Bitcoin coming to an ATM by you…

Bitcoin, the leading P2P currency, is coming to an ATM near you. There is an ATM right here in Boston now! At least Boston keeps its place as a high tech center…barely. Anyways, first what really is Bitcoin, other than being linked to the infamous Winklevoss twins? Click here for a good crash video on what it is.

Coming to an ATM near you...better get your digital wallet ready

Coming to an ATM near you…better get your digital wallet ready

Basically it is an online generated form of currency, no banks, no physical currency is created. It allows the online community to have a form of money to empower eCommerce – not that your credit cards doesn’t still work. Online commerce could function and not have to pay some of the fees associated with credit cards and other forms of traditional brick and mortar payment methods. So what does it mean that you can now go to the ATM machine and “get” Bitcoins?

For the most part it feels like a marketing scheme, to make the every day user comfortable with this form of currency. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with eCommerce both via their smart phones, tablets or computers. They have become comfortable using their credit cards online. Bitcoin has to hope they start feeling comfortable seeing Bitcoin as a viable payment option. Showing consumers how to leverage Bitcoin in a format they are used to – aka the ATM machine – should allow for an ease of association with the medium. I get that the ATM gives me $20 bills (in New York sometimes $100 bills!), I get how to use my phone for more than phone calls….now I can somewhat better grasp how this all mixes together with Bitcoin. From a marketing and education perspective this makes a lot of sense. It is also interesting when it comes to the timing – with many highly publicized credit card theft issues from Target to Neiman Marcus could Bitcoin find away to offer a “safer” alternative for online commerce?

It will be interesting to see what the reaction is to these Bitcoin ATMs, will it uptick the usage of the currency? Will the curiosity fade after a few days? Regardless it will be interesting to watch and I believe the impact will reach further than we might expect today…think supply chain. A discussion for another post!

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Filed under Current Events, eCommerce, Online payment, Technology

Facebook adds to empire – final gets their communication platform in Whatsapp

Earlier today Facebook announced a massive acquisition of mobile instant messaging platform Whatsapp. The deal will be for $16billion, of which $4billion will be in cash and the remainder in equity. Regardless of how you structure it, that is a lot of money, wonder how many bitcoins that could have purchased.

From what I have been able to read, most agree, as do I, that Facebook needed to get a stronger footprint in the world of mobile communications. Yes Facebook remains one of the most used mobile apps and the growth continues on the upwards trend. Within that segment, the non – “US & Canada” are showing continued growth, while US & Canada remain steady.

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Growth curve outside North America picking up steam

Facebook has tried to get a foothold on the world of IM/SMS type communications on mobile devices. Anyone who is a regular Facebook user knows how they have been constantly pushing their mobile messenger app on users. I will admit I actually finally broke down and downloaded the app, only to delete it after a few days and went back to going through the regular Facebook to leverage the messaging function. Of course for Facebook they realize that not everyone has a Facebook account…gasp….and therefore might be accessible through Facebook messenger. Just like Apple knows that not everyone is on iOS…gasp…and cannot all use iMessenger the same way. For this reason 3rd party messaging platforms like Whatsapp, Viber, Snapchat or old school ones such as AIM and Yahoo! try to be device agnostic and focus just on being communications platforms. Not some uber social media community. Of course the growth shown by Whatsapp doesn’t hurt their attractiveness either!

WhatsApp-growth

So it makes perfect sense for Facebook to find in Whatsapp their potential asset in the mobile messenger world. Much like Instagram provided them with their photo-sharing platform. While Facebook has these functions in their existing platform, they just aren’t very good at differentiating them, as they are just drowned out in the overall Facebook environment. Buying Whatsapp gives Facebook a strong asset in the mobile messaging space. It gives them an asset that has done well outside the United States, an area where Facebook mobile enjoys continued upward movement – could be very complimentary in that aspect. Does it admit failure in decoupling Facebook Messenger as a stand alone? Sure. But Facebook doesn’t seem to be afraid to go out and throw around their vast cash resources to shore up a need when their own efforts fall short. Hey, if you have the cash and financial heft, use it!

Of course one has to hope that Facebook treats Whatsapp like it did Instagram, allows it to function independently. If they do so, I think that Whatsapp will continue to grow its user base and messaging position.

Wonder if Snapchat is kicking themselves today…I guess Facebook wasn’t really after the ability to send “mission impossible” type messages but just wanted a messaging platform.

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Filed under Current Events, Social media

Time Warner and Comcast come together – merger of dinosaurs

Comcast will drop $45.2 billion for Time Warner. Wow. That is a lot of cake. It is expected that that the deal will be approved. Although it might not have been a decade ago. But how things have changed when it comes to this industry.

