From Demonetization To Democratization: Will Blockchain Help Or Hinder?

Jean Loh

There’s a major shakeup happening around the world in the use – or disuse – of cash. India demonetized its largest cash bills and started to move towards electronic currency. Other countries are following suit. In the sharing economy, for those offering services like Airbnb and Uber, there are no cash transactions at all. And even large retail chains are beginning to accept mobile payments.

What’s disrupting our relationship with paper money and driving this digital makeover?

This question was the focus of the March 29, 2017 “Coffee Break with Game Changers Radio” episode, presented by SAP and produced and moderated by Bonnie D. Graham (follow on Twitter: @SAPRadio #SAPRadio). Joining Bonnie were thought leaders Rajeev Srinivasan, adjunct professor of Innovation at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore; Simon Bain, CEO of SearchYourCloud.com; and Nadine Hoffmann, global solution manager for Innovation at SAP. Click to listen to the full episode.

Blockchain’s role in creating a cashless society is still up for debate

Rajeev explained how blockchain – the digital ledger in which transactions made electronically are recorded chronologically and publicly – can potentially reconstruct today’s economy. He cited demonetization in India, where blockchain can feasibly support a cashless society. “In one fell swoop, Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, removed 86% of currency notes. He did this, even though it would be a bit inconvenient, to reduce corruption, bribing, and ‘black money’ – money that’s hidden. We’ve had a history of about 5% to 10% of people actually paying tax, which means that those who are actually paying bear a huge load for all the deadbeats. And I think the prime minister also thought this would be a good way to boost the economy.”

Rajeev noted that the benefits of Modi’s decision outweigh the fear of hyperinflation because the poor will benefit faster from economic growth, rather than letting the corrupt and wealthy hoard and hide money.

Simon countered that, even though the intent is “admirable,” demonetization is hurting the wrong people. “It’s the unbanked who will get hurt in this shift. It’s the people who have worked in a cash economy because, for whatever reason, they won’t use a bank – their credit rating isn’t high enough or there is no bank near their village. What about the guy who doesn’t have a computer, who doesn’t have a smartphone? He can’t function in a cashless society.”

Simon underscored that, although studies from the World Economic Forum have revealed that cell phones are ubiquitous across all economic levels worldwide, these devices are typically “the good old-fashioned Nokia phones we all had many years ago.” In his opinion, there are other proven banking methods used in Africa, such as SIM cards, known as Inpeso, that may help India. However, he noted that these are not delivering a form of demonetization or blockchain that governments and financial services are hoping to achieve.

Nadine took the position that a cashless society actually brings the poor, as well as others without access to the technology, into the economy. “Inpeso is an example of how people are connected to the cashless society. They can take part in the financial environment, which wasn’t available to them before. Blockchain helps us secure authorization and ease the transfer of money, which makes life easier. In the long run, it allows consumers to control their data and control what they want to do to take part in the economy.”

It’s time to reconsider current financial processes

After a lively roundtable conversation about the positive potential of blockchain, Simon offered a stark reminder that, while blockchain is a mechanism for enabling and securing transactions, it won’t secure the database. “The person who’s going in there to cleanse the database can get all the information out. Most security attacks do not happen in the cloud, on the Internet, or within an external environment – they happen internally. In some instances, blockchains are going to be too small to secure. You need a vast distributed network to make it properly secure.”

Rajeev echoed Simon’s concerns, adding that blockchain’s influence goes beyond financial transactions. For example, it is also used in other business dealings such as maintaining “tender red cards,” a term referring to purchases made through the government. “The government prevents this practice in India because it’s a big scam. You can walk into a land registry office and slip somebody some money. All of a sudden, someone else’s land is your right. It’s very difficult to undo that kind of mischief.”

Nadine agreed with her co-panelists, suggesting that these challenges signal the need to seriously rethink current processes. “Blockchain may be an easy way to get people on board who are not included in the economy and enable them to make payments through contracts. But I also see that the technology cannot resolve concerns around security. We have to take a step back and look at what’s possible. It’s not as simple as finding use cases. Find your criteria, do a proper analysis, and take the next step.”

