A protocol for communication between supply-chain stakeholders
Solution name: GIN (global inventory network) is based on GIP (global inventory protocol)
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A supply chain is an ecosystem. This ecosystem is just a group of interested parties who are primarily symbiotically related to one another. Any symbiotic relationship can only flourish when participants can provide value to each other. In the entirety of supply chain stakeholders exchange goods, money and data with each other, where exchange money is standardized which happens from bank to another bank, exchange goods happen through a logistic layer. However, the process of exchanging data is not resilient, robust because there is a lack of standardization due to that the flow of data does not happen efficiently. It is a well known fact that data is new oil, it can transform the economy, and can bring transparency if relevant parties can get access to data at the right time. Therefore, we are proposing to build a network that can facilitate the communications between the stakeholders. So, one stakeholder can establish a connection with another stakeholders in that network and they can start exchanging data, just like how telephone communication works. Our solution aims to eliminate the solution for its roots.
“Node” refers to each stakeholder (i.e., manufacturer, distributor, retailer, etc.).
"Tools" refer to software (i.e., billing, logistics, etc.) used by stakeholders in their daily business operations.
"A Packet of Data" refers to data (for example, the number of items sold, the location where the item was sold, and so on) that is generated and logged physically on paper or digitally on computers while using tools.
Brands employ a variety of techniques and methods to assist consumers in identifying authentic products. However, there is currently no defined protocol (industry wise) to follow so that consumers, law-enforcement agencies, or relevant parties can differentiate authentic products from fakes. Counterfeiters have frequently demonstrated that they can easily circumvent those methodologies because they have access to all the technologies used by the original manufacturers. This makes it quite simple for counterfeiters to infiltrate the market and fill it with their products. This is why we can't stop counterfeiting from the roots. Furthermore, a single authority cannot deal with it alone. Therefore, if we really want to reduce counterfeiting or mitigate its impact, we must give every human being on the planet the ability to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit goods.
So, why didn’t stakeholders in a given industry so far agree upon a protocol? The fundamental reason behind this is that the packages of data which get generated remain trapped within the boundaries of such tools. This is because tools are not designed to be interoperable with other tools, more often than not, these tools are built by different companies to cater to the needs of a specific stakeholder. Due to that, it is a challenge for stakeholders to find ways to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate with each other in real time as each tool is built upon a different architecture pattern, which makes them function in isolation only, but the amount of data they generate is enormous. But, if this data could be chained together, it could help consumers, law-enforcement agencies, and relevant parties (retailers, distributors, logistic providers) circumvent counterfeiting goods in an easily because now they will get full visibility about product from its origin to till date through how many hands it have went through. Which is why we believe that now, in the present age we are living today, there is a need to build a global network that can facilitate communication between the stakeholders.
main figure 1: Each color represents different tools which the stakeholder uses. Transaction data remains trapped within the boundaries of that tool.
Our solution is based on the philosophy of elimination by differentiating between authentic and counterfeiting goods. So, our solution is based on 3 fronts: 1. A global network should be built, which facilitates seamless exchange of data between stakeholders using the tools that have been certificated by the network authority. This way stakeholders can choose the correct tool to use. Later we will discuss the building blocks of this network and its working. 2. A new policy framework should be pushed which should state that “consumers have the right to visually see the whole life cycle of a product from its origin to till date” that means how many hands (within the chain of supply) that goods have gone through. As of now, consumers get product info such where that product was manufactured, which raw-material being used, etc via labels/stickers which is being put on that product other than that there is no way for consumers to validate authenticity because labels/stickers can not be trusted as a counterfeiter can easily duplicate it. So, later we will point how this policy push can complement the rapid adoption of the global network we point to. 3. We can utilize existing consumer campaigns to bring awareness about “how following certain steps consumers differentiate between fake and real products”._So, they can also feel assured that the products they are buying are legitimate and they are not in-directly funding counterfeiters or any illegal activity.
Underlying principles of Global Network.
The first principal is assigning a unique identity to each stakeholder within that network. This will give the network property to function as P2P(Peer to Peer). This way a participant can initialize a procedure call which will send requests to previous stakeholder which then call its previous predecessor and this continue till original manufacturer doesn’t gets identified which then evaluate that request to check if any such product is manufactured by them or not and if responds came back and that means product is verified, that give indication to consumer that they can assure that product is authentic because original manufacturer have responded back.
Before going into technical details, we want to point out there could be many questions-and-answers in this paper because it’s not meant to be techinical that deserves its own technical paper. We will keep it brief, but happy to answer any question and open to improvements.
How do we construct a unique identity to each stakeholder?
