Having founded my startup a few years ago, I am familiar to why founders go through the pain & grit to build their own company. The statistics around startup survival rates show that the risk is high, but the potential reward both financially & emotionally is also significant.
In my case, risk was defined by the amount of money I invested in the venture plus the opportunity cost in case the startup goes nowhere. The later relates to the fact that I earned no salary at the beginning & that when I committed to that specific idea I was instantaneously saying “no” to many other opportunities and potential career advancements. The reward was two-fold too; the first one was the attractive financial outcome of a potential exit. The second one was the freedom to chase opportunities as they appear, doing what I want and how I want it.
Once I raised capital from investors, I basically traded reward for reduced risk. I started paying myself a small salary and anticipated that more resources would increase the success likelihood of the startup.
This pattern of weighing risk against rewards was crystal clear in my mind… until I joined the arena of corporate venture building. Directly during one of my first projects, I was tasked with the creation of a startup for a blue-chip corporate client. I was immediately puzzled by the reasoning behind this endeavor.
Ultimately corporate decisions are also guided by risk against reward: if they don’t take risks and innovate they might be left behind and, in some cases, join the once-great-now-extinct corporate hall of shame. That’s why they invest in research and development, spend hard earned cash in mergers and acquisitions and start innovation programs. But my interest was more at a micro level, meaning, which reasoning my corporate client follows to decide if and how to found a specific new venture?
Having thought about it a lot, I believe at micro level corporates weigh investment against control. Investment is the level of capital, manpower & political will provided by the corporate to propel the venture towards exit, break-even or strategic relevance. Control is the possibility to steer the venture towards the strategic goals the leadership team has in mind while defining the boundaries of what can & cannot be done.
In the startup case, the risk/reward is typically shared between the founders and external investors. In a corporate venture building case, the investment/control can be shared between the corporate, an empowered founder team and also external investors.
I am still in the middle of the corporate decision-making process but wanted to share with you the scenarios we are using to guide the discussions on how to structure the new venture. But before I do, I would like to mention that the considerations of investment vs. control takes place at three different stages of the venture’s existence:
• Incubation: develop & validate idea
• Acceleration: validate business model incl. product, operations & customer acquisition (find the winning formula)
• Growth: replicate the formula to grow exponentially
Based on that, three main scenarios are being considered to found the new venture.
Per definition, the incubation and acceleration stages are less capital intensive and is the moment when key strategic decisions that shape the future business are made. In these stages, the corporate is interested in maintaining the full control of the venture while absorbing the whole investment. Only when they enter the capital-intensive growth stage it becomes necessary to “share the burden” with other institutional or strategic investors. This scenario is suitable for ventures of high strategic value, especially the ones leveraging core assets and know-how of the corporate mothership.
In this case, the corporate initiator empowers a founder team and joins the project almost like an external investor would do at Seed and Series A of a startup. They agree on a broad vision, provide the funding and retain a part of the shares with shareholder meetings in between to track progress. Beyond that, they let the founder team do their thing. External investors can join at any funding round to share the investment tickets. The corporate would have lower control and investment from the get-go and can increase their influence only when new funding rounds are required or via an acquisition offer. This scenario is suitable for ventures in which the corporate can function as the first client or use their network to manufacture, market or distribute the product or service.
The venture is initially built by a founder team or external partners (often a consultancy). Only once they successfully finalized the incubation and acceleration stages, the corporate has the right or obligation to absorb the business. Differently than scenario 2, the corporate gains stronger control of the trajectory of the business during its initial stages by defining how a “transfer” event looks like. The investment necessary to put together a strong founder team is reduced by the reward of a pre-defined & short term exit event. The initial investment can be further reduced by the participation of Business Angels, also motivated by a clear path to exit and access to a new source of deal flow. This scenario is suitable for ventures closely linked to the core business of the corporate and where speed & excellence of execution is key.
There is obviously no right and wrong. Each scenario can make sense according to the end goal of the corporate. Furthermore, there are surely new scenarios and variations of the above. What is important in my opinion is to openly discuss which road to take. If the client can’t discern the alternatives and consequences, you will risk a “best of both worlds” mindset where expectations regarding investment & control don’t match. If that is the case, you will be up for a tough ride
Source : https://medium.com/@cbgf/a-corporate-venture-building-dilemma-investment-vs-control-a703b9c19c94
Renting robots as temp labor? Not a new idea. But it’s certainly one that is gaining followers.
Rising labor shortages, tightly contested global markets, and growing interest in automation are tightening the screws on traditional business models. A broader spectrum of users are seeking flexible automation solutions. More suppliers are adopting new-age rental or lease options to satisfy the demand. Some are mature companies answering the call, others are startups blazing a path for the rest of the industry. Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is an emerging trend whose time has come.
Steel Collar Associates may have been ahead of its time when RIA spoke with its owner in 2013 about his “Humanoids for Hire” – aka Yaskawa dual-arm robots for rent. Already several years into his venture at the time, Bill Higgins was having little success contracting out his robo-employees. Back then, industry was barely warming up to the idea of cage-free robots rubbing elbows with their human coworkers. Now every major robot manufacturer has a collaborative robot on its roster. And a slew of startups have joined the fray.
Just like human-robot collaboration is helping democratize robotics, RaaS will help bring robots to the masses. And cobots aren’t the only robots for rent.
Whether you have a short-term need, want to try before you buy, forgo a capital expenditure, or lower your cost of entry to robotic automation, RaaS is worth a closer look. It’s robots on demand, when and where you want them.
Robots on Demand
Out-of-the-box solutions like those offered by READY Robotics, which are easy to use and easy to deploy, are making RaaS a reality. Your next, or perhaps first, robotic solution may be a Johnny-on-the-spot – on wheels.
“The TaskMate is a ready-to-use, on-demand robot worker that is specifically designed to come out of its shipping crate ready to be deployed to the production line,” says READY Robotics CEO Ben Gibbs, noting that manufacturers without the time to undertake custom robot integration are looking for an out-of-the box automation solution. Rental options make the foray easier.
“Time is their most precious resource. They want something like the TaskMate that is essentially ready to go out of the box,” says Gibbs. “They may have to do a little fixturing or put together a parts presentation hopper. Besides that, it’s something they can deploy pretty quickly. We’re driving towards providing a solution that’s as easy to use as your personal computer.”
The system consists of a collaborative robot arm mounted on a stand with casters, so you can wheel it into position anywhere on the production floor. The ease of portability makes it ideal for high-mix, low-volume production where it can be quickly relocated to different manufacturing cells. Nicknamed the “Swiss Army Knife” of robots, the TaskMate performs a variety of automation tasks from machine tending to pick-and-place applications, to parts inspection.
The TaskMate comes in two varieties, the 5-kg payload R5 and 10-kg payload R10 (pictured). Both systems use robot arms from collaborative robot maker Universal Robots. The UR arm is equipped with a force sensor and a universal interface called the TEACHMATE that allows different robot grippers to be hot-swapped onto the end of the arm. Supported end effector brands include SCHUNK, Robotiq and Piab.
Contributing to the system’s ease of use is READY’s proprietary operating system, the FORGE/OS software. A simple flowchart interface (pictured) controls the robot arm, end-of-arm tooling and other peripherals. No coding is required.
