Follow Friday: Vierde Vrijdag and Susanne Pieterse

Scrolling through my Twitter feed, I saw “The Blockchain Tiramisu – Tech Stacks and Pragmatic Engineering,” and thought to myself I like tiramisu, and also blockchain!

Upon further investigation, I discovered that this event was not, in fact, serving tiramisu, but it ended up being a great experience anyway.

Vierde Vrijdag at The Hague Tech is a gathering for people in business and tech to socialize and learn from each other about various trends and developments in the industry. I didn’t know much about the presenters, but the programming sounded quite educational (for myself, at least). People spoke about intellectual property laws, blockchain, and digitizing the city.

Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the whole program, but I had the pleasure of listening to Susanne Pieterse talk about what blockchain is and how it can be useful to a variety of businesses.

Susanne Pieterse and her company Pieterse Innovate

Pieterse started her presentation informing us that she will give this presentation at an event for the Powerful Business Women’s Network, and we were a test-run audience. The PBWN asked her to present not only because of her prestigious status as a powerful business woman, but also because their audience wanted to know more about how blockchain technology can improve their companies.

As a woman interested in networking and being powerful, I was already intrigued.

She went on to tell us about her work experience as a legal consultant who worked in digital zoning for ten years. She had always been interested in computers, so she studied programming last year and then started her own business, Pieterse Innovate. The company advises clients on how to innovate and evolve their processes.

But her enthusiasm doesn’t end there. She also runs blockchain030, a blockchain co-working event every Monday in Utrecht, and she started the podcast Block Rock, which focuses on Dutch blockchain news and projects.

How Blockchain technology is being used

Pieterse gave a great explanation of blockchain technology (safe, immutable, shared ledger), emphasizing that its use is based in trust. While it’s not a solution for everything, it is extremely helpful when

  • More than two parties are involved
  • If there are conflicting interests
  • In the presence of shared common trust

She also gave a few examples of how blockchain technology is currently being used. Pieterse mentioned the Port of Rotterdam collaboration with Blocklab, as well as automated micro-transactions for package deliveries, and an experimental effort to tag social welfare benefits. (Though it was noted that the kindpakket project decided it was too difficult to implement blockchain this way at the moment.)

But blockchain can be used for so much more.

Supply Chain Management: An experiment with a fishery found that everyone in the supply chain had conflicting interests. When an app was developed to solve the problem, many in the supply chain rejected its use because they felt it didn’t represent their interests.

Energy Usage Data: With Oehu, smart meter owners submit their energy usage data to the website. Users remain owners of their data, but the shared access to the information will help improve the technology.

Theater Tickets: GUTS Tickets uses blockchain to create a fair ticket resale market. As a result, it fights ticket fraud while giving fans a better opportunity to attend shows.

Document Verification: The University of Nicosia uses blockchain for certificates, which means future employers or organizations would not need to contact the University to verify the authenticity of the document.

Final Thoughts

Vierde Vrijdag was a great opportunity to participate in a discussion about the tech industry, rather than just reading about it. At first I was nervous because it seemed like everyone already knew each other and was familiar with each other’s work (that’s always the case at networking events, right?).

But when I got pulled into a conversation, it turned out that other people attending also didn’t have a background in programming. My greatest takeaway from the event – as well as Pieterse – was that it doesn’t hurt to just go: go to a networking event, go to a panel, go hard on the paint and start your own business. Just go.

Follow Friday: Token Coffee

Around the time I wrote about BlueCity, I also listened to the Food Heroes Podcast about Wize Monkey, a company making tea from coffee leaves.

Because the bean harvest is only three months long, the majority of the industry’s labor does not have steady work for the remainder of the year. By making a product from the coffee leaves, farmers have steadier work, which means more income, which means growing prosperity with rippling effects.

As the third most-consumed beverage in the world, Wize Monkey is just one of the many businesses starting to take responsibility for the coffee supply chain. In fact, some companies are even using blockchain technology to create a radically transparent product.

Token Coffee and FairChain Foundation

More than just a certification and a label, FairChain Foundation provides visibility not just to the businesses involved in the supply chain, but also the consumer. In this way, everyone can be held accountable (as discussed in my article explaining blockchain and logistics).

Token Coffee was born from a partnership among FairChain Foundation, Moyee Coffee (who also works with Rotterzwam at BlueCity), and Bext360, which bolsters sustainable practices and ethical supply chains using technology. Together, they created a solution to the coffee industry’s questionable practice of fair trade.

FairChain’s objective is “all about sharing the value created in production chains fairly.” And coffee, with layers of unfairness building on top of each other, is a great place to start.

So how does blockchain make coffee consumption better?

It starts when you visit their website. We’re all used to being prompted to sign up for newsletters, but pay attention: Token Coffee asks you to be a CEO. By purchasing Token Coffee, you become a custodian of the company. You agree to be part of this blockchain, and to contribute to the radical transparency of this supply chain.

