The Signage Evolution

Do you may remember the classic porcelain service station signs illuminated with high-watt light bulbs, like “Texaco” and “Skelly” (which are now highly valued collector items)?

Then came the vacuum-formed, plastic-faced signs that were backlit with fluorescent lamps and used a marquis with changeable plastic “Wagner” or “ZIP” letters for specials and fuel pricing.

Yes, the sign industry has evolved over the past few decades. Today, large LED displays offer high impact, animated message systems that employ a marketing strategy.

One of the latest contributions to the signage evolution is interior digital video signage. More and more restaurants, retailers, service locations and medical offices are using these displays for various content to engage their customers.

“Video enhances the customer experience: People like videos and have come to expect them. And often videos are the best way to impart the information. Video boosts customer service by increasing customer engagement, leading to higher customer satisfaction.” – Right Answers Inc.

The days of the static white board food menu are being replaced with high definition product photographs and videos with brief descriptions and pricing. Digital menu boards help customers make decisions faster and more accurately, while reducing order and wait times. CarterEnergy customer, Sugarfoot C-Store & BBQ, experienced this first-hand when they made the decision to go with digital menu boards for their BBQ and their new Fresh Burrito Bar in their C-Store.

Digital signage is being utilized to highlight a menu of specific auto services that KCI Auto Care offers while customers are traveling through Kansas City International Airport (KCI). Big-O-Tires uses their digital signage for service pricing and to educate customers with Auto Seasonal Preparation videos.

Other digital sign applications include interactive (touchscreen) building directories and wayfinding kiosks, company information in lobbies, trade show booths, in-store video billboards, video walls, cylinders and boxes, to name a few.

But in all things digital signage, bigger is often better. Considered the avant-garde of digital signage solutions, video walls, aka architectural media or techorating, depending on the application, can influence the ambiance of the building by the way it is integrated into the environment. Similarly, creative content can stimulate the senses, arouse and influence behavior that complements the purpose of building designs, which reinforces and extends the core brand image. Dynamic content can immerse control rooms, wrap around buildings, decorate expansive interiors with artistic displays, and provide interactive content into an exciting and over-the-top visual experience.

Take a moment to notice the digital signage around you, and you will be amazed how prevalent and creative this marketing tool has become.

Is Neuroplasticity an Effective Leadership Tool?

Every healthy brain has neurons. Those neurons store and carry information tied to your thoughts, education and experiences. Those neurons travel on paths in the brain, which are called neuropaths. The information the neurons carry helps you move, speak and think. In addition, those paths help you make sense of the world and relate one topic to another. For example, you can use mathematics to assess the amount of people in the room relative to the amount of chairs. If there are an insufficient amount of chairs, the neurons help you make a decision on how to add more chairs.

Conversely, the neuropaths help you assess a dangerous situation as well as a method to eliminate it. That could be fight, flight or freeze. Some refer to this as instinct. I assert it is much more profound than instinct.

When you are born, you had very few neuropaths in your brain. By the age of two, you grew significantly more paths. By ten, your brain was filled with so many neuropaths it looked like an over crowed intersection of multiple freeways. The increase in neuropaths is the result of the data you received or better said, inherited, from your environment.

For many years, it was believed that people could only grow a finite number of neuropaths. That would fit into a philosophy of: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It would mean that the personality and thought process you developed by age ten would remain the same for the rest of your life. In a way, that has been a fact of life for many.

Neuroplasticity has changed that. Now scientists know the brain has the ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. In other words, it is possible to grow new neuropaths. With new neuropaths you are able to develop entirely new perspectives or thought processes.

Breakthroughs tend to have that effect on the brain. If you could imagine, in the 1920s, the NY Times wrote an article insulting the intelligence of Robert Goddard. Goddard asserted that man would one day fly to the moon. The NY Times thought that was an absurdity. In hindsight, this was a normal thought process for the NY Times. The neuropaths of the masses held no memories or information about the reality of flight to the moon. It appeared as a pipe dream and not worthy of intellectual discussion.

In 1969, the NY Times wrote an apology letter to Goddard. Because man did go to the moon, the neuropaths of everyone held information about it being a reality.