It is coincidental that the other day I was watching an early Seinfeld episode where Kramer convinced Jerry to get illegal cable – since the Mets would be on cable 70 times that season. But would Jerry need cable today? He could stream the audio through Sirius or get the television broadcast through MLB.com. If Jerry wanted to watch HBO or Cinemax he could sign up online, get the app and then stream it indexdirectly to his tablet, smart phone or laptop. Oh and if he went out and got a Chromecast or Apple TV device, he can just send the signal directly to his 60 inch LCD television and watch on the big screen. Need to watch some Winter Olympics from Sochi? Stream that heated Russia vs China curling match directly through the NBC sports app. Need a recap of the day in sports? Flip over to your ESPN app and watch Sportscenter. If Jerry wanted to watch “Rochelle Rochelle” he can probably find it either on Netflix or on Amazon direct. All this…without having to go through the cable companies.

Cable companies still have the advantage of being in many of our homes, right there next to the TV. Most consumers are very familiar and comfortable with the set top box – DVR function, pay per view and content. But the are fighting a defensive battle, trying to protect what they have as they are being assaulted from multiple angles. The ability to cut the cable and still get your fix is easier and easier – click here for such a plan.

Good luck to Comcast and Time Warner. That is a lot of capital to grow your empire. But could this be similar to the expansion of the Ottoman empire in the 1900s, looks impressive on paper, but fundamentally flawed.

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Filed under Cable, Current Events, Smart Phone, Tablet, Technology, Television

The real supply chain disruptor…Amazon.com

The past few weeks, or really the past few years, have given us plenty of examples of Amazon slowly but surely cranking up their disruptive aspect when it comes to supply chains. Of course, when we think of Amazon we think of the giant of eCommerce. A company that has not physical retail channel but one that can sell us anything from a copy of the Iliad to furniture to baby’s diapers. For me Amazon is the biggest winner from the crazy dot com days of the late 1990s. The giants associated with that era – Yahoo, AOL, WebVan, eBay, Geocities, Lycos – to name a few. Yes Google was around then, but I would argue their real rise to prominence came after the bubble.

But the one name that weather that storm and is a massive player – Amazon. The reality is that Amazon is that they are not only the 800lb gorilla in eCommerce and retail but also for supply chains. Here are some areas where Amazon is a disruptive supply chain force:

  • Delivery – Anyone who watched or read about the coming of Amazon drones is probably expecting to get their copy of “50 Shades of Grey” or their latest set of Dr Dre Beat headphones dropped off by an unmanned flying machine. There is also the buzz that Amazon will look to have same day delivery, could be empowered by the rise of the drones. The eCommerce giant is also looking to conquer the enigma that is grocery delivery. Combine all these projects and you quickly realize that Amazon is bringing a whole
    Coming to your personal airspace.

    Coming to your personal airspace.

    new perspective to delivery. The reality is that they might not be able to achieve all these lofty goals…but the fact they are pushing these ideas out there and that they are driving the conversation is disruptive enough.  The fact that same day delivery is being mentioned will drive how our expectations are set as consumers. If I believe I can get fresh produce delivered to my door, do I accept getting anything that isn’t similar from the likes of Shaws, Whole Foods, Tesco, Giant Eagle, Safeway or any of the other grocery chain?

  • Warehousing – Amazon has mastered this for a long time, ever since they started selling CDs and Books via the internet. In order to fulfill these massive online catalog and to do so in a timely fashion, they have become masters of how to manage a warehouse and more importantly how to run an efficient pick and pack, inventory and distribution from geographically placed warehouses. Their acquisition of Kiva demonstrates that they see how
    The rise of the machines.

    The rise of the machines.

    robotics and the rise of the machines will disrupt how we run our warehouses. There has been some rumbling about how they drive their warehouse work force to ensure they can meet their tighter and tighter fulfillment windows. This might become more disruptive from a negative perspective. However, overall look for Amazon to change the way warehousing is approached.