And as a result of this radical transparency, no one in the supply chain can double-back on their commitment without everyone else knowing it. They admit that they haven’t quite yet reached their goal of a 50/50 split in value – they’re only at 32/68.

But as more people make the commitment to buy Token Coffee, they will continue to close the gap between what consumers pay and what farmers earn.

Final Thoughts

Currently they are focusing efforts on developing coffee farms in Ethiopia, where 25% of the population depends on the coffee trade for a living.

As of November 2018, Token no longer has any bags left for sale, but you can still sign up to be notified of the next opportunity to invest.

What makes this more radical than any other blockchain endeavor is that the whole business is about shedding light on the entire industry. Efforts have been made to move carrots, almonds, and lettuce using blockchain technology, but Moyee, FairChain, and Bext360 have made the choice to build Token entirely around the need for visibility.


Do you like how I talk nerdy? Let’s get coffee!

Follow Friday: Blocklab

In case you hadn’t noticed, I really enjoying writing about supply chain management. It’s a field that I didn’t know existed until I started working, and ever since, I’ve been interested in learning more about how goods move around the world.

Supply chain logistics affect everyone, from the raw material production to the end consumer. A single wrinkle in the chain can be disruptive to industries around the world. But as the industry’s inefficiencies have become an accepted evil, the world has allowed those wrinkles to accumulate.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we could eliminate the redundancies and errors and unnecessary delays in the process of moving something from point A to point B?

Ironing out those wrinkles and making clients happy with a smooth shipping experience is one of the reasons I came to Rotterdam: to find the perfect logistics company.

Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port, making the metropolitan area a global logistics capital. With over 2000 companies providing service in some form to the industry, it would seem that innovation here is constantly shaping and re-shaping the supply chain world.

That is, in fact, not the case.

Rotterdam has only stepped up its game on the international stage within the past ten years. The city has invested in a variety of projects in order to attract talent and persuade businesses to establish a presence. One such project is Blocklab.

Blocklab

About Blocklab

Blocklab wrote a great whitepaper explaining how blockchain can (and will) streamline the logistics industry. It’s thorough but easy to read. In addition to its overview of how blockchain can improve operations and finances, the paper also touches on the environmental impact of making the industry more efficient. (Spoiler alert: it’s a good impact.)

A point that is elegantly touched on is the idea that blockchain may level the playing field for all companies involved:

Careful analysis of successful applications in supply chain management shows that they are based on managing the supply chain as a single entity as a result of one dominant member being able to impose his will on the others. However decentralized supply chains do not have such a dominant member and as a result the potential benefits of supply chain management have so far been much more difficult to realize in these systems. However, using smart contracts in combination with new advanced planning algorithms the (dis)benefits could be fairly distributed among the supply chain members based on actual and immutable transactions.

While any single player may dominate the supply chain process, blockchain will decentralize that power. As a result, SMEs may have a greater opportunity to thrive by emphasizing the value they add to the customer’s experience, rather than the price tag:

Picking up a container, unloading a truck in a CFS, stuffing an export container, sending an invoice to a client, booking an incoming invoice, custom clearance; hardly stuff to get excited about. Your next door competitor does exactly the same and the only way you can differentiate yourself is by being cheaper. The end result: ‘a race to the bottom’. What if we would develop a shared system for all these kind of ‘non-unique selling point’ type of activities? One in which all trust issues are resolved and automated? One in which all processes have been redesigned, made simpler or even totally obliterated? This would significantly lower the transaction costs in and around the port of Rotterdam, making it more competitive – increasing volumes and efficiency and allowing LSPs to compete on value – added, not on price.

This is the kind of talk that gets me excited about supply chain management.

Blocklab’s Blockchain Solutions for Rotterdam

Blocklab has developed solutions for the Port of Rotterdam to increase efficiency through the application of blockchain technology. Its application, however, is easier said than done.

This adoption of Blocklab’s pilot program will shake up all aspects of logistics, from operation to finances to tracking, and everything in between. By implementing blockchain technology, these processes will – ideally – become significantly more efficient and therefore cost effective.

A transaction to move product from point A to point B involves dozens of interactions. According to the Port of Rotterdam’s CFO Paul Smits, a shipment from China to Rotterdam can involve up to 28 parties. With the implementation of blockchain technology, that transaction can move seamlessly through those companies with digital documentation, immediate approval of transactions, and fewer delays.

Final Thoughts

Previously I have questioned the plausibility of the entire supply chain adopting the technology. If not everyone agrees to be so transparent, how effective can the application of blockchain be?

And taking it a step further: if the platform doesn’t offer an all-in-one solution, how agreeable will businesses be to adopt it?

If, however, the largest port of Europe chooses to implement it, it may be in everyone’s interest to accept blockchain technology as part of their futures. I look forward to seeing how Blocklab’s project with the Port of Rotterdam unfolds.


Change (and growth) is inevitable and often times difficult. I can make it easier for you. Let’s talk about it.

