Dominique Guinard,

Blockchain is often touted as “the savior” to many of the obstacles that the Internet of Things must overcome for mainstream adoption. These challenges include security, trust, interoperability standards, the need for centralized platforms to provide processing power and the lack of resilience that a centralized approach can mean. Yet to some extent, the hype is premature.

The reality is that there are still too many operational, technical and commercial questions left unanswered that inhibit large-scale production-ready deployments—including questions related to immaturity, complexity, scalability, security and governance. For a number of IoT use cases (e.g., supply chain traceability, product provenance), it is too early to say if blockchains will be the solution to the various challenges. And for other use cases (e.g., real-time control of IoT devices), it simply does not make sense.

In fact, blockchains are currently positioned at a number of use cases that IoT platforms seek to address, with provenance, authenticity and traceability being the most common. Existing platforms, such as EVRYTHNG’s IoT Smart Products Platform, address these use cases with proven enterprise-ready Web technology. Such a platform enables real-time data to be made readily accessible to multiple parties through the supply chain, as well as to consumers at point-of-sale and post-purchase. In these scenarios, blockchains presents interesting alternative way to record product transactions and history in an immutable trail, but the question should be: is this what your use case really needs?

Despite the current disadvantages of using complex and still immature technologies, blockchains will surely play an important role in the future of IoT and product traceability. This is why EVRYTHNG is developing integrations with several blockchains to enable brands to evaluate how centralized IoT platforms and (decentralized) blockchain implementations can together establish enterprise value and tackle real-world challenges.

In our new white paper, “Blockchains for IoT: Beyond the Hype,” we cut through the hype to understand the real-world commercial impact of the convergence of IoT, supply chain and blockchain, how this should shape digital transformation strategies and how companies can easily deploy simple proof of concepts to evaluate the value of blockchain and IoT working together.

Download our “Blockchains for IoT: Beyond the Hype” white paper here.

Niall Murphy,

It would appear that Amazon is steadily taking over the retail world, accounting for 43 percent of all online sales last year in the US, up from 33 percent in 2015.

Seeking greater growth, it was only a matter of time before Amazon took aim at the apparel space. After first wading into the fashion industry over a decade ago with Shopbop, Amazon has grown to become the biggest online seller of clothes in the US, with apparel sales totaling $16.3 billion in 2016. In addition to selling big brands like Calvin Klein and Levi’s, the retail giant also recently launched seven of its own private-label clothing brands.

According to Morgan Stanley, Amazon has the second highest overall apparel market share, nipping at Walmart’s heels. In a survey, Morgan Stanley found that 46 percent of respondents purchased clothes on Amazon last year, beat out once again only by Walmart.

But while this growth is helping to lift online sales for many fashion labels, Amazon is often seen as “a necessary evil.” Many brands see Amazon as an “unfashionable” partner, but at the same time, they want the sales, the exposure and the ability to utilize Amazon’s logistics network to take the strain off their own. For many, selling via Amazon is a “dirty little secret.”

What fashion brands can do however, is take advantage of the fact that Amazon is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of one. In recent years, the “king of retail logistics” has invested in regional warehouses and information technology, introducing one-hour and Sunday delivery, as well as a drone program. Arguably there’s no other company better at logistics than Amazon. As an apparel brand, it makes sense to take advantage of that.

Of course, the downside of teaming up with Amazon is the fact that you sacrifice a direct connection with customers—and your ability to provide an engaging, highly relevant post purchase experience, while at the same time gaining insights into the customer’s behavior and buying habits. This lost connection with the customer is driving apparel brands to rethink their current position and seek out a smarter solution.

Partnering with global packaging leaders such as Avery Dennison RBIS, EVRYTHNG has made it possible for billions of physical products to be connected to the Web at the point of manufacture via unique digital identities (a phenomenon that we call products being #BornDigital). These digitized products accumulate data throughout their lifecycle, giving brands the ability to unlock hidden value, including a direct relationship with their end-customers.

Let’s take an example: A consumer could buy a pair of Levi’s on Amazon right now and get them in an hour thanks to the e-commerce leader’s world-class logistical system. Obviously this is going to sway Levi’s customers, especially those short on time. Today, Levi’s has no visibility into that customer or sale on Amazon. This is where digital products can be leveraged. It’s as simple as placing a smart label or tag on the jeans, which allows the customer to interact with the product to gain tangible value such as unique content, offers and rewards, enabling Levi’s to establish a direct connection with its end-consumers, irrespective of where the jeans are purchased.

While some fashion labels see Amazon becoming a direct competitor with their brands, it’s impossible to beat Amazon at its own game of retail logistics. Instead, apparel brands can apply a “jiu-jitsu” move by using Amazon’s strengths to their advantage and by leveraging smart, digital products that allow them to win back their customer relationships and own their customer data.

Dominique Guinard,

In November 2008, a paper signed by a certain Satoshi Nakamoto was posted on the internet, leading to the creation of the bitcoin blockchain. Fast forward nine years, and blockchain technologies are on the verge of revolutionizing countless businesses, from banking to insurance, including the way we track and secure the food chain.

What’s a Blockchain?

In essence, a blockchain is a digital version of a ledger that is at the heart of systems like Bitcoin or Ethereum. However, unlike your traditional bookkeeping ledger, a blockchain exposes some rather unique properties: It is distributed, meaning that every single transaction is stored on many computers. It is also secure and can be trusted, as every transaction is verified by many participants using cryptography and only validated once there is a consensus. Finally, it is immutable: the data that is stored in a blockchain will be stored by many participants, unchanged, for as long as the blockchain exists.

