Monthly Archives: June 2015

Lifesciences IoT opportunity – will privacy issues slow it down?

This week I met with an executive from Biogen. We spent time discussing their business, the usual areas where covered: how they were dealing with the patent cliff, their diversification of offerings, how they were working internationally to name a few. But the one area that really got my juices flowing was when we touched upon how IoT impacts the pharmaceutical space. From my discussion it appears that there are two interesting plays for IoT in pharmaceuticals.

  • The first is in their supply chain. From manufacturing, to storage and distribution, IoT holds great promise. No surprise as we see a large majority of manufacturers across a large spectrum, leaning on IoT to provide data that leads to greater efficiencies within their supply chains. For heavily regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, the promise IoT holds out with regards to greater visibility as well as enhanced track and trace addresses a key issue these companies must address. Unlike a clothing manufacturer where a defect lot can lead to lost sales or a public relations night mare (think Lululemon’s recall with transparent yoga pants) if a pharmaceutical company has a defective batch of products the potential results are much more serious. They could have dangerous even fatal consequences for the end user. For the manufacturer or distributor they are under threat of heavy fines and even arrest. Not what either the end consumer of the manufacturer wants. Pharmaceutical companies, if they aren’t already, should be looking at IoT solutions that can allow them to secure the handling of their products. For example leveraging sensors that can monitor how product is handled through the transportation nodes: was it maintained at the proper temperature or was the container properly handled: Sensors could also be leveraged to ensure that there was no tampering with the product. Of course sensors can also be used in the manufacturing process to measure and optimize the factory process.
  • The second potential usage of IoT is with the product itself. Now this is where there is the potential for some great insights and good, but also raises a potential red flag. Companies like Merck are already talking about and exploring the development of “digestables.” That is right, IoT enabled drugs or devices that consumers would eat. The hope is that the data that we can extract from these products revolves around how the drugs interact with our bodies, how are they truly interacting and simply if they are being taken properly (read as doctors tell us to!). From a medical devices perspective we already see companies like Boston Scientific who make pace makers that are IoT enabled. Anyone who is a fan of the HBO show, Homeland, knows the potential risk that poses! Much of this is only being tested in the labs or thought about in development meetings, but it does bring up the question about privacy. An enormity that might hold back IoT is how is the data going to be handled and protected? There are already rumblings around simple data that our iPhones or Fitbits collect about how many steps we took today, our heart rates or how many calories we burned. What happens when there are devices that are throwing off data about the health of our intestines, how often we go to the bathroom or if we are showing early signs of diabetes? Richie Etwaru has a wonderful model for IoT where as the IoT enabled product gets physically closer to a person’s heart, the greater the possible issues, especially around privacy. Digestables might be just a few inches away from the heart…from the inside.

Pharmaceutical companies should absolutely be exploring how to leverage IoT. When it comes to managing their supply chain, they are a prime industry to unlock the greater visibility and monitoring of the processes within the supply chain. The real issue is when pharmaceuticals start to productize IoT what will the privacy ramifications be? They better start thinking and preparing for this issue today.


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Filed under IoT, Supply Chain

GT Nexus crossing the bridge to greener pastures

Last week I spent part of it in a much warmer and sunnier location – Hollywood Florida – attending the GT Nexus show: Bridges 2015. The event format was, no surprise, the usual roster of executives and customer stories paraded out on main stage as well as more intimate break out sessions.

On main stage GT Nexus CEO Sean Feeney kicked off the event with an overview of where GT Nexus is and where it is heading. With over $156b worth of goods passing through the GT Nexus systems and over 100k active users, GT Nexus has a clear foundation for continued success in the supply chain world. Mr. Feeney also highlighted the following areas of focus moving forward:

  • GT Nexus transportation management will remain a core offering, one that the company will continue to build on. Good to hear since this is really their bread and butter, and should continue to be their foundation.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will become an important play for GT Nexus as the data surrounding their clients products and goods only continues to grow, GT Nexus will be working to drive deeper into the insights this information can offer. Clearly with the explosion of sensors and the data they are throwing off, it makes strategic sense for GT Nexus to put together a strategic offering around this space.
  • Growing mobility ties into the added data GT Nexus will be looking to leverage, since all the data does not mean much if the insights cannot be gained as well as shared wherever and whenever the business dictates.
  • Greater supply chain intelligence. This is GT Nexus’ #1 focus for R&D. Think of this as the platform that will allow clients and partners to move up the ladder to the ultimate goal of becoming more prescriptive rather than simply descriptive.
  • AppXpress, GT Nexus offering a PaaS for their customers and partners to develop applications on their backbone. Clients such as Patagonia and Adidas have already been leveraging this for a year. Look for more clients and partners to take advantage of this offering.

These directions for GT Nexus are natural continuations of their existing business initiatives, but what was an interesting undertone for the firm is their continual work around their platform play. An interesting statement from main stage, and one that I would argue is the most important that came from Sean Feeney was around the amount of data that GT Nexus has passing through their solutions. With continual focus and improvement on this data the greater the results that can be derived from these supply chains.

This notion of becoming the platform to empower their customers with greater visibility is key to the future growth for GT Nexus. Companies such as Deckers, Patagonia and Caterpillar all provided varied uses cases for how they are leveraging the GT Nexus platform, visibility first and then the use cases that emerged. Greater efficiency with supplier relationships, streamlining global movement of inventory and being more efficient with the ability to track & trace product were highlighted via customer discussions. Use cases that might not have the “wow” factor, but use cases that lead to real results and measurable ROI.

What do all these use cases have in common? GT Nexus is the platform being leveraged to provide the necessary data and insights for these companies to implement new use cases. Can GT Nexus continue to build on this platform? There is not reason to believe that with a continued focus and commitment that GT Nexus’ platform play will lead to greater opportunities. It could lead to much greener pastures.

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Filed under Current Events, IoT, Retail, Supply Chain