In your personal or professional life, neuroplasticity is very relevant. In business, if staff and management can grow new neuropaths, they will increase their abilities to invent new processes, products or services. Why? Current neuropaths only allow you to see the world based on what you already know. The most you can do is make improvements, which is adding new ideas to existing neuropaths. New neuropaths allow you to see things you didn’t know you didn’t know. In other words, it allows you to create new paradigms. Once the new neuropaths are created, it appears as common sense to most. The challenge, though, is working through the frustration and uncertainty that accompanies growing new neuropaths.

As you can see, neuroplasticity practices are not commonly pursued. Those who intentionally practice neuroplasticity may be considered disruptive leaders. They are the people like Goddard who saw possibilities without proof. Others like Tesla and Edison were the so-called insane people who dared to imagine that which was unimaginable by the masses. Yet, they are the very people who changed the world. To immerse yourself in the world of neuroplasticity practices is to live in a world of breakthroughs.

Business Intelligence

1. Companies are aggressively moving to computerized support of their organizations. Can you list at least 2 of the factors driving this move?

• Speed and efficiency.
• Legibility and accuracy.
• Self-sufficiency.
• Cheaper research and development.

2. The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) is:

BI is an umbrella term that combines architecture, tools, databases, analytical tools, applications and methodologies.

What does “umbrella” term mean?

The definition of Business Intelligence (BI) encompasses various software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. The discipline entails many related activities, including data mining, online analytical processing, querying and reporting

3. Sometime we say that the term Business Intelligence (BI) is “context free”. What does this mean?

The term business intelligence is “context free” in the sense that the expression means different things to different people. For this reason, we have seen researchers advancing different definitions for business intelligence.

4. Describe what a data warehouse is and how it might differ from a traditional database used for transaction processing.

A data warehouse is a central repository for corporate data and information that an organization derives transaction data, operational systems and external data sources. Although these two may look like they are similar, they exhibit several differences with regard to usage pattern, architecture as well as technology. A traditional database is based on operational processing while a data warehouse is based on informational processing.

A data warehouse focuses on storage, filtering, retrieval and analysis of voluminous information.

A traditional database is used for day to day operations while a data warehouse is used for long-term informational requirements.

5. What is the difference between a data warehouse and a data mart?

A data mart is a subset of a data warehouse that relates to specific business line. Data marts are managed by a specific department within an organization. On the other hand, a data warehouse involves multiple subject areas and assembles detailed information from multiple source systems.

6. What is meant by “Big Data”?

Big data refers to a huge volume of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data from which viable information can be extracted. This kind of data is so voluminous that it cannot be processed using outmoded database and software techniques. Big data helps organizations to improve their operations and be in a position to make quick and smart decisions.

7. Data mining methods are divided into supervised and unsupervised methods. What are these and how are they different?

Supervised data mining method has to do with the presentation of fully labeled data to a machine learning algorithm. On the other hand, unsupervised data mining methods conduct clustering. Data instances are divided into a number of groups.

Unsupervised data mining methods do not put emphasis on predetermined attributes. Moreover, it does not predict a target value. Instead, unsupervised data mining finds hidden structure and relation among data.

Supervised data mining methods are appropriate when there is a specific target value that I to be used to predict about data. The targets can have two or more possible outcomes, or even be a continuous numeric value.

Supervised data mining methods the classes are known in advance while in the other the groups or classes are not known in advance. In supervised data mining methods, data is assigned to be known before computation but in unsupervised learning Datasets are assigned to segments, without the clusters being known.

8. When we consider KPI’s (key performance indicators) we distinguish between driver KPI’s and outcome KPI’s. What is the difference between the two (give a couple of examples of each)

Key performance indicators provide a framework on which organizations can value their progress. Outcome KPIs which are also referred to as lagging indicators measure the output of previous activities. On the other hand, driver KPIs/leading indicators measure the activities that have a significant on outcome KPIs. Driver KPIs have a significant effect on outcome KPIs, but the reverse is not necessarily true.

9. A BSC (balanced scorecard) approach for BPM (business process management) is well-know and widely-used. Describe the strengths of a BSC approach.

