Posts Tagged ‘supply chain’

RDF is Critical to a Successful Internet of Things

Depiction of RDF and the internet of ThingsDo you still remember a time when a utility company worker came to your house to check your electric meter? For many of us already, this is in the past. Smart meters send information directly to the utility company and as a result, it knows our up-to-the-minute power usage patterns. And, while we don’t yet talk to our ovens or refrigerators through the Internet, many people routinely control thermostats from their smart phones. The emerging Internet of Things is real and we interact with it on the daily basis.

The term Internet of Things refers to devices we wouldn’t traditionally expect to be smart or connected, such as a smoke detector or other home appliance. They are being made ‘smart’ by enabling them to send data to an application. From smart meters to sensors used to track goods in a supply chain, the one thing these devices have in common is that they send data – data that can then be used to create more value by doing things better, faster, cheaper, and more conveniently.

The physical infrastructure needed for these devices to work is largely in place or being put in place quickly. We get immediate first order benefits simply by installing new equipment. For example, having a smart meter provides cost savings because there is no need for a person to come to our houses. Similarly, the ability to change settings on a thermostat remotely can lower our heating costs. However, far vaster changes and benefits are projected or are already beginning to be delivered from inter-connecting the data sent by smart devices:

  • Health: Connecting vital measurements from wearable devices to the vast body of medical information will help to improve our health, fitness and, ultimately, save lives.
  • Communities: Connecting information from embedded devices and sensors will enable more efficient transportation. When a sprinkler system meter understands weather data, it will use water more efficiently. Once utilities start connecting and correlating data from smart meters, they might deliver electricity more efficiently and be more proactive in handling infrastructure problems.
  • Environment: Connecting readings from fields, forests, oceans, and cities about pollution levels, soil moisture, and resource extraction will allow for closer monitoring of problems.
  • Goods and services: Connecting data from sensors and readers installed throughout factories and supply chains will more precisely track materials and speed up and smooth out the manufacture and distribution of goods.

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Gartner Uncovers Who’s Cool In The Supply Chain

Photo courtesy: Flickr/a loves dc

Photo courtesy: Flickr/a loves dc

Gartner recently released its report dubbed, “Cool Vendors in Supply Chain Services,” which gives kudos to providers that use cloud computing as an enabler or delivery mechanism for capabilities that help enterprises to better manage their supply chains.

On that list of vendors building cloud solutions and leveraging big data and analytics to optimize the supply chain is startup Elementum, which The Semantic Web Blog initially covered here and which envisions the supply chain as a complex graph of connections. As we reported previously, Elementum’s back-end is based on a real-time Java, MongoDB NoSQL document database and flexible schema graph database to store and map the nodes and edges of a supply chain graph. A URI is used for identifying data resources and metadata, and a federated platform query language makes it possible to access multiple types of data using that URI, regardless of what type of database it is stored in. Mobile apps provide end users access to managing transportation networks, respond to supply chain risks, and monitor the health of the supply chain.

Gartner analyst Michael Dominy writes in the report that Elementum earns its cool designation in part for its exploitation of Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, which the research firm describes as the convergence and mutual reinforcement of social, mobility, cloud and information patterns that drive new business scenarios.

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The Supply Chain Is One Big Graph In Start-up Elementum’s Platform

rsz_elementum_transport_appStartup Elementum wants to take supply chains into the 21st century. Incubated at Flextronics, the second largest contract manufacturer in the world, and launching today with $44 million in Series B funding from that company and Lightspeed Ventures, its approach is to get supply chain participants – the OEMs that generate product ideas and designs, the contract manufacturers who build to those specs, the component makers who supply the ingredients to make the product, the various logistics hubs to move finished product to market, and the retail customer – to drop the one-off relational database integrations and instead see the supply chain fundamentally as a complex graph or web of connections.

“It’s no different thematically from how Facebook thinks of its social network or how LinkedIn thinks of what it calls the economic graph,” says Tyler Ziemann, head of growth at Elementum. Built on Amazon Web Services, Elementum’s “mobile-first” apps for real-time visibility, shipment tracking and carrier management, risk monitoring and mitigation, and order collaboration have a back-end built to consume and make sense of both structured and unstructured data on-the-fly, based on a real-time Java, MongoDB NoSQL document database to scale in a simple and less expensive way across a global supply chain that fundamentally involves many trillions of records, and flexible schema graph database to store and map the nodes and edges of the supply chain graph.

“Relational database systems can’t scale to support the types of data volumes we need and the flexibility that is required for modeling the supply chain as a graph,” Ziemann says.

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Semanticize The Supply Chain

Turns out that supply chains need the Semantic Web, too. The iCargo project, co-funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, was formally launched last year to help make global logistics across multiple modes of transport more sustainable, both in terms of lowered costs and greater energy efficiency.

The project is composed of multiple components, including technical tasks where semantic interoperability plays a key role in the goal of developing an open information architecture that lets real-world objects, existing systems and new apps to better cooperate with each other. Things have progressed to the point where the semantic capabilities it’s developed are to be included in prototypes debuting in May.

“Enabling interoperable supply chains could provide us better intermodal door-to-door services, and semantic technologies will provide the interoperability between services,” says Germán Herrero Cárcel, head of sector, Full Electric Vehicle & Supply Chain Sector, MRS Market, Research & Innovation at international IT services company Atos, which is coordinating the iCargo consortium of 29 organizations with experience in the field of logistics, supply chain management and ICT.

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Semantic Web Site Hopes To Break Down Trade Barriers


Can semantic web technology help make business interactions among buyers and suppliers – around the corner or around the world – more transparent and lead to better communications, even across language barriers? A new project coming out of Poland hopes to make that case. Dubbed the Momoway Business Searcher, available as a beta service here, has as its goal providing a one-stop shop for business and trade, by easing communication and B2B contacts between manufacturers and buyers. Thought up by Momoway lead software developer Karol Balejko and co-financed by European Union funds, the site gathers business information – data about products, services, and trade fairs – into one spot, from which buyers can search for what they need from thousands of suppliers across the world. 

There are other online trade platforms out there, of course, but as Balejko says in an email exchange with the Semantic Web Blog, they present some obstacles because of narrow parameters or language restrictions. For starters, “most trade platforms today have products listed according to preset categories instead of letting suppliers themselves choose exactly which words they want to use to describe their products,” explains Balejko, who also is a software architect, Java expert and Grails developer. “Suppliers listing their categories on Momoway are not only able to add words if needed, they can also use as many tags as they want to describe their products. This does not necessarily lead to lower costs, but it certainly simplifies the ordering process for purchasing departments because they are able to find exactly what they need – quickly and efficiently.” People listing their products are not limited by the short-comings of having to place their products into categories that aren’t “quite right,” he says – that practice leads to their product possibly not getting a fair description, and so becoming harder to find by potential buyers out there.

One of the problems with non-semantic search engines is that they do not register, index or link the semantics in phrases. There are too many combinations – millions – so that’s why they’re often just lumped into categories instead of analyzing words that go together – or, for example, synonyms,” he says. As an example, semantic searches should recognize that ‘friendly, favorable, and well-disposed’ should be placed in the same search results, because the adjective has the same meaning.

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