Tag: Blockchain

Blockchain: Making the Global Supply Chain Healthier | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In 2015, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill suffered a major crisis with an E. coli outbreak that left 55 customers ill. Sales plummeted, news stories and investigations shattered its reputation, and the restaurant chain’s share price dropped 42 percent, to a three-year low, where it has languished ever since. Why couldn’t Chipotle prevent or contain it? What triggered it?

The answer lies in an ever-present scenario companies face – dependence across multiple vendors and lack of transparency and accountability across complex supply chains. A radical solution, using blockchain technology, is rapidly emerging, and is being explored by a slew of startups and corporations.

Blockchain allows supply chain managers to attach digital tokens – a unique, negotiable form of digital asset – to intermediate goods as they progress along the production, shipping, and delivery phases among different supply chain players. This gives businesses far greater flexibility to find markets and price risks, by capturing the value invested in the process at any point along the chain.

Blockchain in Action

One example of blockchain in action is Walmart working with IBM and Beijing’s Tsinghua University to follow the movement of pork in China. Another is BHP Billiton, a mining giant, using the technology to track mineral analysis conducted by outside vendors. Everledger, a dynamic startup, has already uploaded unique data on more than a million individual diamonds to a blockchain ledger system, thus developing quality assurances and helping jewelry market associations comply with regulations barring “blood diamond” products.

“Smart contracts,” an application based on blockchain technology – buoyed by advances in chip and sensor technology – is an especially powerful option providing traceability and automation benefits. These contracts can grant different vendors special, cryptographic, and encrypted permissions, can be automatically executed by an autonomous system, and provide visibility on each other’s activity to all members of a supply chain community.

Smart contract definition

This kind of provable, transparent credentialing will be especially important for additive manufacturing, which is central to the dynamic, on-demand production model of the burning Industry 4.0 movement. For instance, operations and maintenance crew in an aircraft carrier need to have absolute confidence that the software file they downloaded to 3D print a new part is safe and not hacked. One of the most compelling arguments for blockchain is that it can help eradicate the trust problem in supply chains, without which the sophisticated, decentralized, IoT–driven economy many are projecting might be impossible.

Obstacles to Overcome

While the need for efficiency improvement and information aggregation suggest blockchain technology could deliver vast supply chain savings for companies everywhere, there are formidable obstacles to overcome first, such as:

  • Development and governance of the technology is a big concern, with two imperatives – global supply chains anchoring to a public blockchain (that no entity controls) to encourage free access and open innovation, and private or closed ledgers to protect companies’ market share and profits. This conflict leads to a couple of challenges:
    • Achieving global economic capacity for the most significant public blockchains, digital currency and smart contract platforms becomes constrained by divisions in open-source communities, making it difficult to agree on protocol upgrades
    • There needs to be interoperability across private and public blockchains, and this will require standards and agreements
  • There exists a complex array of regulations, maritime law, and commercial codes that govern rights of ownership and possession along the world’s shipping routes and their multiple jurisdictions. It will be extremely difficult to marry this old-world body of law, and the human-led institutions that manage it, with the digitally defined, dematerialized, automated, and denationalized nature of blockchains and smart contracts.

Despite these challenges, positive steps are being taken. For example, Hong Kong recently formed a Belt and Road blockchain consortium that seeks to bring a structure and order along with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), an international, private sector–led global administrator and adjudicator.

While it might be too early to say that blockchain entirely solves the global supply chains issues, we believe any system that promises to enhance transparency and control for businesses and their customers, while also countering inter-commercial trading frictions, is worth exploring.

An increasing number of investors, businesses, academics, and even governments are starting to view blockchain technology as a much-needed platform…are you with them?

Insurer of the Future Will Use Technology to Shift from ‘Insuring Loss’ to ‘Ensuring Protection’ | Press Release

Also, bundling of insurance with products and services across industries is on the rise, creating a new breed of ‘invisible insurer’

Everest Group reports that two major trends are shaping the future of insurance, driving insurers to redefine their business strategies and IT outsourcing engagements. First, insurers are moving from passively “insuring loss” and managing claims to proactively “ensuring protection” for customers. Second, insurers are bundling insurance with products and services across a broad spectrum of industries, with insurers themselves increasingly becoming invisible to the end customer.

To navigate these shifts, the insurer of the future will leverage next-generation technologies such as analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and IoT.

For example:

  • Insurers are already using IoT to “ensure protection” by monitoring homes (smoke and carbon monoxide alarms), cars (mileage, driving patterns), persons (exercise, lifestyle patterns), and businesses (boilers and water systems).
  • Insurers will use digital channels to sell hyper-personalized products; for instance, an insurer’s mobile application might use geo-location data to offer travel or airline insurance to a customer who is at the airport.
  • Insurance will be bundled with products and services. Market leaders have already begun bundling insurance with remittance transfers and real estate purchases. As this trend expands across all industries, insurers will become “invisible” to the end user.
  • Insurers will tap the connected ecosystem to underwrite risk in near actual time. Analytics and AI will be used on real-time as well as historical data to assess risk, generate quotes, negotiate premiums and execute smart contracts.
  • Policy administration processes are already shifting from being highly manual and paper based to automated and digitized, and this will rise to another level as connected systems, blockchain and machine learning applications mature.
  • Machine learning will transform a highly manual, reactive claims management process to an automated, proactive one, and blockchain technology is showing transformative potential for use cases such as claims validation, fraud detection and prevention, and automated claims payments.

These are just a few ways technology will play a major role in the transformation of the insurance industry over the next decade as insurers shift focus from “protection” to “prevention” and as the bundling of insurance with products and services becomes more prevalent. Today, insurers have begun collaborating with IT service providers to build and evaluate proof-of-concepts, develop customized solution offerings, and test use cases in innovation labs and centers of excellence.

“We’re already seeing evidence of insurers beginning to embrace their future reality,” said Jimit Arora, partner and leader of the IT Services research practice at Everest Group. “For instance, insurers are moving from long-term, traditional IT outsourcing projects to short-term, digital projects. These projects allow insurers to adopt emerging technologies, reduce time-to-market, and improve customer experience. We’re also seeing a steep rise in demand for artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and automation in the scope of insurance IT outsourcing contracts.”

Insurance constitutes 30-35 percent market share of the overall US$142 billion BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) IT outsourcing industry. Over the past four years, the insurance ITO market size has grown by a CAGR of 5.3 percent, and going forward it is expected to grow at a steady rate of 4-6 percent. Digital services components were included in 46 percent of the 348 insurance ITO deals signed in 2016 and analyzed by Everest Group. The deals having automation in scope increased by nearly 250 percent while deals involving IoT, blockchain and AI nearly tripled.

These findings and more are explored in detail in Everest Group’s recently published report, “Insurer of the Future: Insurance ITO Annual Report 2018.” The report explores key trends in the insurance industry and their implications for application services outsourcing.

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Befuddled by blockchain? What to consider before diving in | In the News

Blockchain, perhaps best known for underpinning its better-known progeny, Bitcoin, is a rapidly evolving technology that remains something of a mystery for IT shops and in boardrooms.

Deciding when and why your company might want to roll out a blockchain transactional ledger remains something of a risky move; many early adopters could wind up spending a lot of time and money on something that ultimately provides them with little to no benefit, according to a new report from Everest Group Research, Unblocking Blockchain Adoption- a Prioritization Framework for Business Processes.

Read more in Computerworld (requires registration)

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