BPM entails activities

BPM involves activities like automation, remodeling, monitoring, and analyzing and improving business processes.

Cost efficiency

This is one of the most palpable benefits of BPM approach. It cuts down on costs and increases revenue. BPM adds crucial value in the long run by allowing businesses to compete globally. BPM technology equips a business to switch gears and respond to changing business environment appropriately.

Agility

Change is inevitable in business and a business must be ready to undergo sudden changes at any time. BPM accords a business the flexibility of making changes at minimal costs.

Improved productivity

BPM automates several elements within regular workflows. Process improvements such as eliminations of drawbacks, elimination of redundant steps, and introduction of parallel processing are achieved through BPM. These process improvements allow employees to focus on other important activities of their business since the core support functions would have been handled.

Better visibility

Basically, BPM uses advanced software programs to facilitate the automation process. These programs enable process owners to keep abreast of their performance. Apart from guaranteeing transparency, BPM keep track of how processes work without the need of monitoring techniques and extensive labor.

10. A closed-loop process is often used to optimize business performance. Briefly describe what a closed-loop process means.

A closed-loop process, also referred to as feedback control system is a management system that promotes a well-organized base of preferred outcomes and system feedback. This process is designed to achieve and maintain the desired output in comparison with the actual condition.

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Are Bioplastics the Future of Plastics?

We all know about the issues we face with plastic, it is a material typically derived from petrol based chemicals and basically, do not degrade like normal materials. They are also not particularly well suited for recycling, though this has changed in the past decade.

While reducing our plastic use, and recycling plastic is the main factor in reducing the environmental impact of plastic, there is a growing interest in Bioplastics. Bioplastics are made from plant biomass, such as corn and hope to offer better sustainability and increased positive environmental impact.

But are Bioplastics as good as they sound?

One of the main selling points for Bioplastics is the raw materials used to generate it are more sustainably sourced than petroleum-based plastic. Abundant availability of raw materials for manufacturing bioplastics place less strain on resource supply, as well as cause less strain to the earth from sourcing processes.

However, Bioplastics still suffer some of the same issues as traditional plastic. They typically come in 2 forms, durable and biodegradable. In general, a durable bioplastic won’t degrade, which is quite important depending on its application. For example, Cola has developed the PlantBottle as a possible alternative to PET bottles and is made of 30% ethanol sourced from plant material. It won’t decompose though, which is quite important when storing acidic liquids such as Cola. It can, however, be recycled in the same manner a normal PET bottle can.

Obviously, the dream product is a biodegradable plastic, and these do exist, with PLA (polylactic acid) being increasing popular. PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester typically derived from renewable resources like corn starch, tapioca roots and sugarcane. PLA is popular in 3D printing in particular hobbyist style 3D printing.

While biodegradable plastic sounds amazing, in general, it is not quite as simple as it sounds high-temperature industrial composting facility, not your average household compost bin. For example, PLA is broken down by a bacterial called Amycolatopsis. The issue here is that in the US there are 200 industrial composting facilities but there are 50 million tonnes of organic waste still ending up in landfills across the country each year.

Until composting biodegradable plastic becomes more feasible its potential for success seems limited. On the other hand, durable Bioplastics that can be recycled in a similar manner to normal plastic provides a logical solution to manufacturing petrol based plastic.

Whatever the future of bioplastics the most important thing we can focus on is recycling current plastic and trying to reduce our reliance on it.

Impact Investing: Will Your Business Pay for Success?

Pay for Success (PFS) is an innovative new funding mechanism that is used to finance social-benefit projects with high-quality impact metrics. PFS projects are popping up in every sector from homelessness, to healthcare, to education. New models prove that PFS projects can be used to stimulate investment in commodities, as well as workforce development. What impact will this have on the private sector? Will your business Pay for Success?

Peruvian Commodities:

The Common Fund for Commodities unveiled a Development Impact Bond (DIB) to modernize cocoa and coffee production in Peru’s Amazon region, the Ashaninka. This first standing commodity-sector DIB breaks into a new frontier of Pay for Success (PFS) possibility.