How does blockchain technology help the food industry?

Blockchain, blockchain, blockchain. It’s all anyone wants to talk about (including myself, to some extent).

In just the past week, people have sent me two articles about blockchain and the food industry: The Next Web wrote about Australia recently shipping almonds to Germany with blockchain technology, and Forbes wrote about some of the major players working to implement blockchain technology in the food manufacturing industry.

Clearly businesses see potential benefits from using blockchain technology – but what are they?

Blockchain Technology and the Food Industry

Cut Red Tape, Reduce Waste, and Eliminate Wasteful Bureaucracy

One of the benefits frequently highlighted is the reduction in bureaucratic waste. By replacing paperwork and verification steps with blockchain technology, businesses can reduce costs and save time.

The assumption is that everyone in the supply chain uses the same blockchain software, let alone using it at all.

These articles talk about huge companies that have the resources to do trial runs, which is great for those who can’t afford to test the waters. But everyone involved in the experiment is testing the same software.

I realize that may seem like an obvious statement and necessary for product development, but with the way “blockchain” is so freely used, articles make it sound universally accessible, rather than a new technology.

As far as I’ve seen, companies like IBM and Microsoft are developing solutions, which means it’s unlikely they’ll speak to each other. Why would one business want to be compatible with another business’s software for the same purpose?

It’s the same dilemma that the medical industry faced with digitizing medical records. Sure, it technically eliminated the need for fax machines, but because none of the solutions speak to each other, hospitals and medical offices are still using fax machines. (For more about this, listen to Vox’s The Impact.)

Blockchain_Med-01

E. Coli, Salmonella, and Other Scary Words That Make Your Stomach Crawl

Another the common example of application is that of foodborne illnesses. If there’s an E. Coli outbreak, officials will be able to trace the source in a matter of seconds and identify where the problem originated.

For example, take the romaine lettuce E. Coli outbreak in the United States in spring 2018. Illnesses were reported at the end of March, and an official statement was released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on April 10.

Between April 18 and May 16, the CDC suspected that the contaminated lettuce came from the Yuma region and continued to investigate.

On May 16, they released a statement to say that all contaminated lettuce from the Yuma region was last harvested on April 16.

In this instance, blockchain technology could have potentially stopped the contaminated harvesting sooner. Instead of receiving enough evidence after the last harvest date, the CDC could have found that information sooner with the near-immediate retrieval of information that blockchain technology provides.

But where do we lag the most in food illness outbreaks? Is the time businesses spend trying to determine where a shipment came from? Or is it more about the resources available to the CDC and the constraints of simply being human?

The first reported illness from this outbreak was on March 22 – 19 days before the outbreak was officially declared. And even when the CDC released their official statement on April 10, they were not sure of the cause. Romaine lettuce is not pegged as the culprit until April 13.

Collecting data to prove an outbreak takes time and is not necessarily something that can be resolved by blockchain. Take it one step further – can blockchain even help prevent the outbreak from happening in the first place?

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m excited about blockchain technology. I still love seeing all the new trials and applications of it. I’m just hesitant to put all my eggs in this trustless basket for now.

Blockchain for the Medical Industry? Maybe.

This morning TheNextWeb posted an article suggesting that “blockchainification” is just one more possibility looming in the future of medicine.

It is certainly possible – blockchain is the cool new kid that everyone wants at their birthday parties. But how will it serve the medical community?

Blockchain_Med_indiv-01

Making communication more efficient

This article immediately reminds me of an episode of the podcast The Impact, which explores the human consequences of United States policy-making. Their first season focused on health care policy, during which the host Sarah Kliff investigated why the industry is still so heavily dependent on fax machines.

In Barack Obama’s first presidential term, the government “spent upward of $30 billion encouraging American hospitals and doctor offices to switch from paper to electronic records.” It was massively successful, in the sense that nearly 85% of hospitals were using electronic medical records by 2015.

It was unsuccessful, however, in deterring dependence on fax machines: while hospitals now have digital records, they all use different software programs that don’t speak to each other. As a result, hospitals and offices still have to use the fax machine.

Businesses found an opportunity to monetize this digital revolution in the medical industry. Ultimately, the ease of sharing medical records is not in the interest of most companies (and hospitals) because it makes it easier for the patient (or consumer) to switch providers.

Blockchain_Med_indiv-02

More technology, more problems

Which brings me to my original concern with blockchain technology. It all sounds well and good to have this incorruptible digital ledger, but can it be read by any software? Or will everyone in the supply chain need to have the same program?

While it seems to be in everyone’s interest to exchange research and ideas, it is not necessarily a profitable business practice.

Another obstacle that “blockchainification” may face, according to TheNextWeb, is recently-implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It would seem, however, that blockchain technology may actually work in favor of GDPR because it has the potential to give data control to the patient, rather than locked in the hands of the healthcare provider.

There are still significant questions like this that need to be explored before blockchain is meaningfully implemented throughout industries.