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; 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


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 Making Waves In Ocean Shipping And International Trade

Stefan Foerster

Many different business partners play a role in a single international trade transaction. Most of these companies operate in separate information systems containing their own versions of the truth.

And while many organizations depend on B2B interfaces and email communication to exchange important documents, they often rely on paper-based forms that require stamps, signatures, and express courier services to “proof the truth.”

In today’s hyper-fast digital age, the manual process of shipping and handling papers has substantially slowed things and proven costly.

Yet for ocean shipping, there are legal requirements and trade regulations in place – including the Hamburg Rules, Hague-Visby Rules, and Rotterdam Rules – that mandate a paper-based bill of lading (B/L).

With ongoing discussions about the interpretation of the Rotterdam Rules, UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records, and Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO, however, a paperless ocean shipping process is potentially on the horizon.

But does the technology exist to render legally required paper documents obsolete?

B/L goes digital with the help of blockchain

Blockchain technology is designed to create a unique digital representation of a value or an asset and facilitate a tamper-proof digital transfer of ownership of the asset.

A B/L issued by the ocean carrier and used in international trade as a title of goods is one such asset.

The issuer of the B/L confirms that the goods have been received, loaded onboard a particular vessel, and will be released at a specific destination to the holder of the document(s).

The B/L also serves as proof of ownership of the goods.

The holder of the original(s) is the freight owner and the only organization permitted to pick up the container from the port of discharge. The ownership of freight can change while the vessel is in transit, however, through commodity trading. But since the freight can’t be handed over physically, companies would need to exchange a negotiable B/L instead.

From this aspect, blockchain technology is a perfect solution to digitally represent a unique B/L, as it can facilitate the digital transfer of ownership quickly, safely, securely, and cost-effectively.

Blockchain: Solving one business challenge after another

B/L isn’t only important in the transfer of ownership. In trade financing, a B/L is required to prove documentation and receive a timely payment, according to the letter of credit. In pharma, chemical, and food documentation, a B/L illustrates provenance. For port terminal operators, a B/L is a prerequisite to releasing containers.

The different blockchain use cases around B/L can present myriad challenges for companies today. But rather than building a single, large, one-size-fits-all blockchain, your enterprise must create smaller, more focused use cases. Only then will you and your partners be able to take advantage of the various relevant pieces to gain the unique perspective you need.

Learn more about blockchain and how it can help your enterprise.


Stefan Foerster

About Stefan Foerster

Stefan Foerster has held various roles at SAP related to the software development for supply chain and transportation management. He is currently managing a blockchain proof of concept for ocean shipping.

Blockchain: Authenticate Mining Parts With Greater Transparency

Ruediger Schroedter

Mining industries are running at full speed around the globe. They are extracting raw materials needed by a range of manufacturers to create our modern products an equipment. Unfortunately, when a mining machine breaks down, the unexpected downtime significantly impacts worker productivity. Mining deadlines are pushed back as this problem also affects profits.

Having adequate spare parts on-hand enables mining operations to make quick equipment repairs, but sourcing these spare parts from reputable vendors can be a challenge. Spare parts that don’t come from an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) could be fraudulent. Counterfeit parts are prevalent in the mining industry, with vendors selling parts at a lower price and claiming their product can take the place of an OEM part. The parts could be defective, damaged, or inappropriate for its intended use.

Preventing fraud with blockchain

Blockchain, the technology that launched Bitcoin and virtual cryptocurrency phenomenon that occurred a decade ago, is a public distributed ledger of transactions.

The ledger contains data or information of everyone involved in the transaction and what transpired. People and companies that participate in the transactions provide this data to build transparency about their role, offering information about their services in the transaction to create a block of data that is placed into a record or registry. The transaction then moves to the next participant, who provides their information to the same registry, and so on until the final transaction is completed.

This blockchain offers unique benefits for every participant. They can analyze the blockchain technology to authenticate the transactions. If there are inconsistencies or fraudulent methods involved, a company can reject the blockchain and avoid being involved in the transaction. In essence, a blockchain instills trust that a transaction was conducted in an efficient, secure, and appropriate manner.