DIBs follow the main principles of PFS projects, but they feature a third-party end payer, rather than a government. In this case, the Common Fund for Commodities has agreed to repay the investor, the Schmidt Family Foundation, once pre-determined target outcomes are successfully achieved.

Rainforest Foundation UK is the service provider for the project, and the organization has already started experimenting with leaf-rust resilient coffee strains. Last year, the leaf rust disease plagued almost 70% of coffee production areas in the Ashaninka.

Due to global recognition as a top-notch commodity, Peruvian cocoa has experienced a substantial demand increase among foreign consumers. Driving supply to meet demand, higher-efficiency cocoa production methods are being implemented right on time.

This Peruvian coffee and cocoa project raises the question of whether DIBs can be used to modernize other types of commodity production. Could a DIB be used to supplement exports of quinoa, corn, and salt from the Peruvian Andes?

Sustainable Tech and Water:

During the Social Entrepreneurship at UVA Pay for Success Conference, one participant raised the question of whether or not PFS projects could be used to fund sustainable technologies and water conservation. The possibility exists. Based on the Peruvian model, a fund for California commodities could pay an investor when a non-profit produces wide-spread adoption of sustainable planting methods. Would you invest in California’s water conservation?

What about climate change? A clean energy fund could pay an investor, contingent on service providers spreading the adoption of sustainable technology. PFS projects are all about aligning interests, so as long as you have a problem, partners, and payable outcomes PFS possibilities exist.

Entrepreneurship and Art:

To successfully complete a PFS project, you need a fund, a fiduciary and a non-profit service provider. Venture capital funds could act as end payers, investing in non-profit entrepreneurship accelerators. If the accelerator achieves a certain measure of success, private investors, potentially well-connected angels, will get paid. Success could be measured in the number of companies to meet a prerequisite rate of growth, target revenue, or social-impact metric.

Dual-incorporated businesses with a non-profit branch may be able to experiment in-house with the PFS model. Village Capital, which consists of a non-profit and stand-alone fund, could essentially structure an in-house DIB. If private investors wanted to invest in the non-profit, they could enter into a PFS agreement with VilCap Investments.

From an art accelerators standpoint, they could scale their operations with a PFS project, similar to entrepreneurship accelerators. If art investors wanted the McGuffey Art Center to expand its artistic co-op model, the investors could provide up-front cash, and a fund, even local government, could step in as an end payer. This PFS model could easily be piloted in Charlottesville, VA if art-backing investors step-up to the plate.

7 Reasons Your Business Should Have An App

Whether your business is a giant corporation or simply an infant firm, due to the advancement in technology, having an application is just as important as having an online presence on the internet. Whether it’s to keep up with trends or to simply just aid certain marketing process, an application can prove to be very important tools for businesses operating in a highly competitive environment. Here are seven reasons why your business should have an app.

1. Increasing customer engagement

Online applications hold great potential when it comes to increasing consumer engagement, since the internet has already taken over the public as well as the private sphere, the wide variety of features present in applications can be used to increase consumer engagement, such as e-commerce transactions, providing valuable announcement to customers through the application, deployment of loyalty cards, etc. Small engagements like these may keep the customers coming back for more.

2. Stand out from competitors

While it may be true that technology is taking over the business world, however, not all business are in the grasp of the idea of investing in an application. This could be a valuable platform to exploit the market in new ways, especially if the industry your business is operating in is not technology oriented. This forward thinking approach may incline new customers to explore what the business has to offer, further adding in sales.

3. Consumer loyalty

As everyone is aware of the growing popularity when it comes to cell phone applications, this could be the perfect platform to achieve consumer loyalty. Recent stats show that in 2014, 36% of smartphones and 45% of tablet users had purchased at least one app for their device. With a direct and effective two-way communication with customers, you’re bound to catch the audience’s attention. And if you’re good at selling the benefits of purchasing items or services from your business, you’re likely to come across a few loyal customers and with the time that the number of loyal customers will be expected to grow. Because let’s face it, billboards, advertisements, etc. may very well catch the audience’s attention, but the mobile application is what might help the business to keep those consumers.

