Blockchain Proof of Concept, Medical Cannabis Seed to Sale Tracking

Industry: Government, Medicinal Cannabis

Overview: Utilize a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) or Blockchain Solution to create a trusted, immutable record for confirming registration, licensing, certification, credentialing, and payment processing. Also includes a tracking system component for chain of custody, supply chain management, and inventory management.

Challenge: Within the highly regulated medical cannabis industry there was a need for a secure solution that offered immutability, redundancy, transaction management, and provenance in an easy to use format that insured trust.

Solutions: Utilize DLT network through a web application interface.

Technologies: Hedera Hashgraph, Cross-platform mobile applications

 

Summary:

The Medicinal and Recreational Cannabis industries are currently in early stages of growth. There are still several states that don’t offer medical cannabis, and even fewer offer access to recreational cannabis. As the highly regulated industry grows there is an increasing demand for trusted technology solutions that can answer the need for end to end tracking throughout the supply chain and purchasing process with proven trust and improved auditability.

Throughout its cycle of cultivation, extraction, testing, distribution and retail, cannabis must be tracked and documented at each step, and able to be easily audited by regulatory agencies. While many existing legacy technologies may have this capability, distributed ledgers have those features inherently, so DLT was chosen as the ideal technology behind the platform.

Some DLT platforms, most notably Blockchain, still have some technical shortcomings such as scalability and transaction speed. For this reason we turned to Hedera Hashgraph’s recently launched public network. Hedera’s platform offers many similar features including the same trust and immutability that other Blockchain Platforms can offer, but with vastly superior speed, efficiency, and scalability.

The solution includes an immutable data store (the Ledger) that cryptographically secures, holds and manages Credentials of Patients, Pharmacy/Retail Centers, and Cultivators – in alignment with the verification of Regulators. Smart Contracts are able to govern and validate transactions between all actors in the system, at every junction between the parties. In addition, the solution used the same technical capabilities to track and audit Product Inventory, Transformation, and Destruction activities. There was also an option to use a cryptocurrency as a payment mechanism, which is an important aspect of the system. It enables regulators to transparently collect applicable taxes at the time the transaction is executed, and has the potential to ease the difficulties that legal marijuana businesses encounter due to existing banking regulations.

Cannabis Tracking – Customer Purchase Example Walkthrough

Download the Cannabis Tracking Design Walkthrough PDF

Patient Benefit Management System and Data Warehouse

Industry: Healthcare/Health Insurance

Overview: A Pharmacy Benefit Management company that helps organizations provide lower cost prescription drugs to their employees was being weighed down by manual processes that have failed to scale with the explosive growth their business has experienced.

Challenge: The organization utilizes many manual, spreadsheet-based processes alongside a third-party Salesforce based system to provide their service to clients. With existing manual processes they were unable to meet increased demand to quickly scale operations.

Solutions: Our solution was to build a data warehouse, automated processes, and an easily accessible web application to replace cumbersome processes. By the end of the initial project our team also provided a plan to continue to improve operations and processes through future upgrades, and modifications.

Technologies: MS SQL Server, Node js, Angular

 

Summary:  Our customer, a Pharmacy Benefits Management organization, helps its customers offer lower prescription drug prices for medications not typically covered by traditional health insurance offerings. Their business had begun to grow rapidly, and it became clear that they couldn’t rely on the spreadsheets and manual processes they had put in place as they scaled up to meet demand. At the same time, they wanted to decrease their reliance on the third-party application they used to manage benefits.

TxMQ helped our customer build a data warehouse to store critical information about client companies, their enrolled employees, and their prescription drug claims. Microsoft SQL Server was chosen as the database technology to fit in with the customer’s Microsoft-centric environment.

In initial development for the project we automated processes to ingest data from flat files and the third-party Salesforce application to build a solid base on which to build scalable, automated replacements for existing manual processes. Now a company agent can easily input, access, and report information through a web application that can quickly generate lists of covered medications, enable exception processing, invoice customers, and support reporting.

The implementation enabled the company to scale more quickly to meet client demand and have grown both it’s client base and revenue more than it ever could have with the legacy solution. Though the initial project has made huge advances in capabilities, the overall modernization effort is ongoing and the client continues to rely on TxMQ as a trusted partner to enable them to continue to grow their business.

Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Track and Trace Proof-of-Concept

Industry: Medical Prescription Manufacturing, Shipping and Logistics

Overview: Utilize Blockchain to create a trusted, immutable record for tracking shipments of highly regulated substances such as opioids.

Challenge: Tracking shipments of highly regulated products is often cumbersome with many parties involved in manual processes which opens the process up to a high potential for inaccuracy or fraud.