  • Demand management – In the supply chain space, the holy grail is around better understanding and anticipation of what true demand is. A whole host of companies ranging from the likes of Orchestro, RSi, IRI, JDA, Steelwedge, SAP, Oracle, Kinaxis, Terra Technology to name a few, are all offering solutions that profess can better determine or predict what actual demand will be. But what about Amazon? They are already savvy when it comes to understanding what our buying habits on their web site – what else can or would we want to buy? Now comes word that Amazon has patent to provide “anticipatory delivery.” They are looking to better anticipate our demand! Wow. They will be able to put inventory on trucks before we even a)know we want the product b)order the product…talk about getting ahead of the demand curve. This goes beyond what some are tagging as demand sensing and moves into true demand anticipation. Again, will they be able to pull this off? Who cares. The fact they are speaking of being able to do so will create a disruptive mental wave that will have consumers wondering…”hey why can’t you anticipate what I want!”
  • Mobility – The Kindle is a quiet mobile supply chain device. How? It allows Amazon to place mobile ordering kiosks in consumers hands. Giving Amazon another point where they can check on demand and buying patterns. Add to this the Amazon app that is available on iOS or Android and you have a mobile powerhouse. One that allows the company to get as close
    A cash register and inventory system in your pocket!

    A cash register and inventory system in your pocket!

    as you can when it comes to POS information. With the app one could argue that Amazon have found a way to get into the four walls of the brick and mortar stores. Consumers have been trained to use the app as a mobile cash register and inventory system. Your daughter wants the latest American Girl doll? Scan a bar code or snap a picture and see what Amazon has…and if you want click “Buy Now” with your Prime account and boom, it gets delivered to your door.

So Amazon is the quiet supply chain disruptor. Whether or not they can pull off some of the projects they are tackling is inconsequential (well maybe not that inconsequential…). The fact that Amazon is driving the discussion around some of these hot button topics means all players within the supply chain cannot ignore some of the game changers that are on the table.

Amazon at the end of the is all about pushing more inventory through their system. But in doing so they are creating some mega changes when it comes  to how supply chains think about and tackle a host of issues. Next time you get a box from Amazon remember – they are shaking up the supply chains as we know them.

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Filed under Retail, Supply Chain, Technology

Top 3 things to look for in 2014

When it comes to the supply chain space and solutions, there are three trends I am looking for in 2014:

  • Software providers will strive to offer full supply chain solution suites. Mega vendors such as SAP, Infor and Oracle have been ahead of this game, just by their sheer size. A growing number of service providers such as JDA and Logility will continue to push in this direction –looking to offer their own supply chain solution platform.  Practioners will seek service providers that can address larger and more inclusive supply chain challenges, rather than simply optimizing pieces of the overall puzzle. They recognise that optimizing parts of the supply chain can often times lead to unintended consequences in other parts of the supply chain. This does not mean that software providers that do not offer a full end to end solution will fall out of favour. These bolt-on solutions will continue to allow for targeted supply chain problems to be addressed. However, these solution providers will have to continue to demonstrate how their solution will be interoperable within the overall supply chain solution network. If you are already engaged with a mega vendor, lean on them to understand how their solution suite can address your larger supply chain issues. When it comes to vendors with smaller solution footprints, ensure that they can seamlessly tie into the solution ecosystem.
  • Expect innovation from the non-usual suspects. Innovative solutions as well as thought leadership will not come only from best of breed providers or consultants, but also from such sources as 3pls and contract manufactures. These players will bring their unique perspective to the supply chain, and drive innovation and thought leadership from the manufacturing and transportation position….think about 3D printing from your contract manufacturers like Flextronics or Jabil and how they are applying this technology and how that innovation can impact your supply chain. Or how your logistics provider like DHL, FedEx or UPS will drive aspects like same day delivery or multi-channel retailing. Other logistics providers who can empower you to drive your supply chain into emerging marketing such as the likes of Agility or Imperial Logistics. Innovation in the supply chain had become more democratized; do not hesitate to look to all your service providers for innovative thinking.
  • It will not be about big data but about actionable data. The notion of large amounts of accessible data will not diminish, on the contrary the amount of data we have access to for our supply chains will only continue to grow. But the vendors that are equipped to provide actionable data is going to be more important than big data. For example vendors such as IRI and Neilson can already provide large quantities of consumer data. Other business intelligence vendors have the ability to take massive data to cleanse and harmonize data. But practioners need to look for the vendors that are focusing on identifying that actionable data. To borrow a phrase from a conversation with SAP – “the haystack keeps getting larger and larger, and you are still looking for that needle” Solution providers will start focusing on identifying the actionable data, rather than just big data. Just because we can start looking at every last piece of data does not mean we should be doing so. Solution providers that offer the intelligence to find the key pieces of data within that haystack will be the ones that gain in relevance.  Companies like Zyme are focused on the hi-tech space will be able to give companies like Barnes and Nobles a better understanding of what data they need to be aware of for products such as the Nook tablet. Work with your service providers to go deeper than just looking at big data – understand what types of data they are comfortable with and what industries they have deep knowledge of.

