Although not stated directly, the implicit message of last evening’s MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Innovation Series event, Emerging Applications of Blockchain for Supply Chains, is that blockchains are (or should be) everywhere.
Yeah, the event was about how open ledger technology can make supply chain management more efficient, but, as panelist Dan Harple said, “we are all a supply chain.” The things we learn, the ideas we think up, the products we make and consume… they are all links in a cosmic supply chain and if you take that concept to its logical conclusion, blockchains can be a liberating and empowering force.
Blockchain technology is a highly federated means of establishing the identity and authenticity of things, both physical and digital. Most often associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain is already being used to address issues of product piracy and for tracking use of intellectual property in the music industry. Those are just a couple examples given by the panel of innovators whose work is helping to ensure the safety of pharmaceuticals and food as well as help companies manage their operations more efficiently.
Consider the anecdote offered by IBM’s Brigid McDermott, who said that, in a world that discards one-third of all the food it produces, blockchain can play a significant role by ensuring it does not spoil in transit or in storage. And if blockchain can make the world’s food supply chains more efficient, it will also address one of the major sources of pollution.
In other words, blockchain can not only help feed the world, but it can also help to save the world.
Meanwhile, as the panelists told their own stories, in turn they encouraged the full house of interested attendees to think about how they might use blockchain to improve things in their worlds and to go out and do it. There’s no reason to wait, and certainly there’s no reason to ask for permission.
That’s advice we can all use, blockchain or not.
Thank you to the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge and to the panelists whose participation made the event worthwhile. It’s exactly these types of high caliber events that prompts CHEN PR to serve as a multi-decade sponsor of the organization and co-chair its Innovation Series committee, which hosted last eve’s summit.
Earlier this week I was at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge’s annual Startup Spotlight, a fun competition between thirty or so entrepreneurial ventures from Massachusetts and elsewhere in the region. The competition part of the event is to be named, by attendee vote, as the company most likely to become a unicorn, develop a cult following, or the company you’d most enjoy sharing a beer with.
But really, the goal for each of the companies there is to tell their stories is to make a connection that will play a role in the venture’s success. Being named a potential unicorn is fun, but when a potential investor, partner, key employee or customer takes an interest—that’s the real prize.
As I walked around to check out the different and innovative approaches to tackling different problems I realized that the first few companies I was drawn to all had something in common: each solved a problem that I had a personal connection to.
The first, DropZone for Veterans, aims to make navigating the enormous number of services and benefits available to U.S. Armed Services veterans a simple process. Talking with DropZone founder Courtney Wilson, herself a U.S. Army vet, I was struck by the unflappable enthusiasm she had for her mission. I’m U.S. Navy veteran and I posed a question that started us on conversation that was eye-opening for me.
“What do you offer for vets like me who did their four years, left physically and mentally intact and who simply want to move on to the next phase of their lives?”
My intended implication was to address the false impression that many young men and women have that the only services available are for the unfortunate ones left injured. Courtney quickly educated me with a brief taste of the many services—offered through government and private organizations—that range from complicated bureaucratic engagements to the plethora of private services and gestures intended to supplement benefits or simply say “thanks for your service.”
DropZone says it can help its users “access thousands of resources tailored to veterans and their families.” After talking with Courtney, I have no doubt that it can. And I wondered why it took so long for someone to do what Courtney has done.
The next company that caught my attention was Blink, maker of a wireless, remote security video camera for keeping tabs on what’s going on in and around your home.
A few weeks ago, there was a suspicious incident at my house that played out very much like a casing. The police officer who spoke with my wife and daughter suggested as much and, while there was no damage done, nerves were frayed and my wife purchased a product like Blink’s, but that turned out to be more promise than delivery.
As I shared my story and asked my questions based on that experience I learned that Blink was developed in response to similar frustrations with the products available and in response to a similar situation. I texted my wife and, in a fit of buyer’s remorse, we both agreed that we wish we’d known of Blink at the time.
There were other encounters during which I learned of personal connections that made the resulting conversation more meaningful and so business cards were exchanged with a promise of re-connecting in order to possibly make a helpful introduction. Who knows what will come of such conversations, but when I left it was with the satisfaction of having played a small part in an enjoyable event charged with positive and productive energy.
Congratulations to them and to all those entrepreneurs who mustered the gumption to participate.
From most reports, we are a nation of cord cutters. We are technology addicts that speak responsibly of privacy and propriety in the way digital businesses deal with us, but simultaneously consume irrationally and become easily distracted by, and attracted to, the digital squirrel of innovation.
There were a number of stories last week that set me to thinking of where the trend goes. We’ve moved from a model of active and directed consumption, to more passive and predictive feeding with things like location based services and augmented reality. It begs the question of when we may encounter literal consumption of technology that is embedded within us and becomes a part of us – or consumes us.
The most recent article in this trend comes out of the D11 conference where Google Glass and an Apple watch – and even a Disney wristband – grabbed center stage.
My fear is that the more technology becomes a proactive and transparent agent in our online interactions, the less we may think about the specifics of those interactions and the potential side effects. Are we headed toward putting technology on autopilot, and allowing it to guide where we go, only realizing too late where we end up. And just this week, stories of Google Glass going ‘full creepy’ are emerging.
It feels as if we’re approaching a critical juncture and need to make some decisions. In the words of Morpheus, “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Another article that drove this point further home for me was Nick Bilton’s column, At Odds Over Privacy Challenges of Wearable Computing. In it, he compares the privacy debate to Dr. Seuss’s “Butter Battle Book” in which the differing views of the Zooks and the Yooks escalate to threaten an all-out war. It’s an interesting and amusing comparison, but one that I feel may be misleading. The Zooks and the Yooks were relatively equal from an adversarial perspective, and escalation was matched on either side.
In the war of technology, those who would wish to slow the money making machine that feeds off of information do not have the marketing and sales armies – or customer conscripts – of their enemy, nor is their influence equal in the information infrastructure that facilitates the conversations. It’s not lost on me that the story of the Zooks and Yooks was released in a year that was also of note for other reasons. Stay safe folks and remember, Google Glass doesn’t wink-and-shoot people, people wink-and-shoot people.