Solutions: Utilize a distributed ledger, on a Swirlds Hashgraph network to more accurately track shipments of highly regulated substances.

Technologies: Swirlds Hashgraph

 

Summary:

Within the pharmaceutical supply chain, regulatory compliance can place a massive burden on all parties. Many existing supply chains utilize manual processes that can drastically increase the possibility of manual errors and the potential for fraud. Since the introduction of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology, Shipping, Logistics, and Supply Chain tracking have become one of the most popular use cases.

This proof of concept we were able to demonstrate that Blockchain technology is an ideal solution for tracking and compliance. Within the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain, Blockchain can be used to create more transparency throughout the process, in addition to an immutable record to ensure safety requirements and regulations are being met and are in compliance. It was built as a demonstration for applying Swirlds Hashgraph technology to the regulated supply chain space.

UX Examples of Reports from Solution

DLT Solution for Medical Credentialing Tracking

Industry: Healthcare

Overview: The Customer wanted to integrate DLT into their existing medical credentials management platform in order to enhance trust in the information and reduce the amount of time required to verify credentials.

Challenge: Verifying medical credentialing is a very lengthy process in a highly regulated industry. In most cases the process can take weeks or even months to verify credentials, and many times has to be redone for verification purposes in each instance, such as medical professionals taking on other work-as is common in the field.

Solutions: Using the customer’s existing Salesforce application, TxMQ connected it to a distributed ledger network via REST API. The system includes an innovative mechanism for storing credential documents securely, with high availability.

Technologies: Salesforce, Swirlds Hashgraph, Java 8, CouchDB

 

Summary:

A Healthcare Practice Management organization wanted to add distributed ledger technology to their existing credential management platform. The client was looking for a way to shorten the lengthy credential verification process by enhancing trust in the credentials stored on the platform, while ensuring they were stored in a secure, tamper proof environment to avoid fraud and legal issues for their organization and clients.

A DLT solution quickly became the leading technology choice to underpin the solution and deliver the desired result. The Healthcare Practice Management organization had evaluated several blockchain-based platforms and found that they didn’t quite offer the needed stability, scalability, and high availability that was needed. For that reason they chose to utilize the technology from Swirlds, which uses Hashgraph with a unique Asynchronous Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus mechanism that is built into a private network.

Blockchain Proof of Concept for Helios Energia, a Real Estate Investment Firm

Industry: Financial Services, Real Estate

Overview: Our client was looking to build a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the tokenization of ownership of real estate, and ability to fractionalize said ownership of real property.

Challenge: Helios Energia, a Real Estate Investment Firm was exploring the idea of creating an application that demonstrated the ability to fractionalize ownership of real estate to lower the barrier of entry for investments.

Solutions: Utilize a Blockchain network to tokenize property within a portfolio so ownership can be easily verified, and fractionalized between several parties.

Technologies: Angular, Iconic, Hyperledger Fabric and Composer, Node JS, IBM Cloud Kubernetes container

 

Summary:

Helios Energia, a Real Estate Investment Firm approached TxMQ with an idea to fractionalize property ownership of an investment portfolio to lower the barrier of entry for potential investors. The idea is very similar to crowdfunding a product or service, but also creates an opportunity for real estate ownership for those who may not have the immediate capital or knowledge to invest on their own.

When the Helios team came to TxMQ, immediately it was identified that Blockchain would be a perfect match for their needs. This particular project required the property asset to be digitally tokenized so that ownership could be shared and verified in a secure trustless environment. The ability to tokenize assets is one of the main selling points for Blockchain adoption, and there are many new use cases that have been realized due to this unique feature.

In this case we delivered a Proof-of-Concept that conceptually showed it was possible to tokenize assets on a Blockchain which opened up the opportunity to fractionalize these assets for ownership. TxMQ delivered a Kubernetes containerized application, available on mobile UX interface for ease of management, and visibility.

Screen Shots, and UX examples for Proof of Concept:

Red Hat Ansible Automation Workshop

Red Hat Ansible Workshop

Red Hat Ansible Automation helps IT Teams become a better partner to lines of business. It provides agility, increases productivity, and helps you get to market faster. With Ansible Automation you can cut the cost of production and focus on what matters most.

Red Hat’s Automation Platform provides simple, agent-less IT automation technology. Improve current processes and provide a single language for DevOps practices across the organization.

If you’d like to learn more about Red Hat Ansible, take a moment to view the video below from a recent workshop that we held on Ansible Automation. If you’re interested in being included in further workshops please drop us a note below through the contact form and we’ll be sure to include you on our Webinar Communications list. Enjoy!

