and second-hand purchases.

The "fingerprints" themselves can be embedded in plastics, polymers, coatings, paint, cloth, and paper.  This solution can also tag items already in the consumer space, after authentication by a trusted party. High-value items can be tagged for insurance purposes in a way only the insurance company knows about.

For the consumer goods manufacturer, it is key to integrate the flow of information with production, inventory and supply chain systems with the blockchain. Retailers can connect to the blockchain to register the purchase.  Consumers can validate the authenticity with the blockchain using a mobile app. They can send their blockchain receipt to insurance companies who can also validate via the blockchain. Consumers could also provide the blockchain “certificate” when selling their valuables on e-commerce sites. This will give an end-to-end view of how items flow from manufacturers through the supply chain to retailers and finally to consumers, and on the second-hand market. Law enforcement can validate the last legal purchaser of an item and easily detect counterfeit goods.

United Vanning is in a unique position to provide the technology, blockchain platform and consumer mobile application in end-to-end solutions for manufacturers, retailers, e-commerce sites and insurance companies. Using the Digital Business Platform from Software AG , United Vanning connects people, devices, data and systems for process automation, API and device management, analytics visualisation for intelligent decisions and actions.

Item records mirror actual ownership, legitimate change of ownership, movement and location…

  • When a valuable item is stolen, the true registered owner can prove ownership
  • Luxury goods manufacturers can track geographically how their goods travel the world at each change of hands.
  • Tagging of items already in the consumer space after authentication by a trusted party will help counter insurance fraud and track down stolen goods
  • Police can validate the last legitimate owner of an item in real-time, and easily identify counterfeit products
  • Insurance companies can tag particularly valuable items
  • Retailers can incorporate consumer purchase registration into loyalty schemes
  • Item authentication and ownership can be validated by consumers when buying on second-hand e-commerce sites using a regular mobile phone
  • Unlock a wealth of information about your products in the second-hand market
  • Combine with IoT to surface contextual data about items throughout the supply chain at the point of reading
  • Unique identification of individual items and purchasers ensures exact fault reporting and personalised remedy processes
  • No dependency on tag readers

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Innovative Tools And Asset Tracking for Utilities

Published 2018-01-03

Moving beyond “Where’s my stuff”? 

In today’s digital world, equipment, plant, staff and vehicles that were previously unreachable are now connected.  The “Internet of Things” is driving a proliferation of infrastructure, technologies and new approaches which can be exploited for tracking and exploiting business-critical assets in the field.

Moving beyond just locating and identifying assets, drawing valuable insights from the data they provide is essential.  A data-driven, end-to-end perspective and solution is critical to transform these dispersed assets into a unified information system that will reduce costs and build better business outcomes.

An explosion of tagging and tracking technologies are available now to: track the location of staff, machinery, tools, equipment, industrial plant, or vehicle assets.   You can choose from a menu of: QR codes, NFC, RFID, BLE, iBeacon, GPS.  Tags can report on locations: as they are touched, or scanned, from a short distance, in response to passing beacons or with the regularity you specify over a variety of networks.  They can report on their movement, health and on whether the machinery they’re attached to is switched on, moving, broken etc.  But these are just point capabilities and individual pieces of information.  They need to be brought together as an integrated whole to deliver more than the sum of their parts…

United Vanning have proven experience and technology know-how in delivering solutions and real business value within a data-driven integration platform.

In partnership with Software AG, and using their Digital Business Platform, United Vanning have delivered several innovative solutions to the Utilities industries.

Tools And Asset Tracking Innovation

Bringing data together brings the fuzzy view of missing, unknown and lost assets into focus.  One utility company estimated a hire cost saving in excess of £0.5m would result from increased asset utilisation combined with better informed hire and procurement decisions. 

A solution United Vanning recently delivered provides:

It delivered benefits across the following dimensions:

Mobile

  • A field force mobile application that is mobile platform independent, securing the vital flexibility to change
  • Allows staff to self-serve with updates regarding their assets, condition information, fault reporting
  • Search the enterprise inventory for tool availability and request its assignment

User Interfaces

  • Light touch maintenance workflows that guide staff through the required tasks in a modern browser-based portal
  • Automated notifications of required activities with user task management
  • Administration screens allowing visibility and where it’s wanted control over tools transfers, maintenance, costing data

Plant and Equipment Repository

  • A managed database that is the source of truth for tools and asset data
  • Automatically updates based on changes in the field, faults / repairs, changes to staffing
  • Master data management to ensure accuracy and data alignment
  • Accurate traceability and reporting of maintenance and replacement costs

MI

  • Real-time dashboards with interactive charts and the ability to drill-down e.g. on tools and asset compliance in the field and across the estate
  • Detailed MI reports monitoring the performance of processes e.g. audits in the field and publishing data for onward consumption e.g. tools and asset health in the organisation

This with NO dependence on the purchase of tags and tag readers -  These bring additional processes for tagging and additional maintenance overheads for the readers themselves. 

Asset records mirror actual asset ownership…

  • More efficient tools and asset maintenance cycles 
  • Visualisation of available equipment on a map display search by proximity to location
  • Further innovative solution add-ons e.g. Pelipod secure unattended distribution
  • Intelligent tools and asset scheduling and utilisation reducing wear and tear
  • Targeting predictive maintenance based on analytics ratings of equipment failures
  • Automatic work order scheduling based on equipment & location requirements
  • Automated validation of engineers’ competence to use transferred tools + alarms
  • Reduced travel, vehicle loading and carbon footprint

For more information about United Vanning and how our expertise can help you, visit: www.unitedvanning.com

Software AG offers the world’s first Digital Business Platform for Utilities.  Rapidly build and deploy digital utility applications for better decisions with streaming analytics, telemetry and M2M, and respond faster to shifting regulations.  To learn more visit: www.softwareag.com

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