McLeod UC2018: digitally architecting "extreme connectivity"

 McLeod’s new HQ2 building in Birmingham.  (Photo: McLeod)

McLeod’s new HQ2 building in Birmingham. (Photo: McLeod)

One of McLeod’s strongly held philosophies is to offer their customers an open environment with “extreme connectivity” as a priority. They want to put customers in a position to take advantage of many choices new solutions in their technology architecture.

There are many verticals in the markets they serve, and in few cases does a one-size-fits-all solution apply. With the explosion in tech over the past few years in the logistics and transportation industry, it’s increasingly urgent to provide real solutions with systems integration capabilities that let drivers, carriers, managers, and brokers tap into innovation and information. Our customers get to choose the best products in the market for their requirements, because of the open platform we have created.

McLeod Software has actively expanded the capabilities and products from their Certified Integration Partners. They accomplish this by supplying and supporting third party partner solution integrations that are typically implemented using their Application Program Interface, or API, for LoadMaster and PowerBroker. In the past year alone, they have added 25 new off-the-shelf integration solutions with partners, including mobile communications, trailer tracking, payment processing systems, among other things.

Currently McLeod has supported integration solutions for products and services from 121 different companies, with 9 more companies in the development process. All of these integration solutions work with the same, single platform offering.

The McLeod APIs allow two-way access into the LoadMaster and PowerBroker systems and data, while utilizing the same data validations and business rules that are inherent within the systems. This makes building a stable, reliable, and sustainable integration system practical.

Furthermore, with the McLeod API module, customers are able to create their own tactical applications using the full suite of available API services. This API capability set allows McLeod customers, with the right technical expertise, to safely and efficiently develop their own external applications for mobile devices, web sites, or their very own “secret sauce” applications that create unique and proprietary advantages for their company. At the same time, they remain free to take advantage of upgrades to their system without any penalty or loss of capability.

McLeod customers have been using this API facility to accomplish just that for several years now. We see an increasing number of sophisticated integrations our customers have done on their own using our standard APIs.

Technically speaking, the McLeod API is based on a web services approach to building interfaces. The API uses a Representational State Transfer (REST) model for accessing a set of resources through a fixed set of operations.

McLeod also co-founded the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) with one goal in mind: to help the transportation industry work toward a set of standards that will make it easier and less costly for carriers and brokers to play the important role needed in shipper supply chains that will employ blockchain technology. We realized that without standards, the adoption of blockchain technology could lead to diverse integration requirements that would impose a huge cost and overhead burden on our customers, without necessarily adding a lot of value for any of the parties involved.

BiTA has had a phenomenal first year. The alliance went from 7 initial members to over 470 current members and 2,800 applicants. It is now the largest blockchain consortium in the world. The diverse membership of BiTA portends well for its ability to address all aspects of this standards opportunity.

•    35% of the members are asset based carriers (truck, rail, air, ocean, intermodal) 


•    30% are non-asset based logistics and 3PL companies 


•    20% are technology providers, including other TMS providers, telematics providers, and other 
technology products 


•    5% are shippers 


•    10% are in other categories, including banks, law firms, CPA’s or consultants, and other service 
providers 
BiTA is well down the road on organizing and performing the important work with its standards committees. These include Data Formats, Interoperability, Finance, & Technical Compliance. The Data Formats technology committee has formed two working groups, Location Component and Tracking Document Working Groups. The first will look at location data to determine what data points need to be included in a standard specification. The second will explore documents like BOL and POD in order to identify the key data points needed for a standard specification. There are also 5 BiTA study groups 


BiTA members also explore business applications of blockchain as it relates to Risk Management, Operations & Asset Utilization, Driver Marketplace, Supply Chain, and Finance & Business Administration. McLeod also participates as a board member of BiTA, and with McLeod team members on multiple BiTA committees. We are optimistic that our work within BiTA will contribute to helping our customers play their part in the blockchain-enabled world.

Ken Craig says the mission to educate people about blockchain remains important. It’s a complex technology, and people are quick to label it as something that it really isn’t. Still others, by contrast, think it’s a solution when it’s not even necessary. There’s plenty of ways to use your data that doesn’t need to be immutable and encrypted, for instance. “It’s perfect for food traceability and pharmaceuticals,” he adds.

Whether it’s working on open-source protocols for blockchain solutions, or developing programs for open integrating for software solutions up and down the supply chain, McLeod’s User Conference 2018 showcases some of the finest and most elegant tech solutions available today.