 

Red Hat Ansible Workshop Presented by TxMQ

 

How Bank IT Leaders Can Get out of Reactive Mode (and Start Preparing for Tomorrow)

I spend a lot of time talking to IT professionals in banks across the US and Canada. Some large and global, others regional. As the CEO of a technology consultancy that works with financial institutions of all sizes, having varied conversations with our clients is a big part of my job. And I can tell you that almost every single one of them says the same thing: I’m so busy reacting to day-to-day issues that I just don’t have time to really plan for the future.
In other words, they’re always in a reactive mode as they deal with issues that range from minor (slow transaction processing) to major (catastrophic security breaches). But while playing whack-a-mole is critical to any bank, even a small shift in priorities can give CIOs and their teams the room to get ready for tomorrow rather than just focusing on today.

How to get out of reactive mode

Every bank technology person intuitively knows all this, of course, but it’s almost impossible for most to carve out the time to do any real planning. What they need are some ways to break the cycle. To that end, here are just a few suggestions for IT leaders, based on my experiences with bank IT organizations, to get out of reactive mode and start preparing for tomorrow.

Have a clear vision

A clear vision is important in all organizations. Knowing what we’re all marching towards not only helps keep teams focused and unified, but also ensures high morale and a sense of teamwork. The day-to-day menial tasks mean a lot more when understood in the context of the overall goal.

Break projects into smaller projects

As a runner, I’ve participated in my share of marathons, and what I can say is that I’ve never started one only to tell myself, “Okay, just 26.2 miles to go!” Rather, like most runners, I break the race down into digestible (and mentally palatable!) chunks. It starts with a 1 mile run. Then I work up to a 10k (about 6 miles), and so on, until I reach the final 5k.

Analogously, I’ve seen successful teams in large organizations do amazing things just by breaking huge, company-shifting tasks into smaller projects — smaller chunks that everyone can understand, get behind, and see the end of. Maybe it’s a three-week assessment to kick off a six-month work effort. Or maybe it’s a small development proof of concept before launching a huge software redeployment initiative slated to last months. Whatever the project, making things smaller allows people to enjoy the little successes, and helps keep teams focused.

Get buy-in from company leadership

IT leaders are constantly going to management asking for more money to fund their projects and operations. And a lot of times, management doesn’t want to give it to them. It’s a frustrating situation for both parties, to be sure, but consider that one of the reasons management might be so reluctant to divert even more money to IT is you have nothing to show them for all the cash they’ve put into it previously. In their minds, they keep giving you more money, but nothing really changes. You’re still putting out fires and playing whack-a-mole.

If, on the other hand, you’re able to show them a project that will ultimately improve operations (or improve the customer experience, or whatever your goal is) they’ll be a lot more likely to agree. As an IT leader, it’s your job to seek out these projects and bring them to business leaders’ attention.

Implement DevOps methodology

I find a lot of financial institutions are still stuck in the old ways of managing their application lifecycles. They tend to follow an approach — the so-called “waterfall” model — that’s horribly outdated. The waterfall model for building software essentially involves breaking down projects into sequential, linear phases. Each phase depends on the deliverables of the previous phase to begin work. While it sounds straightforward enough, the flaw with the waterfall model is that it doesn’t reflect the way software is actually used by employees and customers in the real world. The reality is, requirements and expectations change even as the application is being built, and a rigid methodology like the waterfall model lacks the responsiveness that’s required in today’s business environment.

To overcome these flaws, we recommend a DevOps methodology. DevOps combines software development with IT operations to shorten application development lifecycles and provide continuous delivery. In essence, DevOps practitioners work to increase communication between software development teams and IT teams, automating those communication processes wherever possible. This collaborative approach allows IT teams to get exactly what they need from development teams, faster, to do their job better. “Fail fast, fail often” is a common mantra. Encourage the failure, learn from it, and then iterate to improve.

DevOps is obviously a radical shift from the way many bank IT professionals are used to making and using enterprise software, and to really implement it right, you need someone well-versed in the practice. But implemented correctly, it has the capacity to kickstart an IT organization that’s stuck in a rut.

Getting ahead

As an IT consultant, I’ve heard all the answers in the book for why your organization can’t seem to get ahead of the day-to-day. But these excuses are just that: excuses. If you’re an IT leader, by definition you have the power to change your organization. You just need to exercise it effectively.

Remember: our world of technology has three pillars: people, process, and technology. No stool stands on two legs, nor does IT. Understand these three complementary components, and you’re well on your way to transforming your organization.

