Daily Bits April 15th, 2017

Last week CoinDesk reported on a new supply chain platform developed by IBM, and supply chain management company Hejia, for the pharmaceutical industry. It seems to be focusing on the finance rather than the logistical side, in that it aims to accelerate the country’s underdeveloped credit evaluation system, which makes it hard for suppliers to raise short-term working capital.

Two things stand out:

  • IBM has developed a vertical solution for a specific industry. It’s easy to lose sight of the vast scope of ‘supply chain management’ and assume that all processes are the same. Obviously, they’re not, and the launch of projects targeted at a certain sector underlines that. The sector-by-sector approach is not as ‘granular’ as it seems – the adaptations demonstrate the flexibility of the underlying technology, which is shared with many other projects (in this case, as with most IBM projects, it’s built on Hyperledger’s Fabric).
  • IBM’s representative clarified that the tech giant wasn’t concentrating on China, in spite of a rash of recent announcements of projects aimed at that market. According to CoinDesk, Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of Blockchain Solutions at IBM, said: “I wouldn’t calculate this as ‘OK, we have a concerted effort to do something in China’.” It’s curious that the firm felt the need to distance itself from that perception, since I can’t see what harm it does. IBM is obviously a global organization, so I doubt that anyone would think it’s “giving up” on other areas. And, there is so much going on in China at the moment in terms of technological development (especially applied to finance) that becoming known as an expert in that area can only be a good thing. To be fair, I imagine that Gopinath wants to make it clear that IBM is more interested in use cases than a specific country. But then again, it’s not unreasonable to assume that IBM Greater China Group’s priority is China.

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A sobering account from the New York Times of the American retail sector, and how unprepared the economy is for the changes…

“More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.”

The inevitable growth of e-commerce seems to be the main culprit, and over-investment in retail space didn’t help…

“Store closures, meanwhile, are on pace this year to eclipse the number of stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008 … The current torrent of closures comes as consumer confidence is strong and unemployment is low, suggesting that a permanent restructuring is underway, rather than a dip in the normal business cycle. In short, traditional retail may never recover.”

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Both the Royal Mint of the UK and the Canadian Royal Mint make coins for other countries as well as their own.

The difference is, the Royal Mint won’t say who, claiming that it is “commercially sensitive information”.

The Canadian Royal Mint, on the other hand, is much more forthcoming. Several sovereign clients are disclosed in their Wikipedia entry, and the Canadian Numismatic Society goes as far as to publish a list of countries for whom the Mint at one time or another produced coinage.

And foreign sales are up

I am curious as to why the two institutions have such different approaches… Does anyone know?

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From an installation called “People I Saw But Never Met”, by artist Zadok Ben-David (via Colossal):

Installation by Zadok Ben-David, via Colossal
Installation by Zadok Ben-David, via Colossal

Over 3,000 chemically etched miniature figures taken from photographs of trips around the world, in varying proportions… Snippets of life, in 2-d made 3-d…

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