I want to take your attention to the figure on the above. This figure shows that stakeholders can participate in the network using tools which have been certified as interoperable. That means stakeholders have created accounts on certified tools. Each certified tool will be provided with a unique extension ID which can.
Be added as a suffix to user ID (that is unique with that tool boundaries). Combining User ID + Tool-ID assure that stakeholder identity is unique across the network. Now, question what if one of the stakeholders uses two or more tools for their business operation?.
Above figure shows that when stakeholders use n number of tools then they have managed n number of identities.
So, who can initialize a procedure call and how?
Anyone (i.e. consumer, retailer, distributor, inforce agency) can initialize it using the certified Apps simply by scanning the QR that is on that product.
How does procedure calls work?
So, here is the second standard that has to be adopted to make this network more resilient. This can be used for tagging each product with a unique id, that can be represented as a QR code on labels because it simply allows to store more data than Barcode.
The QR will consist of two layers, the first layer which represents the basic product info (which Barcode stores) such as pricing, raw-material used for composition, etc. The second layer represents the authenticity of that QR itself such as geo location where QR was printed, timing when QR was created, signature of that software which was used to create this QR. To trigger the procedure call back, the user can scan the QR, let's say using Amazon App ( which decoded QR) sent to the AWS server. Then AWS sends a request to its predecessor from where the seller has procure the product. Then that tool calls its predecessor tool till the request finally reaches the relevant manufacturer.
main figure 2: This diagram represents how this network can function, it shows that DATA will be decentralized. So, that means the data is stored by the software tool which users choose to use for their day to day business.
What are the strengths of your solution? What differentiates it from others?
The goal of this solution is to create a standardization, which can be adopted by enforcement authority, business organization, and consumers. As it is a P2P connection it is assured that data is only exchanged between these two parties ( two servers of two independent platforms) and the network can't have access to data as data is encrypted and can be decrypted by the stakeholders who have keys. Transition to this standardization could be easier because it doesn't require fundamental changes in how things work but, just all stakeholders simply agreeing on protocol for commutation between themselves.
What are the constraints of this network? How do new policy pushes and investment on awareness campaigns can help complement the rapid adoption of this network?
One of the core constraints of this is adaptation, because the fundamental goal of this solution is to eradicate counterfeiting from its root authority. So, an existing organization such as WTO has to onboarding countries, so that change can be brought everywhere simultaneously, so the solution can be effective as this act is a network, so the more participants join the more effective it will be. And so we need that push from policies that encourage consumer centric companies to adopt it. Also issuing guidelines for consumers to follow certain steps to differentiate between fake and real simply by scanning the app. This will make consumer centric companies look for solutions on how they can enable consumers to feel empowered by helping them see the whole life cycle of that product.
What is the impact of your solution? What metrics could be used to measure the impact of your solution?
Volume of transaction would be the right metric to evaluate the impact. Because the more transactions happen through that means more stakeholders are using and more goods are being tagged with unique id. That means more eyes are at work to differentiate between fake or real. Even if one fake product is identified it can easily help trace back other fake goods and eliminate it from the supply chain.
As this solution simply proposes communication protocol between stakeholders, that means stakeholders can be anyone which means independent networks could be created for respective domains (i.e, retail, pharmaceutical, electronic, fashion etc.). To successfully build a network out of protocol there will be investment required. It comes in two types: one time cost that requires to shift existing infrastructure to new standardization, second one is maintenance cost for infrastructure ( running server, need staff to maintain infrastructure).
One time cost will be very minimal because, no one will have to spend, instead each existing company can just improve their existing infrastructure so that it can receive and the user of that platform can initialize communication with another stakeholder using another platform. The exact amount depends on no. of users companies serve. Secondly, the infrastructure maintenance cost could be charged from companies depending on the number of requests that pass through the network. Just like how ICANN receives funds when a new namespace is registered, similarly it can be companies have to pay annual renewal fees that can help keep running network infrastructure sustainably. I also believe it would be best if any existing organization such as WHO or relevant body in respective countries can be incharge because this network requires involvement from every stakeholder. As these organizations have been there since long, they have well reached many stakeholders that can help rapid adoption.
It is really hard to even predict a commutative amount, so I am simply guessing that ~2% of the ~1$ trillion(counterfeiting problem), which is $20 billion globally combining investment needed from every stakeholder on this planet,would be 1 time. Now, maintenance the cost could be ~$10 billion which is miniscule relative to the damages happening due to counterfeiting because communication is P2P in this network after connection is established between two independent servers. I want to end two quotes to represent the essence of this solution.
“Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.” -Sallust
“Tech companies don't exist in a bubble; they draw from and feed into a larger community. Ideally, the relationship is symbiotic.” -Ryan Holmes