Blockchains and the mining industry

While we associate ledgers and transactions with the financial industry, the fantastic thing about blockchain is that it can be used in any industry to track any type of transaction. Mining operators can use blockchains to authenticate the origin of spare parts to avoid counterfeit products. When spare parts are made by multiple manufacturers and shops, you can access encrypted blockchain data, verify certificates of origin for the materials used to produce the spare part, and authenticate documents from the manufacturer that verify that it is indeed an OEM part.

Reducing the number of counterfeit spare parts on the market today is vital for mining operators who don’t want their production processes or profits hampered. Blockchains are a viable solution to building trust with manufacturers and vendors to ensure that parts are appropriate for the equipment. Mining company managers can then avoid vendors that sell fake and potentially dangerous parts that could damage equipment or injure workers.

Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative for Energy and Natural Resource Companies. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today by reading Industry 4.0: What’s Next?


Ruediger Schroedter

About Ruediger Schroedter

Ruediger Schroedter is responsible for solution management of SAP solutions for the mining industry worldwide. He has spent more than 15 years in the mill products and mining industries and has extensive experience implementing SAP solutions for customers in these industries before coming to SAP.

More Than Noise: Digital Trends That Are Bigger Than You Think

By Maurizio Cattaneo, David Delaney, Volker Hildebrand, and Neal Ungerleider

In the tech world in 2017, several trends emerged as signals amid the noise, signifying much larger changes to come.

As we noted in last year’s More Than Noise list, things are changing—and the changes are occurring in ways that don’t necessarily fit into the prevailing narrative.

While many of 2017’s signals have a dark tint to them, perhaps reflecting the times we live in, we have sought out some rays of light to illuminate the way forward. The following signals differ considerably, but understanding them can help guide businesses in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.

When a team of psychologists, linguists, and software engineers created Woebot, an AI chatbot that helps people learn cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for managing mental health issues like anxiety and depression, they did something unusual, at least when it comes to chatbots: they submitted it for peer review.

Stanford University researchers recruited a sample group of 70 college-age participants on social media to take part in a randomized control study of Woebot. The researchers found that their creation was useful for improving anxiety and depression symptoms. A study of the user interaction with the bot was submitted for peer review and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health in June 2017.

While Woebot may not revolutionize the field of psychology, it could change the way we view AI development. Well-known figures such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence is essentially ungovernable. Peer review, such as with the Stanford study, is one way to approach this challenge and figure out how to properly evaluate and find a place for these software programs.

The healthcare community could be onto something. We’ve already seen instances where AI chatbots have spun out of control, such as when internet trolls trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a hate-spewing misanthrope. Bots are only as good as their design; making sure they stay on message and don’t act in unexpected ways is crucial.

This is especially true in healthcare. When chatbots are offering therapeutic services, they must be properly designed, vetted, and tested to maintain patient safety.

It may be prudent to apply the same level of caution to a business setting. By treating chatbots as if they’re akin to medicine or drugs, we have a model for thorough vetting that, while not perfect, is generally effective and time tested.

It may seem like overkill to think of chatbots that manage pizza orders or help resolve parking tickets as potential health threats. But it’s already clear that AI can have unintended side effects that could extend far beyond Tay’s loathsome behavior.

For example, in July, Facebook shut down an experiment where it challenged two AIs to negotiate with each other over a trade. When the experiment began, the two chatbots quickly went rogue, developing linguistic shortcuts to reduce negotiating time and leaving their creators unable to understand what they were saying.

Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

The implications are chilling. Do we want AIs interacting in a secret language because designers didn’t fully understand what they were designing?

In this context, the healthcare community’s conservative approach doesn’t seem so farfetched. Woebot could ultimately become an example of the kind of oversight that’s needed for all AIs.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that chatbots have great potential in healthcare—not just for treating mental health issues but for helping patients understand symptoms, build treatment regimens, and more. They could also help unclog barriers to healthcare, which is plagued worldwide by high prices, long wait times, and other challenges. While they are not a substitute for actual humans, chatbots can be used by anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of financial status.

Finding the right governance for AI development won’t happen overnight. But peer review, extensive internal quality analysis, and other processes will go a long way to ensuring bots function as expected. Otherwise, companies and their customers could pay a big price.

Elon Musk is an expert at dominating the news cycle with his sci-fi premonitions about space travel and high-speed hyperloops. However, he captured media attention in Australia in April 2017 for something much more down to earth: how to deal with blackouts and power outages.

