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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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Dataportability, Traceability and Data Ownership - Part III

[Return to Part II]

The Value Proposition of Data Ownership

Thanks to Henry Story for stopping by to comment on the XML object examples offered in Part II.

"Yes, unique identifiers are very helpful. But numbers rarely uniquely identify anything. Replace your numbers above with URIs (Universal Resource Identifiers) and you have not only a proven system of unique IDs, you also have (especially with http URIs) a well understood way of dereferencing the information. Then you no longer need a specialised name server. This is what the web part of the semantic web is about [which I wrote about in the Sun Bablefish blog entitled hyperdata posted September 20, 2007]. You then move out of supply chains, into supply networks, which I wrote up in another blog [entitled Supply Networks posted April 19, 2007]." (emphasis added)

The end-game goal of the emerging Semantic Web is to interconnect data so that it becomes a ‘hyperdata’ machine. Nonetheless, as Story has previously propounded, there is more to it than technology. There is also the need for policies or other non-technological means that address “who should see what data, who should be able to copy that data, and what they should be able to do with it.”

For some people the Semantic Web will be a technological wonder to behold. Others will be scared stiff by it. Many will feel both awe and trepidation. But not to be forgotten is that people matter more than the Web, itself. A Semantic Web that people view as outside of their control will be a machine that can only become a shadow of its full potential because people, businesses and, yes, even governments will not fully participate.

Previously, in Banking on Granular Information Ownership I offered this.

"People are comfortable and familiar with monetary banks. That’s a good thing because without people willingly depositing their money into banks, there would be no banking system as we know it. Banks need access to people’s money into order to make profits. Without a healthy monetary banking system our economies would be comparatively dysfunctional, and our personal lives would be critically deficient in opportunities."

The same thing can be said about the emerging Semantic Web. People will need to be made comfortable and familiar with the Semantic Web. Without people willingly depositing their information to this new Web, it will fall far short of its inherent capacity for growth.

Moreover, the Semantic Web will need access to people’s information in order make profits, no matter what the business model is. The opportunities for the Semantic Web to enrich our economies and our personal lives will be diminished without ‘buy in’ by the people whom it is envisioned to serve. The value proposition of data ownership is that it provides the most acceptable technological and socio-political pathway for adoption by ordinary people of the emerging Semantic Web.

It is because people matter more than the Web that ‘specialized name servers’ will play a large role. Using the hypothetical domain name ‘’ I have added the following A-XML example to the continuum of examples begun in Part II. I have wrapped some of the following lines of code, and inserted spacing, for easier reading.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<PedigreeID UniquePointer =
" "/>

<ManufacturerID UniquePointer =
" "/>

<ProductSerialNumber UniquePointer =
" "/>

<ProductDescription UniquePointer =
" "/>

<ProductInfoToSupplyChain UniquePointer =
" "/>

<ProductInfoToGovtRegulator UniquePointer =
" "/>

<Permissions UniquePointer =
" "/>

<!-- Manufacturer information sharing permissions -->
<OtherData>Document Type Definitions</OtherData>

Combine a specialized name server with a centralized dictionary of uniquely identified (and standardized) data elements, a centralized registry of A-XML informational objects, an author-controlled permissions database, a distributed A-XML editor/reader and you have the essential components of what I call a supply chain ‘data bank’.

What does a data bank do? It depends on the supply chain, the social network or, as Henry Story has very neatly coined, the ‘supply network’. The white paper, Banking on Granular Information Ownership, covers much of this territory in a less technological manner with examples applicable to personal health records, food safety, product tracking, people tracking, and transactional tracking.

However, I want to add that - conceptually - the connatural, non-collaborative disposition of technological data ownership is a perfect compliment to the approach that Wikipedia has taken in fostering the collaborative authoring of encyclopedic entries. I say ‘conceptually’ because Wikipedia’s entries are collaborative though non-structured. But what if Wikipedia’s collaborative processes and methods for approving unstructured information were applied to structured information?

That is, what if the information account holders of a toy data bank were empowered to collaboratively add to their data bank’s dictionary of structured data elements so that all account holders may then draw upon them non-collaboratively for the A-XML objects each account holder authors and controls?

Consider that a supply chain member of the toy data bank wishes to add to our toy product pedigree example in Part II the language in red.

Product Pedigree Document
Manufacturer ID = Safe Toy Company
Product Serial Number = STOY991
Product Description = Painted Toy
Product Info To Supply Chain = 0% lead in paint
Product Info To Govt Regulator = Less than 600ppm of lead in paint by weight
Product Child Labor = No child labor used

The supply chain participant, using the toy data bank’s XML editor, authors a draft of the following XML data object  …

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<ToyProductChildLabor>No child labor used</ToyProductChildLabor>

… that - if adopted by the toy data bank – will be deposited into a standardized toy data bank ‘dictionary’ of XML structured data elements. These would then be available for A-XML authoring by any toy supply chain participant who is a member of the toy data bank. Again, I have wrapped some of the following lines of code, etc., for easier reading.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<ToyProductChildLabor UniquePointer =
" "/>


And taking the ‘data bank’ analogy one step further. Let’s say that the adoption of the ‘Product Child Labor’ data element by the toy data bank involves the alternative approval of a central ‘product data bank’ overseeing a larger standardized ‘dictionary’ applicable to products of all kinds (e.g., toys, pharmaceuticals, livestock, food, etc.).

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<AnyProductChildLabor UniquePointer =
" "/>


In the world of supply chains, a likely candidate for such a central ‘any product data bank’ would be EPCglobal, the private, standards setting consortium governed by very large organizations like Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard, DHL, Dow Chemical Company, Lockheed Martin, Novartis Pharma AG, Johnson & Johnson, Sony Corporation and Proctor & Gamble. EPCglobal is architecting essential, core services for tracking physical products identified by unique electronic product codes (including RFID tags) across and within enterprise systems controlled by large organizations.

The crux of this multi-entry blog is that data ownership – that is, technological data ownership – paradoxically provides a non-technological ‘something more’ that will be a necessary ingredient to the emerging Semantic Web. It will do so by empowering supply chain participants with non-collaborative authoring of granular, structured informational objects that may remain within the visibility and control of the author even as they are shared within a complex supply chain.

And with that, I think I have pretty much all the pieces I need for a final Part IV.

[continued in Part IV]

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