IBM MQ v8.x End of Support Options

Are you still running IBM MQ v8.0.x (or alternately, an even earlier build)?  

IBM has announced as of April 30th, 2020 it will end of support for IBM MQ v8.0.x. If you are still using that version it’s recommended that you upgrade to v9.1 to avoid any potential security issues that may occur in earlier, unsupported versions of MQ. 
MQ v9.1 Highlights: 

  • IBM MQ Console
  • The administrative REST API
  • The messaging REST API
  • Improvements in error logging 
  • Connectivity to Salesforce with IBM MQ Bridge to Salesforce
  • Connectivity to Blockchain 

What are your plans for IBM MQ?

I plan to upgrade:
It’s never too late to start planning your upgrade and upgrading to IBM MQ’s newest v9.1 is a great option. There are great new features that help you manage costs better, improve efficiency, and manageability. 
Take a closer look here at some of the enhancements.  
If you are still considering your plans, now’s a great time to speak with our SME Integration Upgrade Team. Reach out to us today to set up a free Discovery Session or contact us directly for any questions

I would like to continue to use v8.0.x (or earlier versions):

It’s ok if you’re not ready for the newest version of MQ just yet. However, it’s important to remember that without support you may not be protected against avoidable security risks and additional support costs. IBM does offer Extended Premium support but be prepared, that option will be very expensive. 
Alternatively, as an IBM Business Partner TxMQ offers expert support options. As a business partner, we have highly specialized skills in IBM software. We can help guide you through issues that may arise at a fraction of the cost with the added benefit of flexibility in services. Check out more on TxMQ’s Extended Support Page. (https://www.txmq.com/end-life-software-support/)

I will support it internally: 

If you have an amazing internal team inhouse, odds are they don’t have much time to spare. Putting the gravity of a big project on your internal team can cut into their productivity. For many organizations, this will limit a team’s ability to focus on innovation and improving customer experience. This will make your competitors happy but your customers and clients definitely won’t be. 
Utilizing a trusted partner like TxMQ can help cut costs and give back some time to your internal team to focus on improvements and not just break/fix maintenance. Reach out to our team and learn how we can help maintain your existing legacy applications and platforms so your star team can focus on innovation again. Reach out and ask how we can help today. 

I don’t know, I still need help!

Reach out to TxMQ today and schedule a free Discovery Session to learn what your best options are! TxMQ.com/Contact/

John Carr Set to Present at IBM’s 2020 Integration Tech Conference

Presentation

One of the Best Events of the year is just around the corner!
IBM’s 2020 Integration Technical Conference is scheduled to be held on March 16th through the 19th this year, at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas, TX.

What is the Integration Technical Conference? 

The Integration Technical Conference was started in 2019 as a replacement for a previously popular MQ and Integration focused Technical Conference known as MQTC. 
Last year’s inaugural Integration Tech Conference was one of the most highly acclaimed conferences of the year. It was praised for having a strong technical focus, great presentations, and in-depth training opportunities, and not just being another sales conference. 
IBM is working even harder this year to improve on last year’s conference and they have officially confirmed the Partners and Subject Matter Experts that have been chosen to present. 

We are proud to announce TxMQ’s very own John Carr, a Sr. Integration Architect, has been selected to present “Practical IBM MQ Implementations for the Cloud: A Journey of DevOps from an IBM MQ admin”. You may have already caught some of John’s previous presentations including “MQ Upgrade Best Practices” last year at the 2019 conference or through one of our webinars (which you can view here).

This year John will be discussing migrating your IBM MQ network from on-prem to the cloud. For those already undertaking their own modernization efforts, this will be a great topic for discussion. The session will walk through a case where TxMQ helped a Mortgage Services organization migrate their entire self-managed data center into the public cloud. You can learn more from the breakdown of the session abstracts here

If you’re lucky enough to attend your days are going to be full, so plan accordingly! This year John’s presentation will be on Day 3, Wednesday, March 18th at 9:50 AM, and on Thursday, March 19th at 4:40 PM. Both will be held in Salon F/G at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel. Lock it into your calendar so you don’t miss it! 

If you are attending don’t forget to stop by the TxMQ booth for some helpful guides, giveaways, and prizes. Also, please drop us a note at info@txmq.com or give us a call (716.636.0070) to connect at the conference, we’d love to hear from you.

Have a great time! We’ll see you there.

Digital Transformation: When It Makes Sense and When It Doesn’t

TxMQ DIgital Transformation

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about digital transformation, nor is it likely to be the last.
Digital transformation has become a “must use” catchphrase for investor and analyst briefings and annual reports. Heaven help the foolish Fortune 500 company that fails to use the buzzword in their quarterly briefing. It’s the “keto diet” of the technology world.
It’s a popular term, but what does digital transformation really mean? 