Crystal ball predictions: Will blockchain deliver as promised by 2020?

While it remains to be seen whether the world becomes a cashless society, the realities of blockchain may help to shift how banks and governments look at the financial system.

Simon predicted that while nothing much will change regarding the use of cash by 2020, he hopes that people will start taking security and privacy seriously.

Nadine expressed a more bullish and optimistic view of the future – one of change and ease. “I see more unbanked people being part of the whole environment. There will definitely be a decrease in cash transactions, increasing the potential for a cashless society. But rather than harm us, this new reality will help improve processing.”

Listen to the SAP Radio show “Money’s Digital Makeover – Part 1” on demand.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

Comments

Jean Loh

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the director, Global Audience Marketing at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs, CIOs, and the wider global finance and IT audience.

Blockchain: Hit Or Miss For Supply Chain?

Richard Howells

Earlier this month I participated in an interesting show on the topic of “Blockchain Technology: A Hit or A Miss for Supply Chain Networks?” with Irfan Khan, CEO and president of Bristlecone.

The discussion was based on blockchain’s ability to drive end-to-end value, eliminate inefficiencies, and improve customer experience. Blockchain – a decentralized, distributed ledger payment system using cryptocurrency – is powering digital transformation for companies around the world.

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I set the stage by using this quote that has been attributed to several people, from Nostradamus to Mark Twain (who is attributed almost every quote known to man). It works perfectly for blockchain, which, according to Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution (July 2017), was rated “transformational” but with a market penetration of “less than 1 percent.” The key is to predict and identify use cases to improve transparency, traceability, and performance and that can benefit from secured transactions.

Where can blockchain benefit supply chain processes?

During our discussions, a few areas of opportunity emerged.

Logistics processes

It has been estimated that 90 percent of global trade is carried out by ocean shipping industry, and the cost of trade-related documents and administration is estimated to represent up to 20 percent of the actual transportation cost. And this process relies on a web of disparate systems across freight forwarders, customer’s brokers, port authorities, ocean carriers, and trucking companies. Imagine if we could digitize the process to collaborate across companies and authorities, reduce the paperwork, streamline cross boarder movements, and reduce fraud and errors. Blockchain has the potential to help enable us to manage and track a “digital twin” of shipping containers across the world.

Track and trace and genealogy processes

In many industries, we are continually pushing for improved traceability by both regulatory bodies, and consumers. For example, in the food and beverage industries, we are seeing an increased demand for local and organic products with a clear proof of origin and sustainability.

Let’s look at the simple coffee bean as an example. This starts literally, at the source, in remote farms in Africa where 70-80 percent of the world’s coffee beans are grown. Imagine if we could have mobile machines that could capture the grade, color, size, and quality the coffee carries at source, and by leveraging AI and machine learning, determine a fair-trade price for the specific lot. This could be transmitted to the buyers who could agree a purchase with the farmer and perform an electronic transfer of funds immediately. Imagine also that the quality information and price paid is tracked throughout the harvesting, logistics, roasting and consumption of those beans all over the world. A consumer could have an app that would tell them where the coffee came from, the journey from farm to cup, and even if the farmer was compensated fairly.

This example is not too far-fetched. Check out what a company called Bext360 is doing as a proof of concept today.

Asset lifecycle management

Many industries have capital-intensive, business-critical assets (think airplanes, mining equipment, trucks, tractors) that are expected to be in use for 10 or even 30 years. Over its lifespan, each asset will go through numerous upgrades, repairs, and refurbishments and may also go through numerous owners. This ensures that all the parts used to perform these activities are of high quality, from reliable, legitimate sources and are critical for end user or passenger safety and security. We can now put IoT-enabled sensors on every part within an asset and track (Big) Data at a level never imagined a few short years ago. Ensuring the traceability and security of this data is critical to ensure the history and provenance of parts, the or the maintenance and repair history of a capital-intensive piece of equipment.