In 2016, a massive blackout hit the state of South Australia following a storm. Although power was restored quickly in Adelaide, the capital, people in the wide stretches of arid desert that surround it spent days waiting for the power to return. That hit South Australia’s wine and livestock industries especially hard.

South Australia’s electrical grid currently gets more than half of its energy from wind and solar, with coal and gas plants acting as backups for when the sun hides or the wind doesn’t blow, according to ABC News Australia. But this network is vulnerable to sudden loss of generation—which is exactly what happened in the storm that caused the 2016 blackout, when tornadoes ripped through some key transmission lines. Getting the system back on stable footing has been an issue ever since.

Displaying his usual talent for showmanship, Musk stepped in and promised to build the world’s largest battery to store backup energy for the network—and he pledged to complete it within 100 days of signing the contract or the battery would be free. Pen met paper with South Australia and French utility Neoen in September. As of press time in November, construction was underway.

For South Australia, the Tesla deal offers an easy and secure way to store renewable energy. Tesla’s 129 MWh battery will be the most powerful battery system in the world by 60% once completed, according to Gizmodo. The battery, which is stationed at a wind farm, will cover temporary drops in wind power and kick in to help conventional gas and coal plants balance generation with demand across the network. South Australian citizens and politicians largely support the project, which Tesla claims will be able to power 30,000 homes.

Until Musk made his bold promise, batteries did not figure much in renewable energy networks, mostly because they just aren’t that good. They have limited charges, are difficult to build, and are difficult to manage. Utilities also worry about relying on the same lithium-ion battery technology as cellphone makers like Samsung, whose Galaxy Note 7 had to be recalled in 2016 after some defective batteries burst into flames, according to CNET.

However, when made right, the batteries are safe. It’s just that they’ve traditionally been too expensive for large-scale uses such as renewable power storage. But battery innovations such as Tesla’s could radically change how we power the economy. According to a study that appeared this year in Nature, the continued drop in the cost of battery storage has made renewable energy price-competitive with traditional fossil fuels.

This is a massive shift. Or, as David Roberts of news site Vox puts it, “Batteries are soon going to disrupt power markets at all scales.” Furthermore, if the cost of batteries continues to drop, supply chains could experience radical energy cost savings. This could disrupt energy utilities, manufacturing, transportation, and construction, to name just a few, and create many opportunities while changing established business models. (For more on how renewable energy will affect business, read the feature “Tick Tock” in this issue.)

Battery research and development has become big business. Thanks to electric cars and powerful smartphones, there has been incredible pressure to make more powerful batteries that last longer between charges.

The proof of this is in the R&D funding pudding. A Brookings Institution report notes that both the Chinese and U.S. governments offer generous subsidies for lithium-ion battery advancement. Automakers such as Daimler and BMW have established divisions marketing residential and commercial energy storage products. Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and General Electric are all experimenting with various electric propulsion systems for aircraft—which means that hybrid airplanes are also a possibility.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are accelerating battery research investment by banning internal combustion vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway are seeking to go all electric as early as 2025 and by 2040 at the latest.

In the meantime, expect huge investment and new battery innovation from interested parties across industries that all share a stake in the outcome. This past September, for example, Volkswagen announced a €50 billion research investment in batteries to help bring 300 electric vehicle models to market by 2030.

At first, it sounds like a narrative device from a science fiction novel or a particularly bad urban legend.

Powerful cameras in several Chinese cities capture photographs of jaywalkers as they cross the street and, several minutes later, display their photograph, name, and home address on a large screen posted at the intersection. Several days later, a summons appears in the offender’s mailbox demanding payment of a fine or fulfillment of community service.

As Orwellian as it seems, this technology is very real for residents of Jinan and several other Chinese cities. According to a Xinhua interview with Li Yong of the Jinan traffic police, “Since the new technology has been adopted, the cases of jaywalking have been reduced from 200 to 20 each day at the major intersection of Jingshi and Shungeng roads.”

The sophisticated cameras and facial recognition systems already used in China—and their near–real-time public shaming—are an example of how machine learning, mobile phone surveillance, and internet activity tracking are being used to censor and control populations. Most worryingly, the prospect of real-time surveillance makes running surveillance states such as the former East Germany and current North Korea much more financially efficient.