4. Partnering with other businesses

Integration is very common in the business world, but what will make that integration progress smoothly would be the inclusion of cell phone applications. If both the businesses are part of an application where the views or engagement of customers is relatively measurable, for instance, the number of likes on a Facebook page or the number of followers on an Instagram account, then that could be used to enhance the success of both the businesses, in cases like these, using the features or options available in those social media applications such as a tag or a shoutout could increase customer awareness to a great extend.

5. To boost sales

Many customers are prone to turning to businesses where convenience to customer is evident. In order for a business to increase sales through that segment of the market, different measures should be taken, one of which should be to invest in an application. Different retail applications such as CVS Caremark and Walgreens can be used to let customers access the business and make orders at the comfort of their own homes. This could boost up sales to a great extend.

6. To create awareness

According to a Gallup survey, 90% of the time spent by an average American is staunched towards application usage. This shows that a cell phone application could be the perfect tool to create awareness among customers. Adding in new features or simply devising marketing strategies like contests held online during public holidays through that application could draw the public’s attention towards your business. This could be very valuable to new businesses who aim to break into the market.

7. Collecting better analysis

Although most businesses still prefer market research the old fashioned way, a cell phone application may also hold great potential when it comes to analysis the demand trends along with the number of views as opposed to the number of sales. In certain cases, the analysis from cell phone applications may help the business much more as compared to field research. Different applications have been introduced in the app store for that very reason.

Therefore, cell phone applications may hold great benefits to different businesses operating in different industries.

To Think Out of the Box, Make the Box Smaller

QUICK QUIZ: Which assignment do you think a creative person would like more:

  1. Write a story about anything.
  2. Write a story about a duck.

If you’re like most people (which, of course, you’re not-you’re better), you said Assignment 1. It’s obvious, isn’t it? I mean, creativity is all about freedom, no restraints, “Don’t box me in, man!” Right?

Wrong.

The surprising, non-intuitive truth is that the vast majority of creative people would prefer Assignment 2: Write a story about a duck.

Now, why is this? And what does it have to do with you?

The reason is that creative people like to have a focus for their creativity. If you ask them to write a story about anything, their creative minds will flutter around to and fro, like a butterfly looking for someplace to land. But if you ask them to write a story about a duck-ahh! Now they have something they can sink their teeth into! Even better if you ask them to write a story about a left-handed duck.

The only mistake would be if you told them what story to write, how to write it, or, worst of all, if you wrote it for them. Any of those will kill their creative drive.

And that’s where you come in.
If you want your team to come up with creative ideas (and you do want your team to come up with creative ideas; more about that later), give them a focus for those ideas. Let’s look at two assignments that you might give your team:

  1. How can we make more money?
  2. How can we get 30-year-olds to buy more red wheelbarrows from our website?

You will probably get more ideas from Assignment 2. And those ideas will probably be better and more creative. Anything involving energy is more powerful when it’s focused (think of a flashlight vs. a laser), and creativity involves energy.

As a leader, you want your team to be creative-no matter what kind of team you lead. Creativity is largely about finding better ways to do things, and if that’s not of interest to you, then-let’s just say it-you’re a pretty crappy leader. But of course you’re not a crappy leader, are you?

So the next time you need creative ideas from your team, put some limitations-some restrictions-into your request.

  • How could we do this in 2 weeks or less?
  • How could we do this for under $100?
  • How could we do this if rubber bands had to be involved?

If you have actual restrictions, then use them. If not, make something up. Because the simple act of creating a restriction will force your team to think more creatively. And when your team is thinking creatively, then the next idea could be the idea. Or the idea that leads to the idea.

Bottom line: If you want your team to think out of the box, make the box smaller.

How To Book A Band For A Corporate Event

You need a band to entertain for your event? But you haven’t a clue where to find one. Well, let’s talk band, location, and booking entertainment for corporate events.

A little creative thinking goes a long way!

What kind of band are you looking for? Something with big shiny bright… lights, and loud music? Maybe you want something that features modern music with some jazz, or golden oldies thrown in? An era? How about 1920’s Flappers and Music to match? Show band entertainment?

When you get lost in the concepts of what you want with some creative thinking, you probably find some useful keywords that will help you locate an event planner, or booking agent, that knows exactly the right band for your event. When you find the right search words, you’ll find exactly what you need. So how do you know if those search words are right?

Industry leaders show up on the front page.

Above and beyond the names of the bands that show up on that front page, you’ll want to seek out a booking agent who understands your need for finding the best dance band, or show band, and can schedule what you need for your corporate event. More often than not, the scheduling or booking agent will follow-up and make sure the band shows up, does what they say they’ll do, and provides the top performance entertainment possible.

Key elements of booking agents who limit risks.

Hiring a band always includes some risk. Will they show up? What happens if they don’t show up? What happens if they show up and become obnoxious on the stage? Those risks are really unnecessary when you hire a booking agent who has experience with his bands. His experience will weed out the weak links, and he’ll send in qualified professional entertainers for your event. Better yet… He’ll send in the BEST entertainment available for your event. And he’ll guarantee their performance.

Contracts matter.

A quality event planner, entertainment booking agent always finds ways to get those contracts signed and delivered to you by the deadlines. Your money is safe with a qualified booking agent, because he’s got testimonials, and presence on the internet.

When you seek to hire professional entertainment, look for the booking agent with a record to back you up. Then hire the best band he has to offer for your corporate event. And have a good time! You deserve it.

Is Three Dimensional [3-D] Printed Furniture Really a Game Changer?

The technology is a tool that can turn the tide. It can change notions and raise the benchmarks. The industrial revolution in the early 18th century triggered many revolutions which resulted in numerous inventions. The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed many technological shifts and innovations. The computer is one such invention that transformed the nature of the world. Thanks to electronics. Computers have been widely used in all fields without an exception.

3D printing is one of the computer aided processes which started in the early 1980’s. It is termed as the flag bearer of the third industrial revolution. Due to globalization, it is reaching even to remote areas. It shook the entire system with its pace of development. It also made an impact in the production of materials. Its footprint is evident in the furniture industry. The advantages of the 3D furniture are as follows.

Design & Time

Traditional furniture designs can took years to be available in the market. They have to be tested and certified. But 3D printing can reduce the time and enables the manufacturer to check the design as early as possible. This technology streamlines the design process. Using this technology, one can create their own furniture designs in a short span of time. It is as simple as taking a paper print. Manufactures can have more creative space in this design process.

Efficacy

The programming of the computer determines the efficacy of this process. 3D printing is showing intended results. If a person wants to create some random furniture, then he/she can create it in a simple manner.

Impact on the market

3D printing requires less space unlike, the normal manufacturing process. Many manufacturers are collaborating with the tech related startups to join the movement. This saves capital, time, and other resources which in turn cut the cost of manufacturing process. It is a good opportunity for the budding entrepreneurs to venture into this field.

Impact on the environment

Metal scraps from the industries are melted and converted in to a beautiful and useful furniture pieces. Even wooden scrap is used in the 3D printed furniture, so it means no material o wasted.We can say it as a Eco-friendly technology, where trash is turned to treasure.

Benefits to customers

1) In the near future, shoppers can directly walk into the factory and get the desired furniture model.

2) Easy to replace and modify the existing furniture models

3) Can be customized to the user’s profile

4) Affordable

5) Can make a difference to the existing decor easily by choosing the desired style and color.

To conclude, one can say this process is beneficial to manufacturers and customers. So, we can say that it is a game changer.

How Blockchain Can Re-Invent the Global Supply Chain

After it emerged in 2008, the technology behind the world’s most notorious crypto-currency, Bitcoin, held court on the fringes, attracting attention mostly from startups and the financial services sector. However, it has recently started to receive a lot of attention as companies gradually realize it could be valuable for many other things besides tracking payments.

Simply put, a blockchain is a distributed ledger that sorts transactions into blocks. Each block is chained to the one before it, using sophisticated math, all the way back to the first transaction. Entries are permanent, transparent, and searchable, which makes it possible for community members to view transaction histories in their entirety. Each update constitutes a new “block”, added to the end of the “chain” – a structure that makes it difficult for anyone to modify the records at a later stage. The ledger allows information to be recorded and shared between large groups of unrelated companies and all members must collectively validate any updates – which is in everyone’s interest.