For those tasks requiring a higher payload, reach, or cycle time than is capable with the power-and-force limiting cobot included with the TaskMate R5 and R10 systems, READY also offers its FORGE controller (formerly called the TaskMate Kit). Running the intuitive FORGE/OS software, the controller provides the same easy programming interface but is designed as a standalone system for ABB, FANUC, UR and Yaskawa robots.
“For example, if you plug the FORGE controller into a FANUC robot, you no longer have to program in Karel (the robot OEM’s proprietary programming language),” explains Gibbs. “On the teach pendant, you can use FORGE/OS to program the robot directly, so you have the same programming experience on the controller as you do on the TaskMate.
“We started primarily with smaller six degree-of-freedom robot arms, like the FANUC LR Mate and GP7 from Yaskawa,” continues Gibbs. “We have started to integrate some of the larger robots as well, like the FANUC M-710iC/50. Ultimately, we’re driving toward a ubiquitous programming experience regardless of what robot arm or robot manufacturer you’re using.”
In the Cloud
A common element in the RaaS rental model is cloud robotics. READY offers customers the ability to remotely monitor the TaskMate or other robotic systems hooked up to the FORGE controller.
“We can set them up with alerts, so when the production cycle is completed or the robot enters an unexpected error state, they can receive an email notifying the floor manager or line operator to check the system,” says Gibbs.
You can also save and back up programs to the cloud, and deploy them from one robot to another. If an operator were to inadvertently lose a program, rather than rewrite it from scratch, you can just drop the backup version from the cloud onto the system and be up and running again in minutes.
The TaskMate systems and FORGE controller are available for both purchase and rental.
“We provide a menu to our customers of how they might want to consume our products and services,” says Gibbs. “That may be all the way from a traditional CapEx (capital expenditure) purchase if they want to buy one of our TaskMates upfront, to the other end of the spectrum where they can rent the system with no contract for however long or short of a duration they want.”
For an additional charge, READY can manage the entire asset for the customer.
“We set it up, we program it, and we remotely monitor it to make sure it’s maximizing its uptime. We can come in and tweak the program if it’s running into unexpected errors. All of the systems are equipped with cell modems, so they can update the software over the air. We handle all of the maintenance or it’s handled by our channel partners.”
Gibbs says flexibility is the biggest advantage to their rental option. READY offers a 3-month trial rental. But customers are not required to keep it for that full term.
“We have a no-term rental. That’s even more appealing because it can come entirely out of your OpEx (operating expenditure) budget. Instead of going through a lengthy CapEx approval process, we’ve had some customers just run their corporate credit card, because the rental is below their approval level for an OpEx purchase. They can easily set up the system and use it for a few months. That alone provides them with a much stronger justification for moving forward with CapEx if they want, or just continue to expand their rental.
“At the end of the first month, if they decide that it’s not working out, just like any incompetent worker, they can fire it and send it back.”
If the customer chooses to continue renting, Gibbs says it’s more cost-effective to sign a contract. This reduces the risk for everyone, so there’s usually a financial incentive.
“The primary way we differentiate ourselves is that we offer that no-term rental with a fixed monthly fee, which allows these factories to capture the traditional value of automation. We don’t have a meter running that says you ran it 22 hours this day, so you owe us for 22 hours of work. We encourage them to run it as long as they want. The expectation is the longer you run it, the cheaper it should be.”
Flexibility for High-Mix, Low-Volume
READY’s target customers range from small job shops to large multinationals and Fortune 500 companies.
“Attwood is a great example of the type of high-mix, low-volume production environment where the flexibility of the TaskMate really shines,” says Gibbs.
Attwood Marine in Lowell, Michigan, is one of the world’s largest producers of boat parts, accessories and supplies. If it’s on your boat, there’s a good chance this century-old company made it. They make thousands of different parts, but cater to a relatively small marine market. The challenges of high-mix, low-volume production in a highly competitive market had them looking for an automation solution.
The flexibility of the TaskMate to quickly deploy and redeploy depending on Attwood’s short- or long-term needs was a deciding factor. With only a couple hundred employees and no dedicated robotics programmer on staff, the customer appreciates the FORGE software’s ease of use. Plus the ability to rent the system plays to the seasonal nature of Attwood’s business and lowers the cost of their first foray into robotic automation.
Attwood has deployed the TaskMate R10 to a half-dozen cells on the production floor performing CNC machine tending, pick-and-place tasks like palletizing, loading/unloading conveyors and case packing, and even repetitive testing. You need to actuate a switch or pull a cord 250,000 times? That’s a job for flexible automation.
By deploying one robot system to multiple production cells, Attwood was able to spread their ROI across multiple product lines and realize up to a 30 percent reduction in overall manufacturing costs. Watch the TaskMate on the job at Attwood Marine.
Small to midsized businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting. Large multinationals like tools manufacturer Stanley Black & Decker use the TaskMate R10 for machine tending CNC lathes.
“Multinationals may have robot programmers on staff, but usually not enough of them,” says Gibbs. “Automation engineers are in high demand and very difficult to come by. Any technology that makes it faster and easier for people to set up robots is a tremendous value. Even with large multinationals, some like to be asset-light and do a rental, but everyone loves the ease of programming we offer through FORGE.”
Forged in the Lab
READY’s portable plug-and-play solution is a technology spinoff from Professor Greg Hager’s research in human-machine collaborative systems at Johns Hopkins University. Gibbs, an alumnus, was working in the university’s technology ventures office helping researchers like Prof. Hager develop commercialization strategies for their new technologies. Hager, along with Gibbs, and fellow alum CTO Kelleher Guerin cofounded the startup in October 2015. Another cofounder, Drew Greenblatt, President of Marlin Steel Wire Products (an SME in the Know), offered up his nearby Baltimore, Maryland-based custom metal forms factory as a prototype test site for the TaskMate. The system was officially launched in July 2017.
Prof. Hager is now an advisor to the company. Distinguished robotics researcher, Henrik Christensen, is Chairman of the Board of Advisors. In December 2017, the startup secured $15 million in Series A funding led by Drive Capital.
READY maintains an office in Baltimore, while its headquarters is in Columbus, Ohio. They are a FANUC Authorized System Integrator. Gibbs says they are in the process of building a channel partner network of integrators and distributors to support future growth.
Pay As You Go
Business models under the RaaS umbrella vary widely, and are evolving. Startups like Hirebotics and Kindred leverage cloud robotics more intensely to monitor robot uptime, collect data, and enhance performance using AI. They charge by the hour, or even by the second. You pay for only what you use. Each service model has its advantages.
Some RaaS advocates offer subscription-based models. Some took a page from the sharing economy. Think Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Poshmark. Share an abode, a car or clothes. Skip the overhead, the infrastructure and the long-term commitment. Pay as you go for a robot on the run.
Mobile Robots for Hire
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are no strangers to the RaaS model, either. RIA members Aethon and Savioke lease their mobile robots for various applications in healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing. Startup inVia Robotics offers a subscription-based RaaS solution for its warehouse “Picker” robots.
We first explored the emergence of AMRs in the Always-On Supply Chain. It’s startling how much the logistics robot market has changed in just a couple of years. Since then, prototypes and beta deployments have turned into full product lines with significant investor funding. Major users like DHL, Walmart and Kroger, not to mention early adopter Amazon, are doubling down on their mobile fleets.
After triple-digit revenue growth in Europe, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) was just breaking onto the North American scene two years ago. Now, as they celebrate comparable growth on this side of the pond, MiR prepares to launch a new lease program in January.
MiR is another prodigy of Denmark’s booming robotics cluster. They join Danish cousin Universal Robots on the list of Teradyne’s smart robotics acquisitions. Odense must have the Midas touch.
Go Big or Go Home
Responding to customer demands for larger payloads, MiR introduced its 500-kg mobile platform at Automatica in June. The MiR500 (pictured) comes with a pallet transport system that automatically lifts pallets off a rack and delivers them autonomously. Watch it in action on the production floor of this agricultural machine manufacturer.
“Everybody we deal with today is making a big push to eliminate forklift traffic from the inner aisleways of production lines,” says Ed Mullen, Vice President of Sales – Americas for MiR in Holbrook, New York. “That’s really driving the whole launch of the MiR500. We’ve gone through some epic growth here in my division.”
Mullen’s division is responsible for supporting MiR’s extensive distributor network in all markets between Canada and Brazil. Right now, the Americas account for about a third of the global business.
“We’re seeing applications in industrial automation, warehouses and distribution centers,” says Mullen. “Electronics, semiconductor and a lot of the tier automotive companies, like Faurecia, Visteon and Magna, have all invested in our platforms and are scaling the business. We see this being implemented across all industries, which is really adding to our excitement.”
Although Mullen says they’ve seen tremendous success with the current buy model, MiR is trying to make it even easier to work with this emerging technology. That drove them to the RaaS model.
“We think a leasing option will allow companies that are still trying to understand the use cases for the technology to get in quicker, and then slowly scale the business up as they learn how to apply it and what the sweet spots are for autonomous mobile robots. The lease option is intended to reduce the cost of entry. Today it’s mainly the bigger multinationals that are buying, but we believe by providing options for lower entry points, this will make the use cases in the small-to-midsized companies come to light.”
He says a third-party company will handle all the leases. MiR’s distributor network will engage with the third-party company to put together lease programs for customers.
MiR has also implemented a Preferred System Integrator (PSI) program to augment the existing network of distribution partners. Two and a half years ago, it was mainly large companies investing in these mobile platforms. They were purchasing in volumes of one to five robots. Today, they’re seeing investments of 20, 30, or even more than 50 robots.
“When you get into these bigger deployments, it’s more critical to have companies that are equipped to handle them. Our distribution partners are set up as a sales channel. Although most of them have integration capabilities, they don’t want to invest in deploying hundreds of robots at one time. They rather hand that off to a company that’s able to properly support large-scale deployments.”
Over the last couple of years, MiR had been focused on bringing more efficiency to the manufacturing process; not necessarily replacing existing AGVs and forklifts.
“For example, you have a guy that gets paid a healthy salary to sit in front of a machine tool and use his skills to do a certain task. That’s what makes the company money. But when he has to get up and carry a tray of parts to the next phase in the production cycle, that’s inefficient. That’s what we’ve been focusing on, at least with our MiR100 and MiR200 (pictured).”
Technologies, an Indiana-based company specializing in custom plastic injection molding and mold tooling. The mobile robot loops the shop floor, autonomously transporting finished product from the presses to quality inspection. This frees up personnel for more high-value tasks and eliminates material flow bottlenecks.
“With the new MiR500, we’re going after heavier loads and palletizer loads. That’s replacing standard AGVs and forklifts. We’re also starting to see big conveyor companies like Simplimatic Automation and FlexLink move to a more flexible type of platform with autonomous mobile robots.
“Parallel to the hardware is our software. A key part of our company is the way we develop the software, the way we allow people to interface with the product. We’re continuously making it more intuitive and easier to use.”
MiR offers two software packages, the operating system that comes with the robot and the fleet management software that manages two or more robots. The latter is not a requirement, but Mullen says most companies are investing in it to get additional functionality when interfacing with their enterprise system. The newest fleet system is moving to a cloud-based option.
Hardware and software updates are all handled through MiR’s distribution channel and Mullen doesn’t think any of that will change under the lease option.
“The support model will stay the same. Our distributors are all trained on hardware updates, preventative maintenance and troubleshooting. I firmly believe the major component to our success today is our distribution model.”
Mullen says he’s looking forward to new products coming out in 2019. MiR is also hiring. They expect to double their employee count in the Americas and globally.
High-Tech, Short-Term Need
It’s many of these feisty startups that we’re seeing adopt nontraditional models like RaaS. But stalwarts are coming on board, too.
Established in 1992, RobotWorx is part of SCOTT Technology Ltd., a century-old New Zealand-based company specializing in automated production, robotics and process machinery. RobotWorx joined the SCOTT family of international companies in 2014 and recently completed a rigorous audit process to become an RIA Certified Robot Integrator.
RobotWorx buys, reconditions and sells used robots, along with maintaining an inventory of new robotic systems and offering full robot integration and training services. Rentals are nothing new to them. They’ve been renting robots for several years, before it was a trend. But in response to the upswing in industry requests of late, RobotWorx rolled out a major push on their rental program this past spring.
“We’ve done a lot with the TV and film industry,” says Tom Fischer, Operations Manager for RobotWorx in Marion, Ohio. “If you’ve seen the latest AT&T commercial, there are blue and orange robots in it. We rented those out for a week.”
Dubbed “Bruce” and “Linda” on strips of tape along their outstretched arms, these brightly colored robots have a starring role in this AT&T Business commercial promoting Edge-to-Edge Intelligence? solutions. Fischer says companies in this industry usually select a particular size of robot, typically either a long-reach or large-payload material handling robot, like the Yaskawa Motoman long-reach robots in this AT&T commercial.
Ever wonder if the robots in commercials are just there for effect? It turns out, not always. Fischer says these are fully functioning robots. AT&T’s ad agency must have a robot wrangler off camera to keep Bruce and Linda in line. However, the other robots in the background are the result of TV magic.
“We basically just sent them the robots,” says Fischer. “They did what they wanted to do with them and then sent them back.”
For quick gigs like this commercial, or maybe a movie cameo or even a tradeshow display, rental robots make sense. But how do you know when it’s better to rent or buy?
“We’ll do a cost analysis with the customer,” says Fischer. “We have an ROI calculator on our website if they want to see what their long-term commitment capital investment would be. (Check out RIA’s Robot ROI Calculator). We also look at it from the standpoint that if they have a long-term contract with somebody, their return on investment is going to be a lot better with a purchase. If they think they’re only going to use the robot for six months, it doesn’t make sense for them to buy it.”
RobotWorx rents robots by the week, month or year. A week is the minimum, but there’s no long-term commitment required. A rental includes a robot, the robot controller, teach pendant and end-of-arm tooling (EOAT). Robot brands available include ABB, FANUC, KUKA, Universal Robots, and Yaskawa Motoman.
They also rent entire ready-to-ship robot cells for welding or material handling. The most popular systems are the RWZero (pictured) and RW950 cells.
“The RWZero cell is very basic,” says Fischer. “You have a widget and you need 5,000 of them. Rent this cell and you have a production line instantly.”
The RW950 is more portable. Fisher calls it a “pallet platform.” The robot, controller, operator station and workpiece positioner all share a common base, which is basically a large steel structure that can be moved around with a forklift whenever needed. See the RW950 Welding Workcell in action.
“We’ve done a lot of the small weld cells,” he says. “We always have a couple on hand so we can supply those on demand. We’ve done larger material handling cells, as well.