Blockchain, along with other technologies such as IoT, predictive analytics, and machine learning has the potential to manage assets from the design of the product, through manufacturing and throughout its active life and keep a secure, digital twin that can be tracked and analyzed for a complete history of that asset.

Blockchain is a key part of a digital supply chain

Blockchain, although relatively early in its existence, has the potential to help digitize our supply chains. However, as we discussed, it is not a solution by itself. We see several technologies coming together to enable the digital supply chain. The Internet of Things enables smarter and connected products and assets that are generating amazing amounts of data from all areas of the supply chain. This “Big Data” is the catalyst for predictive analytics, and machine learning adds intelligence to this data and drives automation and artificial intelligence through physical devices. Blockchain’s role is to automate transactions, ensure traceability, and address cybersecurity.

For more on blockchain, see Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Article published by Richard Howells. It originally appeared on Huffington Post and has been republished with permission.

Comments

Richard Howells

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

Finance 2025: When Blockchain Fulfills CFOs’ Paperless Vision

Nadine Hoffmann and Juergen Hofmann

Bonded loans – a well-established type of financing in the commercial lending area – are a common approach to finance strategic growth initiatives or larger investments. Although many finance organizations are stepping up efforts to digitalize and automate processes, speed time to market, and deliver value-driven services in real time, processes for bonded loans have been, for the most part, untouched. But all of this is changing as lenders and investors start to consider the new possibilities for distributed ledger technology (DLT), which is commonly associated with blockchain.

Currently, approval and issuance of bonded loans follow a highly manual and paper-based process:

Source: “Connecting the Dots: Deriving Business Value from Blockchain Technology Through Integration with SAP Solutions,” Deloitte & SAP, 2017. [KYC = Know Your Customer]

According to Deloitte and SAP, connecting networks based on DLT with ERP or other back-office systems could “unlock the true potential of the technology for corporations.” In its whitepaper “Connecting the Dots: Deriving Business Value from Blockchain Technology Through Integration with SAP Solutions,” coauthored by SAP, it mentioned that this approach will likely eliminate the drawbacks of bonded lending to open up a €75 billion (US$90 billion) loans market and new business models.

Could this be the last step to achieving the age-old dream of a paperless finance function within the next five to 10 years?

Blockchain for corporate lending: More than just cryptocurrency

Whenever the word “blockchain” comes up, most people immediately think of Bitcoin. But there is much more to it. “In the digital world, a speedy approach in close collaboration with our customers and partners is essential,” said Jürgen Müller, chief innovation officer of SAP, in a recent interview. “With blockchain as a service, we provide the possibility for an open collaboration in divided enterprise processes via peer-to-peer networks.”

As a distributed system, blockchain records and stores a chain of transactions in a shared and immutable peer-to-peer environment that is created through linked transaction blocks and a digital ledger. Reliance on established crypto-techniques enables all parties of a bonded loan program to interact with a trusted network without establishing a preexisting relationship.

The entire loan process becomes simpler, faster, highly transparent, and eases compliance, thanks to the elimination of:

  • Manual steps
  • High volumes of paper
  • Limited transparency of ownership changes
  • Slow-moving, disjointed communication and information exchange
  • A central authority that owns the entire process

Every action and decision is visible and verified by all participants in the blockchain – all in real time. Because the loan is digitalized, there is greater speed in how the loan is granted and managed until repayment, while increasing trust that the network’s investment is sound and compliant.

By forming a viable means of collaboration between network members and audit trail management, blockchain is shedding its Bitcoin reputation to emerge as a fundamental element of the paperless finance function. A blockchain-backed bonded loan allows businesses to borrow faster and cheaper, with transparent information about bonded loan transactions as well as investors.

Check out how your business can take advantage of an integrated, blockchain-based bonded loans platform. Read the Deloitte and SAP whitepaper “Connecting the Dots: Deriving Business Value from Blockchain Technology Through Integration with SAP Solutions.”