2014 should be another interesting year in the space…but then again isn’t every year that way?

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Filed under Supply Chain, Technology

Santa gets product through customs…can you?

First I want to wish happy holidays to everyone and their families and friends. As a child we were told that jolly Saint Nick would come down our chimneys on December 24th and deliver presents to all the good boys and girls. The rotund man dressed in red would be able to canvass the globe only powered by a sleigh pulled by reindeer – and amazingly have 100% on time delivery and usually 100% perfect order (there are still some orders I placed that had substitute products). So how does he accomplish this? He has perfect visibility into the demand (all those letters, emails and texts he receives in the North Pole) as well as his inventory levels. One advantage Santa Claus has is that he is carrying all of the inventory and doing the delivery himself, tiring yes, but he really just needs a routing schedule. This is not as simple for the rest of us.

Visibility is a term that we throw around with reckless abandon, but the goal of visibility remains a centre piece to our supply chain strategies. The ability to gain visibility was a driving theme for the adoption of the cloud in supply chain. There are numerous example s of companies leveraging cloud enabled platforms to provide a richer view of what was happening with suppliers, providing insight into planning cycles, inventory levels, manufacturing capacities, point of sale information just to name a few. Improved visibility really begins with the better communications amongst our disparate systems that power our supply chains. Companies, such as Kinaxis, have developed the concept of a supply chain control tower. The control tower allowing faster visibility into supply chain events: a centralized tool that allows for a greater ability to read and react. Other companies like One Network and E2open been able to leverage the technical advantages of the cloud – greater connectivity, allowing for greater visibility and offering true network effect. Allowing for networks to be seamless created, where information exchange can happen with fewer limitations. At the foundation, it is about improved visibility into the supply chain.

However, one variable when it comes to better supply chain visibility that does not seem to get the attention is around inventory that is held up at ports, airport or any point of exit or entry for trade. In a recent SCM World report, 80% of the respondents agreed that customers and customs problems were impacting customer service in a material way.

So when it comes to gaining improved end to end supply chain visibility, the ability to have  more robust view of what is happening to your inventory at these locations is a key element. According to a calculation done by Kelly Thomas at JDA, at any given moment $12 trillion of inventory is either sitting or moving in the world. The question becomes, how much of this inventory is being delayed due to customs issues or because of not having the proper paperwork? Not only does this impact the movement of inventory but also impacts the positioning of inventory. Firms like Cisco, HP and Dell who have very tight service level agreements (SLAs) when it comes to servicing their customers have to take into account customs when placing their inventories in different parts of the globe. This can lead to having redundant inventory that is geographically close, but separated by a border that leads to custom issues…which could delay the ability to meet their SLAs.

Companies such as Amber Road and GT Nexus provide their customers with the ability to have greater visibility into inventory when it is in this state. Where is it in the process of such stages as clearing exports, or passing import hurdles? This level of visibility is key when it comes to managing the rest of the supply chain. Allowing customers to identify what can be a bottle neck – the points of entry. Gaining this added insight into what is happening where your inventory looks to cross a border clears up on more potential blind spot in your supply chain. Since the movement of global trade is not about to abate any time soon, this blind spot carries tremendous impact on your overall supply chain.

Santa Claus has found a way to move his inventory globally without worrying about it being held up at points of exit or entry. The rest of us still need to find ways for enhanced visibility into these physical choke points in our supply chain. When it comes to visibility, make sure you work with your service provider(s) to identify the granularity and speed at which you can see into where your inventory sits. We are striving to get closer to true end to end visibility, but there remain blind spots that we must be aware of.

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Filed under Supply Chain

The end is near…you were once great Blackberry

No surprise, the vultures are already circling Blackberry and looking to recruit some of their top talent. The likes of Apple and Intel are starting to make overtures to Blackberry workers.

This cannot be a surprise to anyone. After the Waterloo based company

Back when it was the cool phone...

Back when it was the cool phone…

announced intentions to being acquired by Fairfax things have continued be out of sorts. With rumors that the financing might not be in place. There is talk of Blackberry heading to the chop shop and having their parts sold off. Something this blog has advocated to happen. Click here for post. It is interesting that the likes of SAP are looking into opportunities. If SAP were to get some of their enterprise assets it would be a very interesting asset for the package application giant. Being able to instantly have a powerful and secure mobile platform could be the catalyst for some of SAP’s solutions.  Something to watch.

It is sad to watch, but the end of days seem very close for the once powerful mobile player. I might need to dust off my old Blackberry, wonder what it will fetch on eBay from the collectors!

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Filed under Current Events, Mobility, Smart Phone