“We have a third-party company that does the financing if you need it. A lot of people just end up paying it upfront. If they were to purchase the robot after they’ve rented it, we apply that towards the purchase as well.”
Fischer says 20 percent of the rental price is credited to the purchase if a customer decides to keep the robot. All the robots and robotic cells are up to date on maintenance before they leave the RobotWorx floor and shouldn’t require any major maintenance for at least a year. He says most customers end up buying the robot if their rental period exceeds a year.
Time is not always the deciding factor under the RaaS model. As robotic systems become easier to deploy and redeploy, the idea of robots as a service will gain more permanence as a long-term solution. In the future, robotics in our workplaces and homes will be as ubiquitous as the Internet. In the meantime, we’ll keep our eyes on RaaS as it gets ready for primetime
Source : https://www.robotics.org/content-detail.cfm/Industrial-Robotics-Industry-Insights/Robots-for-Rent-Why-RaaS-Works/content_id/7665
Many of you have seen the Gartner Hype Cycle curve. When a hot technology appears, it gets hyped and hyped until one day enough people become impatient, and sentiment turns against the technology. It then heads into what Gartner calls the Trough of Disillusionment. Eventually, the technology finds its role – often a major one – in the market.
The idea has always struck me as rather obvious (I described the curve to reporter colleagues on the tech beat at the Wall Street Journal years before I ever saw the Gartner chart), but Gartner popularized the notion, which is why it’s known as the Gartner Hype Cycle rather than, say, the Carroll Hype Cycle. Gartner is to be commended, because technologies can be plotted on the curve, and, drawing on history, their futures can be predicted with some confidence.
On the Carroll…er, Gartner Hype Cycle, the idea of technology-driven innovation in insurance seems to be heading into the Trough of Disillusionment (great name) among incumbents. A Lemonade or Trov hasn’t taken over the world. Big Tech is coming to insurance but not really here yet for most insurers. Industry executives seem to have read everything they care to about AI, blockchain, etc., and are starting to describe plans for small-bore improvements rather than truly innovative ones. Not total disillusionment, but headed in that direction.
Which brings me to the warning signs for 2019.
The slide into the Trough of Disillusionment creates real opportunities because prices of insurtechs will start to settle back toward reality. In any case, technologies keep maturing, no matter how we feel about them, so the day of reckoning in the market creeps closer all the time, and the slide toward disillusionment is the last opportunity for companies to position themselves before a host of technologies and startups will shake the insurance market.
If I’m right, 2019 may well be the last chance for insurance industry incumbents to start taking advantage of the opportunities presented by insurtech, or lose out to nimbler competitors. In that spirit, my colleagues and I at ITL pulled some thoughts together for incumbents on:
10 Signs You’re Headed for Trouble in 2019
Bonus warning sign: You make television commercials criticizing innovative companies.
In “The Sun Also Rises,” a character is asked how he went bankrupt. “Two ways,” he says, “gradually, then suddenly.” We’re still in the “gradually” part of innovation driven by insurtech, but “suddenly” is coming. I suggest insurance industry incumbents view 2019 and warning signs like these as a last warning to get moving and avoid innovation bankruptcy.
Source : http://blog.insurancethoughtleadership.com/blog/ten-signs-youre-headed-for-trouble-in-2019
Digital health innovation continues moving full-force in transforming the business of healthcare. For pharma and medtech companies in particular, this ongoing shift has pushed them to identify ways to create value for patients beyond the drugs themselves. From new partnerships between digital health and life science companies to revamped commercial models, collecting and extracting insights from data is at the core of these growth opportunities. But navigating the rapidly evolving terrain is no simple task.
To help these companies effectively incorporate and utilize digital health tools, Rock Health partner ZS Associates draws on over 30 years of industry expertise to guide them through the complex digital health landscape. We chatted with Principal Pete Masloski to discuss how he works with clients to help identify, develop, and commercialize digital health solutions within their core businesses—and where he sees patients benefiting the most as a result.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Where does ZS see the promise of data- and analytics-enabled digital health tools leading to in the next five years, 10 years, and beyond?
Data and analytics will play a central role in the digital health industry’s growth over the next five to ten years. Startups are able to capture larger, novel sets of data in a way that large life science companies historically have not been able to. As a result, consumers will be better informed about their health choices; physicians will have more visibility into what treatment options work best for whom under what circumstances; health plans will have a better understanding of treatment choices; and pharmaceutical and medical device companies will be able to strategically determine which products and services to build.
We see personalized medicine, driven by genomics and targeted therapies, rapidly expanding over the next few years. Pharmaceutical discovery and development will also transition to become more digitally enabled. The ability to match patients with clinical trials and improve the patient experience will result in lower costs, faster completion, and more targeted therapies. The increase in real-world evidence will be used to demonstrate the efficacy of therapeutics and devices in different populations, which assures payers and providers that outcomes from studies can be replicated in the real world.
How is digital health helping life sciences companies innovate their commercial models? What is the role of data and analytics in these new models?
The pharmaceutical industry continues to face a number of challenges, including the increasingly competitive markets, growing biosimilar competition, and overall scrutiny on pricing. We’ve seen excitement around solutions that integrate drugs with meaningful outcomes and solutions that address gaps in care delivery and promote medication adherence.
Solving these problems creates new business model opportunities for the industry through fresh revenue sources and ways of structuring agreements with customers. For example, risk-based contracts with health plans, employers, or integrated delivery networks (IDNs) become more feasible when you can demonstrate increased likelihood of better outcomes for more patients. We see this coming to fruition when pharma companies integrate comprehensive digital adherence solutions focused on patient behavior change around a specific drug, as in Healthprize’s partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim. In medtech, digital health tools can both differentiate core products and create new profitable software or services businesses. Integrating data collection technology and connectivity into devices and adding software-enabled services can support a move from traditional equipment sales to pay-per-use. This allows customers to access the new equipment technology without paying a large sum up front—and ensures manufacturers will have a more predictable ongoing source of revenue.
That said, data and analytics remain at the core of these new models. In some cases, such as remote monitoring, the data itself is the heart of the solution; in others, the data collected helps establish effectiveness and value as a baseline for measuring impact. Digital ambulatory blood pressure monitors capture an individual’s complete blood pressure profile throughout the day, which provides a previously unavailable and reliable “baseline.” Because in-office only readings may be skewed by “white coat hypertension,” or stress-induced blood pressure readings, having a more comprehensive look at this data can lead to deeper understandings of user behaviors or conditions. Continuous blood pressure readings can help with diagnoses of stress-related drivers of blood pressure spikes, for example. These insights become the catalyst for life science companies’ new product offerings and go-to-market strategies.
What are some examples of how data sets gathered from partnerships with digital health companies can be leveraged to uncover new value for patients and address their unmet needs?
As digital health companies achieve a certain degree of scale, their expansive data sets become more valuable because of the insights that can be harnessed to improve outcomes and business decisions. Companies like 23andMe, for example, have focused on leveraging their data for research into targeted therapies. Flatiron Health is another great example of a startup that created a foundational platform (EMR) whose clinical data from diverse sources (e.g., laboratories, research repositories, and payer networks) became so highly valued in cancer therapy development that Roche acquired it earlier this year for close to $2B.