According to a 2015 discussion paper by the Institute for the Study of Labor, a German research center, by the 1980s almost 0.5% of the East German population was directly employed by the Stasi, the country’s state security service and secret police—1 for every 166 citizens. An additional 1.1% of the population (1 for every 66 citizens) were working as unofficial informers, which represented a massive economic drain. Automated, real-time, algorithm-driven monitoring could potentially drive the cost of controlling the population down substantially in police states—and elsewhere.

We could see a radical new era of censorship that is much more manipulative than anything that has come before. Previously, dissidents were identified when investigators manually combed through photos, read writings, or listened in on phone calls. Real-time algorithmic monitoring means that acts of perceived defiance can be identified and deleted in the moment and their perpetrators marked for swift judgment before they can make an impression on others.

Businesses need to be aware of the wider trend toward real-time, automated censorship and how it might be used in both commercial and governmental settings. These tools can easily be used in countries with unstable political dynamics and could become a real concern for businesses that operate across borders. Businesses must learn to educate and protect employees when technology can censor and punish in real time.

Indeed, the technologies used for this kind of repression could be easily adapted from those that have already been developed for businesses. For instance, both Facebook and Google use near–real-time facial identification algorithms that automatically identify people in images uploaded by users—which helps the companies build out their social graphs and target users with profitable advertisements. Automated algorithms also flag Facebook posts that potentially violate the company’s terms of service.

China is already using these technologies to control its own people in ways that are largely hidden to outsiders.

According to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, the popular Chinese social network WeChat operates under a policy its authors call “One App, Two Systems.” Users with Chinese phone numbers are subjected to dynamic keyword censorship that changes depending on current events and whether a user is in a private chat or in a group. Depending on the political winds, users are blocked from accessing a range of websites that report critically on China through WeChat’s internal browser. Non-Chinese users, however, are not subject to any of these restrictions.

The censorship is also designed to be invisible. Messages are blocked without any user notification, and China has intermittently blocked WhatsApp and other foreign social networks. As a result, Chinese users are steered toward national social networks, which are more compliant with government pressure.

China’s policies play into a larger global trend: the nationalization of the internet. China, Russia, the European Union, and the United States have all adopted different approaches to censorship, user privacy, and surveillance. Although there are social networks such as WeChat or Russia’s VKontakte that are popular in primarily one country, nationalizing the internet challenges users of multinational services such as Facebook and YouTube. These different approaches, which impact everything from data safe harbor laws to legal consequences for posting inflammatory material, have implications for businesses working in multiple countries, as well.

For instance, Twitter is legally obligated to hide Nazi and neo-fascist imagery and some tweets in Germany and France—but not elsewhere. YouTube was officially banned in Turkey for two years because of videos a Turkish court deemed “insulting to the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” father of modern Turkey. In Russia, Google must keep Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia to comply with government policy.

While China is a pioneer in the field of instant censorship, tech companies in the United States are matching China’s progress, which could potentially have a chilling effect on democracy. In 2016, Apple applied for a patent on technology that censors audio streams in real time—automating the previously manual process of censoring curse words in streaming audio.

In March, after U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News, “I think maybe I wouldn’t be [president] if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Twitter founder Evan “Ev” Williams did something highly unusual for the creator of a massive social network.

He apologized.

Speaking with David Streitfeld of The New York Times, Williams said, “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”

Entrepreneurs tend to be very proud of their innovations. Williams, however, offers a far more ambivalent response to his creation’s success. Much of the 2016 presidential election’s rancor was fueled by Twitter, and the instant gratification of Twitter attracts trolls, bullies, and bigots just as easily as it attracts politicians, celebrities, comedians, and sports fans.

Services such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are designed through a mix of look and feel, algorithmic wizardry, and psychological techniques to hang on to users for as long as possible—which helps the services sell more advertisements and make more money. Toxic political discourse and online harassment are unintended side effects of the economic-driven urge to keep users engaged no matter what.

Keeping users’ eyeballs on their screens requires endless hours of multivariate testing, user research, and algorithm refinement. For instance, Casey Newton of tech publication The Verge notes that Google Brain, Google’s AI division, plays a key part in generating YouTube’s video recommendations.

According to Jim McFadden, the technical lead for YouTube recommendations, “Before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it,” he told Newton. “But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same—even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious.”