Blockchain + Food and Drinks

That’s all good, but how could blockchains play a role in the food and drinks industry? Well, they could help resolve a number of issues and inefficiencies in the supply chain, such as accurate product provenance, efficient product recalls and data-backed product authenticity. In product provenance, a blockchain can help resolve the loss of trust in organic, fair trade and GMO-free products by offering a neutral, tamperproof place where provenance information can be stored. With such a solution, consumers would be able to retrieve provenance information with the peace of mind that it is valid and wasn’t fiddled with. This and other use cases were illustrated by EVRYTHNG’s Bitcoin blockchain integration.

Similarly, product recalls can be made more efficient by tracking the movement of individual items via a blockchain, as illustrated by Walmart in its early trial on two products. Product authenticity and product loss could also be improved by creating a neutral, distributed and decentralized place where all partners could store products transactions. Several trials of this concept are being launched, including Microsoft’s Project Manifest.

Finally, the supply chain data of food and drinks could also be combined with emerging IoT technologies such as printed electronics or low-power networks, allowing to store transactions about a product, as well as its current state, such as its temperature or whether it has already been opened. Thanks to the properties of blockchain technologies, this information could be authenticated and trusted. This is especially interesting when thinking about regulatory compliance.

Beware of the Blockchain Hype

So, if blockchains are so good, why isn’t everyone busy implementing these solutions? Well, because these technologies are in their infancy and hence suffer from immaturity and inefficiency, making their full adoption risky. Moreover, many of the use cases we talked about can actually be implemented without a blockchain. A number of IoT companies out there such as EVRYTHNG readily help companies implement open product provenance, efficient product recalls and product authenticity without blockchains. These use cases are actually more about item level tagging, digitalization of the supply chain, open data and IoT than purely about blockchains. However, the unique properties of blockchains have to power to take these use cases to the next level by improving trust, decentralization and openness.

Parts of this piece were originally published by The Grocer.

Curt Schacker,

What do you get when you cross a juicer and an internet connection? A complete and utter disaster. At least, that’s what can be said for startup Juicero, the makers of a connected juicing machine that’s recently made a splash in the press for its rather pointless capabilities.

The premise of Juicero’s $400 device of the same name is that it squeezes pre-ordered packets of fruit and vegetables into a liquid and connects to the internet to provide its users with a replenishment service model. However, as Bloomberg pointed out, it’s possible to squeeze the pre-ordered packets with your hands, rendering the device itself useless.

As a result, Juicero became a laughingstock on Twitter, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of anyone even considering buying one. It was a stereotypical Silicon Valley disaster: a startup trying to cash in on the juicing craze by raising $120 million from investors and then selling an expensive product that no one needed. And while it’s laudable to get into the subscription space, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about a replenishment service.

Juicero made two fundamental business mistakes in the launch of its connected juicer: 1) It was a superfluous device that didn’t add value, and 2) It was just far too expensive.

On the first point, it should go without saying that a connected device should always add value to a consumer’s life. Otherwise, it’s simply technology for technology’s sake. What’s more, Juicero failed to pick up on the lesson Keurig learned two years ago: preventing customers from using third-party juice packs and not letting customers buy its own juice packs without first buying the machine. Breaking this fundamental “business law” (if not an actual law), Juicero underscored just how not useful its device is by forcing customers to buy it.

The company’s second misstep was not adopting a long-tail business model, meaning that even if it lost money on the device, it would more than make up for it through subscriptions. It’s an age-old model that razor companies have been using for decades: you essentially “give away” the razor, while making money off the razor blades. By charging an exorbitant amount for the useless juicer, it’s clear that Juicero was trying to have its cake and eat it too.

Yet perhaps the worst sin Juicero committed was giving people every reason to knock smart home devices for being nothing more than dumb novelties. As we know, connected devices have the potential to drive great value for both businesses and end-consumers–including by making possible a smarter product-as-a-service model called Just-in-Time Replenishment.

On a positive note, this pointlessly connected juicer now serves as an example to other businesses looking to understand how best to deploy connectivity in everyday items. The key takeaway: make it genuinely valuable to both you and your customers.

Joel Vogt,

Do you know where your shipment is once it leaves the warehouse and if the cold chain hasn’t been broken? Tagging technologies such as barcodes or RFID provide visibility within warehouses, and WiFi networks can connect sensors to the Internet. However, visibility in the digital supply chain quickly degrades between readers. Shipments can fall off the map for days, if not weeks, until appearing again at a warehouse, if they actually get scanned at all!

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) are a relatively new type of communication technology for low-power, long-range, low-bandwidth communication. Such devices can operate autonomously for months, even years, and provide regular and autonomous connectivity to the digital supply chain, where previously there was no coverage because established track and trace technologies are either unavailable or impractical to deploy.

Partnership with UK-based Things Connected LoRa Network

Recently, we announced our partnership with Sigfox, the global LPWAN provider. Today, we are delighted to announce our partnership with UK-based LoRa provider Things Connected. Things Connected is a subscription-free UK-based LPWAN platform. Part of the Digital Catapult program, Things Connected’s mission is to foster and support innovation for SMEs, local businesses and local communicates. Things Connected is LoRa-based. LoRa is an open LPWAN protocol promoted by the LoRa alliance and implemented by several network providers for things such as Things Connected.

Making a Things Connected device work with EVRYTHNG is quite straightforward. When you create a new device on the Things Connected dashboard, you’ll be given the option to route messages to the EVRYTHNG platform. If you already have a LoRa device and would like to use it with your EVRYTHNG account, please consult the Things Connected integration readme.

We are excited about the potential of this integration as EVRYTHNG now transparently connects to multiple LPWAN technologies, ensuring that our customers are not bound to a specific LPWAN provider and that a Thng can switch between LPWAN technologies and networks when need.

EVRYTHNG is actively looking for partners who would like to test this technology based on the free Things Connected UK network. Contact us if you would like to learn more about the opportunity.