It’s exciting to think about the wide array of digital health solutions and the actionable insight that can be gleaned from them. One reason partnerships are important for the industry is few innovators who are collecting data have the capabilities and resources to fully capitalize on its use on their own. Pharma companies and startups must work together to achieve all of this at scale. Earlier this year, Fitbit announced a new partnership with Google to make the data collected from its devices available to doctors. Google’s API can directly link heart rate and fitness activity to the EMR, allowing doctors to easily review and analyze larger amounts of data. This increase in visibility provides physicians with more insight into how patients are doing in between visits, and therefore can also help with decision pathways.
Another example announced earlier this year is a partnership between Evidation Health and Tidepool, who are conducting a new research study, called the T1D Sleep Pilot, to study real-world data from Type 1 diabetics. With Evidation’s data platform and Tidepool’s device-agnostic consumer software, the goal is to better understand the dynamics of sleep and diabetes by studying data from glucose monitors, insulin pumps, and sleep and activity trackers. The data collected from sleep and activity trackers in particular allows us to better understand possible correlations between specific chronic conditions, like diabetes, and the impact of sleep—which in the past has been challenging to monitor. These additional insights provide a more comprehensive understanding of a patient’s condition and can lead to changes in treatment decisions—and ultimately, better outcomes.
How do you assess the quality and reliability of the data generated by digital health companies? What standards are you measuring them against?
Data quality management (DQM) is the way in which leading companies evaluate the quality and reliability of data sources. ISO 9000’s definition of quality is “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.” At ZS, we have a very robust DQM methodology, and our definition goes beyond the basics to include both the accuracy and the value of the data. Factors such as accuracy and absence of errors, and fulfilling specifications (business rules, designs, etc.), are foundational, but in our experience it’s most important to also include an assessment of value, completeness, and lack of bias because often these factors can lead to misleading or inaccurate insights from analysis of that data.
However, it’s not easy assessing the value of a new data source, which presents an entirely different set of challenges. One very important one is the actual interpretation of the data that’s being collected. How do you know when someone is shaking their phone or Fitbit to inflate their steps, or how do you interpret that the device has been taken off and it’s not tracking activity? How do you account for that and go beyond the data to understand what is really happening? As we get more experience with IOT devices and algorithms get smarter, we will get better at interpreting what these devices are collecting and be more forgiving of underlying data quality.
What are the ethical implications or issues (such as data ownership, privacy, and bias) you’ve encountered thus far, or anticipate encountering in the near future?
The ethical stewardship and protection of personal health data are just as essential for the long-term sustainability of the digital health industry as the data itself. The key question is, how can the industry realize the full value from this data without crossing the line? Protecting personal data in an increasingly digitized world—where we’ve largely become apathetic to the ubiquitous “terms and conditions” agreements—is a non-negotiable. How digital health and life science companies collect, manage, and protect users’ information will remain a big concern.
There are also ethical issues around what the data that is captured is used for. Companies need to carefully establish how to appropriately leverage the data without crossing the line. For example, using de-identified data for research purposes with the goal of improving products or services is aligned with creating a better experience for the patient, as opposed to leveraging the data for targeted marketing purposes.
Companies also face the issue of potential biases that may emerge when introducing AI and machine learning into decision-making processes around treatment or access to care. Statistical models are only as good as the data that are used to train them. Companies introducing these models need to test datasets and their AI model outputs to ensure gaps are eliminated from training data, the algorithms don’t learn to introduce bias, and they establish a process for evaluating bias as the models continue to learn and evolve.
Source : https://rockhealth.com/the-data-driven-transformation-of-the-life-sciences-industry-a-qa-with-zs-associates-pete-masloski/
As designers, we want to work on problems that are intriguing and “game-changing”. All too often, we limit the “game-changing” category to a handful of consumer-facing mobile apps and social networks. The truth is: enterprise software gives designers a unique set of complex problems to solve. Enterprise platforms usually have a savvy set of users with very specific needs — needs that, when addressed, often affect a business’s bottom line.
One of my first projects as a product designer here at Instacart was to redesign elements of our inventory management tool for retailers (e.g. Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Costco, etc.). As I worked on the project more and more, I learned that Enterprise tools are full of gnarly complexity and often present opportunities to practice deep thought. As Jonathan, one of our current enterprise platform designers said —
The greater the complexity, the greater the opportunity to find elegance.
As we scoped the project we found that the existing product wasn’t enabling retailers to manage their inventories as concisely and efficiently as they could. We found retailer users were relying on customer support to help carry out smaller tasks. Our goal with the redesign was to build and deliver a better experience that would enable retailers to manage their inventory more easily and grow their business with Instacart.
The first step in redesigning was to understand the flow of the current product. We mapped out the journey of a partner going through the tool and spoke with the PMs to figure out what we could incorporate into the roadmap.
Once we had a good understanding of the lay of the land, engineering resources, and retailers’ needs, we got into the weeds. Here are a few improvements we made to the tool —
We used the department tiles feature from our customer-facing product as the catalog’s landing page (1.0 above). With this, we worked to:
Our solution simplified a few things:
While it’s great that the older Item Details page was partitioned into sections, from an IA perspective, it offered challenges for two reasons:
To address this, we broke down the sections into what’s truly necessary. From there, we identified four main categories of information that the data fell under:
Sources now pop up on the top right of the input fields so the editor knows who last made changes.
Seeking validation through numbers is always fantastic. We did a small beta launch of this product and saw an increase in weekly engagement and decrease in support requests.
I learned that designing enterprise products helps you extend yourself as a visual designer and deep product thinker. I approached this project as an opportunity to break down complex interactions and bring visual elegance to a product through thoughtful design. To this day, it remains one of my favorite projects at Instacart as it stretched my thinking and enhanced my visual design chops. Most importantly, it taught me to look at Enterprise tools in a new light; now when I look at them, I am able to appreciate the complexity within
The horticultural lighting market is growing, and growing rapidly. According to a September press release from Report Linker, a market research firm specializing in agribusiness, the horticultural lighting market is estimated grow from a $2.43 billion market this year to $6.21 billion in 2023.
One of the key factors driving current market sector growth is increased development of LED grow light technology. LEDs (light emitting diodes) were first developed in the 1950s as a smaller and longer-lasting source of light compared to the traditional incandescent light bulb invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.
LEDs last longer, give off less heat, and are more efficient converting energy to light compared to other types of lights, all features that can result in higher yields and profits for indoor growers.
But until recently, LEDs were only used to grow plants indoors experimentally, largely because the cost was still too high for commercial businesses. Many commercial growers still use HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights such as High Pressure Sodium, Metal Halide, and Ceramic Metal Halide; all lights that have a high power output but are less durable than LED lights, generate far more heat, and have less customizable light spectra.
Today, LEDs are fast becoming the dominant horticultural lighting solution. This is due primarily to the one-million fold decrease in fabrication cost of semiconductor chips used to make LED lights since 1954.
For investors more familiar with field-based agriculture, it can certainly be a minefield to know where LED lighting technology for horticulture is going in the future. Although it is no longer the “early days” of LED technology development, current trends are still shaping the future of LED technology.
So what does the intelligent agtech investor need to know about the current state and future of LED grow light technology?
I interviewed Jeff Mastin, director of R&D at Total Grow LED Lighting, to discuss what the future of LED grow light technology for agriculture looks like, and how investors can use current trends to their advantage in the future.
The company behind TotalGrow is called Venntis Technologies. Venntis has, and still does, specialize in integrating touch-sensing semiconductor technologies into applications.
Most people don’t realize LEDs are semiconductors; you can also use them for touch-sensing technologies, so there’s a strong bridge to agricultural LED technology.
Some of the biggest technical challenges in utilizing LEDs effectively for agriculture include LED glaring, shadowing and color separation.
We have used our expertise in touch-sensing LEDs to expand into horticultural LEDs, and we have developed technology that addresses the above challenges better, giving better control over the spectrum that the LED makes and the directional output of the light in a way that a standard LED by itself can’t do.
My personal background is in biology. When TotalGrow started exploring the horticultural world, that’s where being a biologist was a natural fit to take a lead on the science and the research side of the development process for the product; that was about 7 years ago now.
The horticultural lighting industry is really becoming revolutionized because of LEDs. Less than 10 years ago, LEDs in the horticultural world were mainly a research tool and a novelty.
In the past, they were not efficient enough and they were definitely not affordable enough yet to really consider them an economical general commercial light source.
But that is very quickly changing. The efficiencies are going up and prices down and they are really right now hitting the tipping point where for a lot of applications, but definitely not all applications, the LED world is starting to take over horticulture and indoor agriculture.
With LEDs, the key question is still cost-efficiency, and there’s only so far the technology can improve.
Why? There are physical limitations. You can’t make a 100% efficient product that turns every bit of electricity into photons of light. At this point, the efficiency level of the top of line LEDs are up over 50%.
Can we ever get up to 70 or 80%? Probably not any time soon with an end-product, not one that’s going to be affordable and economical generally speaking.
So to answer your question, it’s not a category where you’re going to say, “well this is obsolete, I can get something three times better now.” The performance improvements will be more marginal in the future.
Ten years from now the cost will be cheaper. But that again doesn’t make current LED technologies obsolete. In terms of that fear, I don’t think people have to worry about current LED light technologies becoming obsolete.
To give just an order of magnitude sort of number, you’re probably going to be someplace in the $30 per square foot number for lights for a large facility. It can be half that or it can be double that.
That’s just talking within the realm of common vertical farming plants like greens and herbs, or other plants similar in size and lighting needs.
If you start talking about tomatoes or medicinal plants, then the ability to use higher light levels and have the plants make good use of it skyrockets. You can go four times higher with some of those other plants, and for good reason.
There are at least 3 areas where LEDs still may not make sense now and in the near future.
First, if the LED lights are not used often enough. The more hours per year the lights are used, the more quickly they return on their investment from power savings and reduced maintenance. Some applications only need a few weeks of lighting per year, which makes a cheaper solution appropriate.
Second, in some greenhouse applications, LED’s may not be the best choice for some time to come. Cheaper lights like high-pressure sodium have more of a role in greenhouses where hours of use are less and higher hang heights are possible. (Many greenhouses will still benefit strongly from LEDs, but the economics and other considerations make it important to consider both options in greenhouses.)
Lastly, some plants are not the best in vertical farming styles of growing where LEDs have their most drastic advantages. At least at this point it is not common to attempt to grow larger fruiting plants like tomatoes or cucumbers totally indoors, though when attempted that is still more practical with LEDs than legacy lights.
Source : https://agfundernews.com/what-do-investors-need-to-know-about-the-future-of-led-grow-light-technology.html/
Emotions are continually affecting our thought processes and decisions, below the level of our awareness. And the most common emotion of them all is the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Our thoughts almost inevitably revolve around this desire; we simply recoil from entertaining ideas that are unpleasant or painful to us. We imagine we are looking for the truth, or being realistic, when in fact we are holding on to ideas that bring a release from tension and soothe our egos, make us feel superior. This pleasure principle in thinking is the source of all of our mental biases. If you believe that you are somehow immune to any of the following biases, it is simply an example of the pleasure principle in action. Instead, it is best to search and see how they continually operate inside of you, as well as learn how to identify such irrationality in others.
These biases, by distorting reality, lead to the mistakes and ineffective decisions that plague our lives. Being aware of them, we can begin to counterbalance their effects.
I look at the evidence and arrive at my decisions through more or less rational processes.
To hold an idea and convince ourselves we arrived at it rationally, we go in search of evidence to support our view. What could be more objective or scientific? But because of the pleasure principle and its unconscious influence, we manage to find that evidence that confirms what we want to believe. This is known as confirmation bias.
We can see this at work in people’s plans, particularly those with high stakes. A plan is designed to lead to a positive, desired objective. If people considered the possible negative and positive consequences equally, they might find it hard to take any action. Inevitably they veer towards information that confirms the desired positive result, the rosy scenario, without realizing it. We also see this at work when people are supposedly asking for advice. This is the bane of most consultants. In the end, people want to hear their own ideas and preferences confirmed by an expert opinion. They will interpret what you say in light of what they want to hear; and if your advice runs counter to their desires, they will find some way to dismiss your opinion, your so-called expertise. The more powerful the person, the more they are subject to this form of the confirmation bias.
When investigating confirmation bias in the world take a look at theories that seem a little too good to be true. Statistics and studies are trotted out to prove them, which are not very difficult to find, once you are convinced of the rightness of your argument. On the Internet, it is easy to find studies that support both sides of an argument. In general, you should never accept the validity of people’s ideas because they have supplied “evidence.” Instead, examine the evidence yourself in the cold light of day, with as much skepticism as you can muster. Your first impulse should always be to find the evidence that disconfirms your most cherished beliefs and those of others. That is true science.
I believe in this idea so strongly. It must be true.
We hold on to an idea that is secretly pleasing to us, but deep inside we might have some doubts as to its truth and so we go an extra mile to convince ourselves — to believe in it with great vehemence, and to loudly contradict anyone who challenges us. How can our idea not be true if it brings out of us such energy to defend it, we tell ourselves? This bias is revealed even more clearly in our relationship to leaders — if they express an opinion with heated words and gestures, colorful metaphors and entertaining anecdotes, and a deep well of conviction, it must mean they have examined the idea carefully and therefore express it with such certainty. Those on the other hand who express nuances, whose tone is more hesitant, reveal weakness and self-doubt. They are probably lying, or so we think. This bias makes us prone to salesmen and demagogues who display conviction as a way to convince and deceive. They know that people are hungry for entertainment, so they cloak their half-truths with dramatic effects.
I understand the people I deal with; I see them just as they are.
We do not see people as they are, but as they appear to us. And these appearances are usually misleading. First, people have trained themselves in social situations to present the front that is appropriate and that will be judged positively. They seem to be in favor of the noblest causes, always presenting themselves as hardworking and conscientious. We take these masks for reality. Second, we are prone to fall for the halo effect — when we see certain negative or positive qualities in a person (social awkwardness, intelligence), other positive or negative qualities are implied that fit with this. People who are good looking generally seem more trustworthy, particularly politicians. If a person is successful, we imagine they are probably also ethical, conscientious and deserving of their good fortune. This obscures the fact that many people who get ahead have done so by doing less than moral actions, which they cleverly disguise from view.
My ideas are my own. I do not listen to the group. I am not a conformist.