Legacy debt. 

In a world of enterprises that have been around for longer than a few years, there is significant investment in legacy processes and technical systems (together what we like to call legacy debt) that can inhibit rapid decision making.  This is a combination of not just core systems, but also decades-old processes and decision-making cycles…bureaucracy in other words.
So why do we care about rapid decision making? Simply put, in years past, decisions were less consumer-driven and more company-driven, or dare I say it, focus-group driven. Companies could afford to take their time making decisions because no one expected overnight change. Good things used to take a long time. 

We now live in a world where consumers demand rapid change and improvement to not just technology, but also processes. On a basic level, this makes sense. After all, who hasn’t had enough of poorly designed AI-driven, voice-activated phone trees when we just want to ask the pharmacist a question about our prescription refill? 

Too often, however, legacy debt leads to rapid implementations to meet customer demands – often with unintended (and catastrophic) consequences.  Often this is the result of rapid, poorly built (or bought) point solutions. This is where disruptors (aka startup companies) often pop up with quick, neat, point solutions of their own to solve a specific problem: a better AI-driven phone solution, a cuter user interface for web banking, sometimes even a new business model entirely. Your CIO sees this in an article or at a conference and wonders, “why can’t we build this stuff in-house?”

Chasing the latest greatest feature set is not digital transformation. Rather, digital transformation begins with recognizing that legacy debt must be considered when evaluating what needs changing, then figuring out how to bring about said change, and how to enable future rapid decision making. If legacy systems and processes are so rigid or outdated that a company cannot implement change quickly enough to stay competitive, then, by all means, rapid external help must be sought. Things must change.

However, in many cases what passes for transformation is really just evolution. Legacy systems, while sometimes truly needing a redo, do not always need to be tossed away overnight in favor of the hottest new app. Rather, they need to be continually evaluated for better integration or modernization options.  Usually by better exposing back end systems. Transformation is just another word for solving a problem that needs solving, not introducing a shiny object no one has asked for. Do our systems and processes, both new and old, allow us to operate as nimbly as we must, to continue to grow, thrive and meet our customer demands today and tomorrow?

The Steve Jobs effect

Steve Jobs once famously stated (it’s captured on video, so apparently it really happened), when asked why he wasn’t running focus groups to evaluate the iPod, “How would people know if they need it, love it or want it if I haven’t invented it yet?”

Many corporate decision-makers think they are capable of emulating Steve Jobs. Dare I say it, they are not, nor are most people. Innovating in a vacuum is a very tricky business. It’s best to let the market and our customers drive innovation decisions. Certainly, I advocate for healthy investment in research and development, yet too often innovation-minus-customers equals wasted dollars. Unless one is funding R&D for its own sake, certainly a worthy cause, one needs some relative measure of the value and outcomes around these efforts. Which usually translates to marketability and ultimately profits.

Measurement

Perhaps the most often forgotten reality of our technology investments is understanding what the end goal, or end-state, is, and measuring whether or not we accomplished what we set out to do. Identifying a problem and setting a budget to solve that problem makes sense. But failing to measure the effectiveness after the fact is a lost opportunity. Just getting to the end goal isn’t enough, if in the end the problem we sought to solve remains. Or worse yet we created other more onerous unintended consequences.

Digital transformation isn’t about buzzwords or “moving faster” or outpacing the competition. It’s all of that, and none of that at the same time. It’s having IT processes and systems that allow a firm to react to customer-driven needs and wants, in a measured, appropriate, and timely way. And yes, occasionally to try to innovate toward anticipated future needs.
Technology is just the set of tools we use to solve problems.

Does it answer the business case?

“IT” is never — or at least shouldn’t be — an end-in-itself: it must always answer to the business case. What I’ve been describing here is an approach to IT that treats technology as a means to an end. Call it “digital transformation,” call it whatever you want — I have no use for buzz words. If market research informs you that customers need faster web applications, or employees tell you they need more data integration, then it’s IT’s job to make it happen. The point is that none of that necessitates ripping and replacing your incumbent solution. 

IT leaders who chase trends or always want the latest platform just for the sake of being cool are wasting money, plain and simple. Instead, IT leaders must recognize legacy debt as the investment it is. In my experience, if you plug this into the decision-making calculus, you’ll find that the infrastructure you already have can do a lot more than you might think. Leverage your legacy debt, and you’ll not only save time delivering new products or services, but you’ll also minimize business interruption — and reduce risk in the process. 

That’s the kind of digital transformation I can get behind.