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As enterprise supply chains and consumer demand chains have beome globalized, they continue to inefficiently share information “one-up/one-down”. Profound "bullwhip effects" in the chains cause managers to scramble with inventory shortages and consumers attempting to understand product recalls, especially food safety recalls. Add to this the increasing usage of personal mobile devices by managers and consumers seeking real-time information about products, materials and ingredient sources. The popularity of mobile devices with consumers is inexorably tugging at enterprise IT departments to shifting to apps and services. But both consumer and enterprise data is a proprietary asset that must be selectively shared to be efficiently shared.

About Steve Holcombe

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this company blog site is authored by Steve Holcombe as President & CEO of Pardalis, Inc. More profile information: View Steve Holcombe's profile on LinkedIn

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Entries in open source (1)


Whole Chain Traceability: A Successful Research Funding Strategy

The following work product represents a critical part of the first successful strategy for obtaining funding from the USDA relative to "whole chain" traceability. It is the work of this author as weaved into a USDA National Integrated Food Safety Initiative (NIFSI) funding submission of the Whole Chain Traceability Consortium™ led by Oklahoma State University and filed in June 2011. This work highlights the usefulness of Pardalis' U.S. patents and patents pending to "whole chain" traceability. It highlights the efficacy of employing granular information objects in the Cloud for providing consumer accessibility to any agricultural supply chain. In August 2011 notification was received of an award ($543,000 for 3 years) under the USDA NIFSI for a project entitled Advancement of a whole-chain, stakeholder driven traceability system for agricultural commodities: beef cattle pilot demonstration (Funding Opportunity Number: USDA-NIFSI RFA (FY 2011), Award Number: 2011-51110-31044).

With the funding of the NIFSI project, the USDA has funded a food safety project that is distinguishable from the Food Safety Modernization Act projects being funded by the FDA and conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Unlike the IFT/FDA projects, the scope of the funded NIFSI project uniquely encompasses consumer accessibility to supply chain information.

A useful explanation of the benefits of a “whole chain” traceability system may be made with critical traceability identifiers (CTIDs), critical tracking events (CTEs) and Nodes as described in the IFT/FDA Traceability in Food Systems Report. CTEs are those events that must be recorded in order to allow for effective traceability of products in the supply chain. A Node refers to a point in the supply chain when an item is produced, process, shipped or sold. CTEs may be loosely defined as a transaction. Every transaction involves a process that may be separated into a beginning, middle and end.

While important and relevant data exists in any of the phases of a CTE transaction, the entire transaction may be uniquely identified and referenced by a code referred to as a critical tracking identifier (CTID). For example, with the emergence of biosensor development for the real-time detection of foodborne contamination, one may also envision adding associated real-time environmental sampling data from each node.

What is not described or envisioned in the IFT/FDA Traceability in Food Systems Report is the challenge of using even top of the line “one up/one down” product traceability systems that, notwithstanding the use of a single CTID, are inherently limiting in the data sharing options provided to both stakeholders and government regulators. Pause for a moment and compare the foregoing drawing with the next drawing. Compare CTID2 in both drawings with CTID2A, CTID2B, etc. in the next drawing. The IFT/FDA food safety projects described above are at best implementing top of the line "one up/one down" product traceability systems with the use of a single CTID. But with “whole chain” product traceability, in which CTID2 is essentially assigned down to the datum level, transactional and environmental sampling data may in real-time be granularly placed into the hands of supply chain partners, food safety regulators, or even retail customers.

The scope of “whole chain” chain information sharing within the funded USDA NIFSI project goes well beyond the “one up/one down” information sharing of the IFT/FDA projects. The NIFSI project addresses a new way of looking at information sharing for connecting supply chains with consumers. This is essentially accomplished with a system in which a content provider creates data which is then fixed (i.e., made immutable) and users can access that immutable data but cannot change it.

The granularity of Pardalis' Common Point Authoring (CPA) system (as is necessary for a “whole chain” product traceability system) is characterized by the following patent drawing of an informational object (e.g., a document, report or XML object) whose immutable data elements are radically and uniquely identified. The similarities between the foregoing object containing CTID2A, CTID2B, etc., and the immutable data element identifiers of the following drawing, should be self-evident.

For the purposes of the NIFSI funding opportunity, the Pardalis CPA system invention was appropriately characterized as a “whole chain” product traceability system.  A further, high-altitude drawing, characterized the application of the invention to a major U.S. agricultural supply chain:

Several questions were required in the USDA's NIFSI "Review Package" to be addressed before actual funding. The responses to two of those questions were crafted by this author. They are worth inserting here ....

Question 1: A reviewer was skeptical that the system would be capable of handling different levels of data (consumer, producer, RFID, bar code) seamlessly.

There is an assumption in the reviewer’s opinion that data is different because it is consumer, producer, RFID, bar code, etc. The proposed pilot project is based on a premise that data is data. The difference in data that is perceived by the reviewer is not in its categorization per se but in its proprietary nature. That is, it is perceived to be different because it is locked up (often in categories of consumer, producer, RFID, bar code, etc.) in proprietary data silos along the supply and demand chains. It is reasonable to have this viewpoint given the prevalence of "one-up/one-down" data sharing in supply chains. As stated in the Positive Aspects of the Proposal, “[t]he use of open source software and the ability to add consumer access to the tracability (sic) system set this proposal apart from other similar proposals.” The proposed pilot project will demonstrate how an open source approach to increasing interoperability between enterprise data silos (buttressed by metadata permissions and security controls in the hands of the actual data producers) will provide new "whole chain" ways of looking at information sharing in enterprise supply and consumer demand chains. For instance, consumers could opt for retailers to automatically populate their accounts from their actual point-of-sale retail purchases. Consumers could additionally populate accounts in a multi-tenancy social network (like Facebook) using smartphone bar code image capturing applications. Supplemented by cross-reference to an industry GTIN/GLN database, the product identifiers would be associated with company names, time stamps, location and similar metadata. This could empower consumers with a one-stop shop for confidentially reporting suspicious food to Likewise, consumers could be provided with real-time, relevant food recall information in their multi-tenancy, social networking accounts, and their connected smartphone applications.

Question 2: A member of the panel was skeptical that the consumer accessibility would be largely attractive as this capability currently has limited appeal among consumers.

We recognize this viewpoint to be a highly prevalent opinion within an ag and food industry predominantly sharing data in a “one-up/one-down” manner. When one uses a smartphone today to scan an item in a grocery store, the probability of being able to retrieve any data from the typical ag and food supply chain is very low. However, we have been highly influenced in our thinking by the existing data showing that many consumers do not take appropriate protective actions during a foodborne illness outbreak or food recall. Furthermore, 41 percent of U.S. consumers say they have never looked for any recalled product in their home. Conversely, some consumers overreact to the announcement of a foodborne illness outbreak by not purchasing safe foods. We have been further influenced by how producers of organic and natural products are adopting rapidly evolving smartphone and mobile technologies as a way of communicating directly with consumers, and increasing their market share. We contend that by increasing supply chain transparency with real-time, whole chain technologies, “consumer accessibility” will become more and more appealing.  We contend this to be especially true when there is a product recall and the products are already in the home. And so, again, our high interest in working with

The foregoing strategy and comments may be freely cited with attribution to this author as CEO of Pardalis, Inc. It is offered in the spirit of the "sharing is winning" principles of the Whole Chain Traceability Consortium™ (now being rebranded as @WholeChainTrace™). However, no right to use Pardalis' patent or patents pending is conveyed thereby. If you wish to be a research collaborator with Pardalis, or to license or use Pardalis' patented innovations, please contact the author.

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