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter) | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

Comments

Nadine Hoffmann

About Nadine Hoffmann

Nadine Hoffmann is the global innovation manager for distributed ledger technology (DLT) within SAP Financial Services. In this role, she guides and supports financial services customer in their blockchain activities with SAP globally and therefore, also drives the overall SAP Financial Services DLT strategy. Nadine has over 20 years’ experience in solution management at a senior level for financial services. Her previous focus has been to support financial and non-financial customers transforming their payments landscape as the solution owner for the SAP payment engine. Prior to SAP, she worked in the banking sector for cooperative banks. Nadine holds a degree in Business Administration from the Duale Hochschule Baden-Würrtenberg in Mannheim.

About Juergen Hofmann

Jürgen Hofmann is global solution manager for SAP Financial Services. Jürgen evaluates new technologies and trends in Financial Services for relevance to software solutions. He works internationally with customers and partners to transform new technological capabilities into beneficial solutions for the financing business.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

Link to Sources


From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

Comments

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

Tags:

Blockchain: Thoughts On The "Next Big Thing"

Ross Doherty

Many people associate blockchain with bitcoin—which is, at least for today, the most common application to leverage blockchain. However, when you dig a little deeper and consider the core concepts of blockchain—distribution, consensus achieved by algorithm rather than opinion, cryptographically secure, private—you start to think about how these aspects can be applied, both technically and strategically, to solve problems simple and  complex. Blockchain is neither a product nor a system – instead, it is a concept.

Blockchain applications disrupt conventional thinking and conventional approaches regarding data processing, handling, and storage. First we had the “move to the cloud,” and many were cautious and even frightened of what it meant to move their systems, infrastructure, and data to a platform outside their organization’s four walls. Compound this with blockchain in its purest form—a distributed and possibly shared resource—and you can see why many may be reluctant.

My sentiment, however, is a little different. Creating a solid basis that harnesses the concepts of blockchain with sufficient thought leadership and knowledge-sharing, along with a pragmatic and open-minded approach to problem-solving, can lead to innovative and disruptive outcomes and solid solutions for customers. Blockchain should not be feared, but rather rationalized and demystified, with the goal of making it someday as ubiquitous as the cloud. Blockchain should not be pigeonholed into a specific industry or use case—it is much more that, and it should be much more than that.

Grounding ourselves momentarily, allow me to relay some ideas from both within the enterprise and customers regarding possible use cases for blockchain technology: From placing blockchain at the core of business networks for traceability and auditability, to a way for ordinary people to easily and cheaply post a document as part of a patent process; a way to counteract bootlegging and counterfeiting in commodity supply chain, a way to add an additional layer of security to simple email exchange; from electronic voting systems through to medial record storage. The beauty of blockchain is that its application can scale as big as your imagination allows.

Blockchain is not the staple of the corporate, nor is it limited to grand and expansive development teams—most of the technology is open source, public, and tangible to everyone. It is not an exclusive or expert concept, prohibitive in terms of cost or resource. Blockchain is a new frontier, largely unmined and full of opportunity.

In closing, I invite you to invest some time to do what I did when I first encountered the concept and needed to better understand it. Plug “Blockchain explained simply” (or words to that effect) into your preferred search engine. Find the article that best speaks to you—there are plenty online. Once you get it (and I promise you will) and experience your “eureka!” moment, start to think how blockchain and its concepts might help you solve a business or technical problem.

For more insight on blockchain, see Blockchain’s Value Underestimated, Despite The Hype.

Comments

Ross Doherty

About Ross Doherty

Ross Doherty is a manager in the SAP Innovative Business Solutions team, based in Galway, Ireland. Ross’s team’s focus is in the domain of Business Networks and Innovation. Ross is proud to lead a talented and diverse team of pre-sales, integration, quality management, user assistance and solution architects, and to be serving SAP for almost 4 years.