We are social animals by nature. The feeling of isolation, of difference from the group, is depressing and terrifying. We experience tremendous relief to find others who think the same way as we do. In fact, we are motivated to take up ideas and opinions because they bring us this relief. We are unaware of this pull and so imagine we have come to certain ideas completely on our own. Look at people that support one party or the other, one ideology — a noticeable orthodoxy or correctness prevails, without anyone saying anything or applying overt pressure. If someone is on the right or the left, their opinions will almost always follow the same direction on dozens of issues, as if by magic, and yet few would ever admit this influence on their thought patterns.
I learn from my experience and mistakes.
Mistakes and failures elicit the need to explain. We want to learn the lesson and not repeat the experience. But in truth, we do not like to look too closely at what we did; our introspection is limited. Our natural response is to blame others, circumstances, or a momentary lapse of judgment. The reason for this bias is that it is often too painful to look at our mistakes. It calls into question our feelings of superiority. It pokes at our ego. We go through the motions, pretending to reflect on what we did. But with the passage of time, the pleasure principle rises and we forget what small part in the mistake we ascribed to ourselves. Desire and emotion will blind us yet again, and we will repeat exactly the same mistake and go through the same mild recriminating process, followed by forgetfulness, until we die. If people truly learned from their experience, we would find few mistakes in the world, and career paths that ascend ever upward.
I’m different. I’m more rational than others, more ethical as well.
Few would say this to people in conversation. It sounds arrogant. But in numerous opinion polls and studies, when asked to compare themselves to others, people generally express a variation of this. It’s the equivalent of an optical illusion — we cannot seem to see our faults and irrationalities, only those of others. So, for instance, we’ll easily believe that those in the other political party do not come to their opinions based on rational principles, but those on our side have done so. On the ethical front, few will ever admit that they have resorted to deception or manipulation in their work, or have been clever and strategic in their career advancement. Everything they’ve got, or so they think, comes from natural talent and hard work. But with other people, we are quick to ascribe to them all kinds of Machiavellian tactics. This allows us to justify whatever we do, no matter the results.
We feel a tremendous pull to imagine ourselves as rational, decent, and ethical. These are qualities highly promoted in the culture. To show signs otherwise is to risk great disapproval. If all of this were true — if people were rational and morally superior — the world would be suffused with goodness and peace. We know, however, the reality, and so some people, perhaps all of us, are merely deceiving ourselves. Rationality and ethical qualities must be achieved through awareness and effort. They do not come naturally. They come through a maturation process.
Source : https://medium.com/the-mission/6-biases-holding-you-back-from-rational-thinking-f2eddd35fd0f
Recently in a risk management meeting, I watched a data scientist explain to a group of executives why convolutional neural networks were the algorithm of choice to help discover fraudulent transactions. The executives—all of whom agreed that the company needed to invest in artificial intelligence—seemed baffled by the need for so much detail. “How will we know if it’s working?” asked a senior director to the visible relief of his colleagues.
Although they believe AI’s value, many executives are still wondering about its adoption. The following five questions are boardroom staples:
Organizational issues are never far from the minds of executives looking to accelerate efficiencies and drive growth. And, while this question isn’t new, the answer might be.
Captivated by the idea of data scientists analyzing potentially competitively-differentiating data, managers often advocate formalizing a data science team as a corporate service. Others assume that AI will fall within an existing analytics or data center-of-excellence (COE).
AI positioning depends on incumbent practices. A retailer’s customer service department designated a group of AI experts to develop “follow the sun chatbots” that would serve the retailer’s increasingly global customer base. Conversely a regional bank considered AI more of an enterprise service, centralizing statisticians and machine learning developers into a separate team reporting to the CIO.
These decisions were vastly different, but they were both the right ones for their respective companies.
When people hear the term AI they conjure thoughts of smart Menlo Park hipsters stationed at standing desks wearing ear buds in their pierced ears and writing custom code late into the night. Indeed, some version of this scenario is how AI has taken shape in many companies.
Executives tend to romanticize AI development as an intense, heads-down enterprise, forgetting that development planning, market research, data knowledge, and training should also be part of the mix. Coding from scratch might actually prolong AI delivery, especially with the emerging crop of developer toolkits (Amazon Sagemaker and Google Cloud AI are two) that bundle open source routines, APIs, and notebooks into packaged frameworks.
These packages can accelerate productivity, carving weeks or even months off development schedules. Or they can exacerbate collaboration efforts.
It’s all about perspective. AI might be positioned as edgy and disruptive with its own internal brand, signaling a fresh commitment to innovation. Or it could represent the evolution of analytics, the inevitable culmination of past efforts that laid the groundwork for AI.
I’ve noticed that AI projects are considered successful when they are deployed incrementally, when they further an agreed-upon goal, when they deliver something the competition hasn’t done yet, and when they support existing cultural norms.
Incumbent norms once again matter here. But when it comes to AI the level of disruption is often directly proportional to the need for a sponsor.
A senior AI specialist at a health care network decided to take the time to discuss possible AI use cases (medication compliance, readmission reduction, and deep learning diagnostics) with executives “so that they’d know what they’d be in for.” More importantly she knew that the executives who expressed the most interest in the candidate AI undertakings would be the likeliest to promote her new project. “This is a company where you absolutely need someone powerful in your corner,” she explained.
If you’re new to AI you’ll need to be careful about departing from norms, since this might attract undue attention and distract from promising outcomes. Remember Peter Drucker’s quote about culture eating strategy for breakfast? Going rogue is risky.
On the other hand, positioning AI as disruptive and evolutionary can do wonders for both the external brand as well as internal employee morale, assuring constituents that the company is committed to innovation, and considers emerging tech to be strategic.
Either way, the most important success measures for AI are setting accurate expectations, sharing them often, and addressing questions and concerns without delay.
These days AI has mojo. Companies are getting serious about it in a way they haven’t been before. And the more your executives understand about how it will be deployed—and why—the better the chances for delivering ongoing value.
Source : https://www.cio.com/article/3318639/artificial-intelligence/5-questions-ceos-are-asking-about-ai.html
Moving beyond supply chain proof of concepts still requires bringing ecosystems of enterprises together
Bang on trend and with no shortage of afficiandoes; micro-brewery-made, artisinal beer proved a fitting use case for blockchain technology at Oracle OpenWorld last week.
Alpha Acid Brewing in Belmont, California was showcased as an early adopter of one of Oracle’s new blockchain based applications, Intelligent Track and Trace.
“We can now track materials and premium ingredients from our suppliers and analyse sensor data from the production process for each batch,” said Kyle Bozicevic, owner and brewer at Alpha Acid, which served up thousands of (free) cups of its beer range across the three day event.
“[The] application helps ensure that we are getting the highest quality hops, malt, and yeast, and enables us to create a strong narrative around our products for customers,” he added.
Big Red is hoping it will find an equally thirsty audience for the four supply chain focused blockchain applications it will make available through next year; Intelligent Track and Trace, Lot Lineage and Provenance, Intelligent Cold Chain and Warranty and Usage Tracking.
The use-case-specific SaaS applications are built on Oracle’s Blockchain Cloud Service launched earlier this year (itself based on Linux Foundation’s open source Hyperledger Fabric platform) and connect with its Supply Chain Management (SCM) Cloud, Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) Cloud and other applications.
“Typically when you think about the blockchain it’s about distributed ledger, it’s about digital signatures, it’s about smart contracts; but really the value proposition associated with blockchain is here,” said Rick Jewell, senior vice president, supply chain and manufacturing cloud applications, Oracle, at OpenWorld’s supply chain keynote.
Jewell pointed to a word cloud on a slide featuring phrases like: ‘reduce delays and inefficiencies’, ‘dispute resolution’, ‘proof of delivery’ and ‘expedite payments’.
“Just as we did with IoT – we didn’t stop with the IoT platform, we built IoT applications, we’ve done the same thing here. We have built form-fit blockchain applications that work on top of that,” he added.
The apps will make getting started with blockchain much easier for a business, but there are still significant challenges for them to overcome in taking the technology beyond proof-of-concept; chiefly, all the other businesses they work with.
As Gartner supply chain technology research director Amber Salley explained: “The apps will be as useful as there is an ecosystem committed to using blockchain.”
Alpha Acid is one of a number of early-adopters to get early access to the applications. Others named include Arab Jordan Investment Bank, CargoSmart, Certified Origins, Indian Oil, Intelipost, MTO, Neurosoft, Nigeria Customs, Sofbang, Solar Site Design and TradeFin.
CargoSmart is a shipment management software solutions provider in APAC, and begun its blockchain initiative for shipment documentation in July.
Since shipping document handling processes are complex, feature dated paper processes and involve many stakeholders across numerous countries, it is an ideal use case for blockchain CargoSmart CEO Steve Siu told Computerworld.
“We consider blockchain as the digital baseline for the next generation,” Siu said.
“Blockchain is something different – which is to come together to share that information in the first place then think about how the industry would take advantage of that to change the processes, to change the way they work together,” he added.
Getting all the stakeholders on to the blockchain will be a considerable challenge however.
Shipping companies have diverse technical capabilities and data standards, and currently exchange documents in many formats including email, online forms, and electronic data interchange (EDI). On average, a single shipment can involve more than 30 documents exchanged by all parties, often with multiple revisions due to human errors, before it leaves port.
These existing processes are not standardised, despite numerous attempts to do so, but would need to be if blockchain is to be used.
“To drive the industry to change is actually very difficult. That’s why we took this consortium approach, to get the industry together,” Siu added.
The sentiment was echoed by Certified Origin CIO Andrea Biagianti. His company has been using a blockchain application to trace key steps in the supply chain from Italian olive groves to the Bellucci-brand bottled extra virgin olive oil sold in North America.
“We think that the hardest step at the beginning is to build a best practice for all the actors in the supply chain. It is difficult for them to know that they have to work all together with one final scope,” he told Computerworld.
The requirement to get multiple stakeholders behind a single blockchain solution, could be a limiting factor in the apps’ success, Gartner’s Salley explained.
“Since it is a chain there needs to be multiple parties involved to add ‘links’ to the change. That means that the multiple parties will need to have invested in the systems and processes to make it work,” she said.
Despite the distributed, multi-stakeholder nature of the technology, Oracle will charge just one party, the “top node”, for using the apps and the cost is not based on the number of users on the chain.
“We do not intend on charging based on users, but we intend on charging for the platform itself,” Oracle’s executive vice president, applications product development, Steve Miranda told media.
“And the platform – think of it as the hub – whether that hub is purchased by a single node in the supply chain, the top node, or if that gets purchased by the collective sets of nodes… but because of the nature of the application and the distributed nature of the application, charging on a per user basis like that is counter to the way we expect it to be used. We want it to be used more pervasively not less pervasively,” he said.
Above a certain scale however, Miranda indicated that additional costs could kick in.
“The scale will likely have some sort of transaction charge on top of that but that depends on the blockchain use case,” he explained.
The apps will be interoperable with other blockchain providers with HyperLedger based solutions such as SAP and IBM, Oracle said.
Gartner research into supply-chain-focused blockchain solutions has found the market to be “uncertain, confusing and overly hyped”, while many proposed use cases “may not even need blockchain in the first place”.
A September report from the analyst firm said that a lack of data and governance standards across broad ecosystems of trading partners “will inhibit multi-enterprise collaboration, therefore stalling pilots and diminishing wide adoption”.
Until 2021, 90 per cent of supply chain blockchain initiatives will be proof-of-concepts (such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s recent almond shipping experiment) and onboarding challenges will halt 90 per cent of the initiatives across medium to large-scale enterprises, Gartner predicts.
“Blockchain in supply chain is a technology looking for a use case. I think the apps are Oracle’s attempt to create that use case. It is hard to sell blockchain as a platform so by productising it as an app gives a business a starting point to get using blockchain,” Salley said.
Intelligent Track and Trace will be available in the first quarter of next year, with the other apps following through the rest of 2019.
Source : https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/648812/oracle-apps-make-blockchain-easier-consortium-challenges-remain/
What a great #AWE2018 show in Munich, with a strong focus on the industry usage and, of course , the german automotive industry was well represented. Some new , simple but efficient, AR devices , and plenty of good use cases with a confirmed ROI. This edition was PRAGMATIC.
The use of XR by automotive companies, big pharma, and teachers confirmed some good ROI with some “ready to use” solutions, especially in this domains :
To create specific and advanced AR Apps, there is still some challenges with the content authoring and with the integration to the legacy systems to retrieve master data and 3D assets. Automotized and integrated AR app need some ingenious developments.
An interesting use case from Boeing ( using hololens to assist the mounting of cables) shows how they did to get an integrated and automatized AR app. Their AR solution architecture in 4 blocks :
The usage of AR and VR becomes more important in many domains : From conception to maintenance and sales (configurator, catalogs …)
The consequence is that original CAD files can be transformed and used in different processes of your company, where it becomes a challenge to use high polygon from CAD applications into other 3D / VR / AR applications, where there is a need of lighter 3D assets, also with some needs of texture and rendering adjustment.
gIFT can be a solution , glTF defines an extensible, common publishing format for 3D content tools and services that streamlines authoring workflows and enables interoperable use of content across the industry.
The main challenge is to implement a good centralised and integrated 3D asset management strategy, considering them as important as your other key master data.
The conception of advanced and integrated AR solutions for large companies needs some new expert combining knowlegde in 3D apps and experience in system integration.
This projects need new types of information system architecture taking in account the AR technologies.
PTC looks like a leader in providing efficient and scalable tools for large companies. PTC, owner of Vuforia is also exceling with other 3D / PLM management solutions like windchill , to smoothly integrate 3D management in all the processes and IT of the enterprise.
Sopra Steria , the french IS integration company, is also taking this role , bringing his system integration experience into the new AR /VR usages in the industry.
If you don’t want to invest in this kind of complex projects, for a first step in AR/VR or for some quick wins at a low budget , new content authoring solutions exist to build your AR app with some simple user interfaces and workflows : skylight by Upskill , worklink by Scope AR
“A real time 3D (or spatial) map of the world, the AR cloud, will be the single most important software infrastructure in computing. Far more valuable than facebook social graph, or google page rank index” say Ori Inbar, Co-Founder and CEO of Augmented Reality.ORG. A promising prediction.
The AR cloud provide a persistant , multiuser and cross device AR landscape. It allows people to share experiences and collaborate. The most known AR cloud experience so far is the famous Pokemon Go game.
So far the AR map works using GPS or image recognition, or local point of cloud for a limited space / a building. The dream will be to copy the world as a point of cloud, for a global AR cloud landscape. A real time systems that could be used by robots, drones etc…
The AWE exhibition presented some interesting AR cloud initiative :
Source : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/augmented-reality-state-art-industry-fr%C3%A9d%C3%A9ric-niederberger/