To date, much attention and money has been spent on financial applications for the technology. However, an equally promising test case lies with global supply chain relationships, whose complexity and diversity of interests pose exactly the kinds of challenges this technology seeks to address.

A simple application of the blockchain paradigm to the supply chain could be to register the transfer of goods on the ledger, as transactions would identify the parties involved, as well as the price, date, location, quality and state of the product and any other information that would be relevant to managing the supply chain. The cryptography-based and immutable nature of the transactions would make it nearly impossible to compromise the ledger.

Now, a slew of startups and corporations are deploying blockchain to re-invent their global supply chain and run their businesses more efficiently:

1. For Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, the challenge is not tracking the familiar rectangular shipping containers that sail the world aboard cargo ships. Instead, it is circumnavigating the mountains of paperwork associated with each container. A single container can require stamps and approvals from as many as 30 parties, including customs, tax officials and health authorities, spread across 200 or more interactions. While containers can be loaded on a ship in a matter of minutes, a container can be held up at port for days because a piece of paper goes missing, while the goods inside spoil. The cost of moving and keeping track of all this paperwork often equals the cost of physically moving the container around the world. The system is also rife with fraud as the valuable bill of lading can be tampered with, or copied, letting criminals siphon off goods or circulate counterfeit products, leading to billions of dollars in maritime fraud each year.

Last summer, Maersk has sought cooperation from customs authorities, freight forwarders and the producers that fill the containers. It began running its first trials of a new digital shipping ledger with these partners, for shipping routes between Rotterdam and Newark. After signing off on a document, the customs authorities could immediately upload a copy of it, with a digital signature, so that everyone else involved – including Maersk itself and other government authorities – could see that it was complete. If there were disputes later, everyone could go back to the record and be confident that no one had altered it in the meantime. The cryptography involved also makes it hard for the virtual signatures to be forged.

The second test tracked all of the paperwork related to a container of flowers moving from the Port of Mombasa, in Kenya, to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. As both trials went well, Maersk followed up by tracking containers with pineapples from Colombia, and mandarin oranges from California.

2. Like most merchants, Wal-Mart, struggles to identify and remove food that needs to be recalled. When a customer becomes ill, it can take weeks to identify the product, shipment and vendor. To remedy this, it announced last year that it would start using blockchain to record and log the origins of produce – crucial data from a single receipt, including suppliers, details on how and where food was grown and who inspected it. The database extends information from the pallet to the individual package.

This gives it the ability to immediately find where a tainted product came from in a mater of minutes versus days, as well as capture other important attributes to make an informed decision around food flow.

Wal-Mart, has already completed two pilot programmes – moving pork from Chinese farms to Chinese stores, and produce from Latin America to the United States – and is now confident a finished version can be put together within a few years.

3. BHP relies on vendors at nearly every stage in the mining process, contracting with geologists and shipping companies to collect samples and conduct analyses that drive business decisions involving multiple parties distributed across continents. Those vendors typically keep track of rock and fluid samples and analyses with emails and spreadsheets. A lost file can cause big and expensive headaches since the samples help the company decide where to drill new wells.

BHP’s solution, which started this year, is use blockchain to record movements of wellbore rock and fluid samples and better secure the real-time data that is generated during delivery. Decentralized file storage, multi-party data acquisition and immutability as well as immediate accessibility are all aspects that will enhance its supply chain.

BHP has now required its vendors to use an app to collect live data – with a dashboard and options on what to do that are very streamlined to their respective jobs. A technician taking a specimen can attach data such as collection time, a lab researcher can add reports, and all will be immediately visible to everyone who has access. No more lost samples or frantic messages. While certain elements of the process are the same, the new system is expected to drive internal efficiencies while allowing BHP to work more effectively with its partners.

For now, in most first deployments, blockchain is running parallel with companies’ current systems – often older databases or spreadsheets like Microsoft’s Excel. The hardest part will be to create new business models. Deploying blockchain enterprise-wide means companies will often have to scrap their existing business processes and start from scratch. An endeavor not for the faint hearted.