The Supply Chain Matters blog highlights ongoing developments related to both blockchain and Internet of Things technology, and specifically Oracle’s recent efforts for supporting customer needs and requirements in each of these technology areas.

Two technologies that garner a lot of ongoing interest among supply chain management technology focused audiences are thatBlockchain and IoT Technology of Blockchain and Internet-of-Things (IoT), and specifically how each, or in combination, can provide added value for line-of-business or supply chain management process and decision- making needs.

 

Blockchain Enablement

Both our 2018 and 2019 collective research advisories predicted that Blockchain pilots would gain added momentum and interest levels as teams look to address and overcome various known challenges presented by the technology. Obstacles have been noted as the speed and scalability required for supply or demand network use cases, the lack of generally accepted global standards related to distributed ledgers, along with underlying technology components. Deploying and managing a distributed ledger that benefits companies and their network partners as opposed to a particular vendor’s Cloud platform revenue aspirations is another concern.

Our indications are that parallel efforts among various technology providers, along with building interest among first mover adopters are leading to new discoveries and meaningful approaches.

As an example, earlier this month, Oracle announced both the addition of new technical features and customer deployments to its Oracle Blockchain Platform. Among them was:

Enhanced world state database to support standard SQL-based ledger queries, ensuring that smart contracts can safely rely on query results.

A rich history database that shadows transaction history into a relational database schema in Oracle databases, allowing broader analytics integration for interactive dashboards.

Enhanced REST APIs for event subscription, blockchain administration/configuration, and monitoring of network health, transaction rates, and other statistics, which simplify integration with existing enterprise IT tools.

Third-party certificate support for registering client organizations on the blockchain network to enable them to use existing certificates issued by trusted third parties.

Hyperledger Fabric 1.3 support which adds new features based on this evolving open source version that includes chaincode  development in Java. According to the announcement, this provides support for private transactions among a subset of members, preserving privacy and business confidentiality.

The latter is meaningful since it represents Oracle’s commitment to stay current and contribute to and with the Hyperledger open source community.

In its announcement, Oracle identifies 13 global-wide customers that are either in pilot or production deployment phases of various defined scope use cases of the technology ranging from verification, trust, track and trace or other applications.

Once more, we have conducted briefings from other technology providers that are supporting various pilots, some with rather large global manufacturers and businesses focused on addressing complex, multitier distributed ledger process challenges. At the same time, it appears that teams remain sensitive to data confidentiality and trust factors in their pilot deployments.

The good news is that the global community will continue to acquire learning and initial benefits from these managed scope efforts. While blockchain as a mainstream technology is still a couple of years away, technology providers and business IT teams show evidence for paying very close attention to inherent concerns, while moving forward. These defined-scope efforts will add to both business process and technology learning and modification, and to the potential broader business benefits of the technology over time.

 

Internet of Things (IoT) Enablement

In 2018, we predicted some pause in IoT deployment efforts primarily because of increased sensitivities toward data security or vulnerabilities to cyber threats. Similar to blockchain, we predicted that pilot deployments and mutual learning would continue in 2019, especially among early adopters with compelling business use cases. Here again, the operative phrase is managed scope. Technology providers continue to add more information security safeguards that include encryption, along with other technologies that enhance the identification, management or control of physical things.

Amsterdam based HERE Technologies is a recognized provider in geo-mapping and location platform services. This company’s technology contains 57 million kilometers of detailed roadway information that connect over 125 million points of interest in more than 200 countries. The company claims one of the highest geo-mapping accuracy levels, enabling technology users to give more precise estimate-time-of-arrival indicators. The database alone requires over 4000 skilled geo-technicians across the globe to process more than one billion changes per year.

Earlier this month, HERE announced that Oracle Internet of Things Cloud has integrated the HERE Location Suite into its IoT services capabilities. This integration was undertaken to improve the location precision for industrial assets for real-time machine health monitoring, remote warehouse operations management, freight transportation and last mile delivery, or supply chain spatial health metrics.

Our previous commentary related to Oracle Internet of Things Cloud have focused on the platform’s product strategy to hone-in on specific, identifiable business use cases, and a pre-integrated application suite designed to address specific process use cases.. Rather than a technology seeking a solution, Oracle product management teams researched specific supply chain management process areas that would yield higher customer interest and meaningful industry and customer business benefits.

In the case of the HERE integration, the initial emphasis was with Oracle IoT Fleet Monitoring Cloud and IoT Asset Monitoring Cloud, each of which require high geo-location precision.

Each of Oracle’s pilot deployments will address needs for data security as well as precision in data and information. An obvious watch out is the avoidance of drowning in data, but rather applying advanced analytics in identifying and providing context for predictive or prescriptive information related to an object’s operational state.

Both blockchain and IoT early adopters will continue to develop overall learning and perspective. Some may falter, and some may well provide competitive advantage. As in all things related to technology, the determinant will be overall timing and readiness.

Bob Ferrari

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