A never-ending flow of content that is interesting without being repetitive is harder to resist. With users glued to online services, addiction and other behavioral problems occur to an unhealthy degree. According to a 2016 poll by nonprofit research company Common Sense Media, 50% of American teenagers believe they are addicted to their smartphones.

This pattern is extending into the workplace. Seventy-five percent of companies told research company Harris Poll in 2016 that two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. The number one reason? Cellphones and texting, according to 55% of those companies surveyed. Another 41% pointed to the internet.

Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, argues that many product designers for online services try to exploit psychological vulnerabilities in a bid to keep users engaged for longer periods. Harris refers to an iPhone as “a slot machine in my pocket” and argues that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers need to adopt something akin to a Hippocratic Oath to stop exploiting users’ psychological vulnerabilities.

In fact, there is an entire school of study devoted to “dark UX”—small design tweaks to increase profits. These can be as innocuous as a “Buy Now” button in a visually pleasing color or as controversial as when Facebook tweaked its algorithm in 2012 to show a randomly selected group of almost 700,000 users (who had not given their permission) newsfeeds that skewed more positive to some users and more negative to others to gauge the impact on their respective emotional states, according to an article in Wired.

As computers, smartphones, and televisions come ever closer to convergence, these issues matter increasingly to businesses. Some of the universal side effects of addiction are lost productivity at work and poor health. Businesses should offer training and help for employees who can’t stop checking their smartphones.

Mindfulness-centered mobile apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Forest offer one way to break the habit. Users can also choose to break internet addiction by going for a walk, turning their computers off, or using tools like StayFocusd or Freedom to block addictive websites or apps.

Most importantly, companies in the business of creating tech products need to design software and hardware that discourages addictive behavior. This means avoiding bad designs that emphasize engagement metrics over human health. A world of advertising preroll showing up on smart refrigerator touchscreens at 2 a.m. benefits no one.

According to a 2014 study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, approximately 6% of the world’s population suffers from internet addiction to one degree or another. As more users in emerging economies gain access to cheap data, smartphones, and laptops, that percentage will only increase. For businesses, getting a head start on stopping internet addiction will make employees happier and more productive. D!

About the Authors

Maurizio Cattaneo is Director, Delivery Execution, Energy, and Natural Resources, at SAP.

David Delaney is Global Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, SAP Health.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.



The “Purpose” Of Data

Timo Elliott

I’ve always been passionate about the ability of data and analytics to transform the world.

It has always seemed to me to be the closest thing we have to modern-day magic, with its ability to conjure up benefits from thin air. Over the last quarter century, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of “wizards” in organizations around the world, turning information into value in every aspect of our daily lives.

The projects have been as simple as Disney using real-time analytics to move staff from one store to another to keep lines to a minimum: shorter lines led to bigger profits (you’re more likely to buy that Winnie-the-Pooh bear if there’s only one person ahead of you), but also higher customer satisfaction and happier children.

Or they’ve been as complex as the Port of Hamburg: constrained by its urban location, it couldn’t expand to meet the growing volume of traffic. But better use of information meant it was able to dramatically increase throughput – while improving the life of city residents with reduced pollution (less truck idling) and fewer traffic jams (smart lighting that automatically adapts to bridge closures).

I’ve seen analytics used to figure out why cheese was curdling in Wisconsin; count the number of bubbles in Champagne; keep track of excessive fouls in Swiss soccer, track bear sightings in Canada; avoid flooding in Argentina; detect chewing-gum-blocked metro machines in Brussels; uncover networks of tax fraud in Australia; stop trains from being stranded in the middle of the Tuscan countryside; find air travelers exposed to radioactive substances; help abused pets find new homes; find the best people to respond to hurricanes and other disasters; and much, much more.

The reality is that there’s a lot of inefficiency in the world. Most of the time it’s invisible, or we take it for granted. But analytics can help us shine a light on what’s going on, expose the problems, and show us what we can do better – in almost every area of human endeavor.

Data is a powerful weapon. Analytics isn’t just an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profits – it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.

So to paraphrase a famous world leader, next time you embark on a new project:

“Ask not what you can do with your data, ask what your data can do for the world.”

What are your favorite “magical” examples, where analytics helped create win/win/win situations?

Download our free eBook for more insight on How the Port of Hamburg Doubled Capacity with Digitization.

This article originally appeared on Digital Business & Business Analytics.


Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics.