MW Demo Day Round 3: blockchain, intermodal and still some paper out there

Here’s what happened at the third of four presentations at the Demo Day activities as part of Marketwaves 18 near Dallas.


Orbcomm demonstrated the latest version of its FleetManager analytics program. Presented by vice president of North American Sales Chris McDonald and pre-sales engineer Chris Corlee, the demonstration of the front end portal of the system showed the numerous features of FleetManager. The cloud-based analytics program can report on a wide variety of standard data, such as the temperature of a refrigerated trailer to the “breadcrumb trail” of where a truck has been and various data connected with that journey. But it also has the ability to analyze such things as whether a driver is spending too much time in a less-appropriate gear to how long it takes a driver to go from throttle to brake. In its collateral material, ORBCOMM said the use of its software is resulting in a 1.3 miles per gallon improvement for fleets compared to the industry standard.


Project44 presenter David Deutsch had a chatbot at the heart of his presentation. As he noted in his presentation, feedback from customers says the staff of shippers, carriers and 3PLs spend a great deal of time fielding questions and “hunting down information.” But using Watson Artificial Intelligence integrated with APIs from the project44 system, Deutsch demonstrated how a chatbot could provide a customer with the answer to many of those questions without the time-consuming efforts of a staff. His demonstration showed the chatbot answering the questions of a theoretical retail customer waiting for shipments into the network of stores with particular emphasis on an individual city. The system can also provide a weblink to what he called a “dynamic shipment detail page” hosted by project44 that allows better monitoring of the status of the shipment in question.


Cliff Creech and Gerry Mead of Phillips Connect Technologies focused on the rails—in particular, intermodal–in their presentation of their ChassisNet platform. The IoT-based platform combined with satellite technology allows better tracking of assets such as chassis and rail cars. It can also provide information on whether an asset is laden with freight. The first step to generating revenue, they said, “is knowing where your asset is and is it in a state to generate revenue.” If a chassis has made it to a container, “then it can produce revenue.” The question is whether an asset is “healthy.” Once that has been established, PCT systems can also tell if an asset needs repairs that can wait until a trip is completed rather than needing to be pulled off the road immediately.


Scroll Network’s Nathan Pitruzzello and Khashab Khashab presented what amounted to a private blockchain solution for the supply chain. The product, called Aster, allows for the construction of multiple blockchain networks where the individual operator of a particular blockchain can set the standards for that ledger. Once that is set into place, the benefits of blockchain–the immutability of records, the transparency–can be employed. The blockchain under the Aster system would not have the “proof of work” feature of the bitcoin blockchain that proves ownership of an asset. Instead, there would be “proof of authority” that would provide verification to a transaction. But otherwise, “everything stays internal.”


Redwood Logistics’ CIO Eric Rempel presented what he said was the “next generation interface” of the company’s RedwoodConnect tool. Described as “middleware,” Rempel said Redwood Connect “makes the integration really fast,” the integration in question being integrating disparate systems. Redwood Connect creates a “pipeline” that can be used to stream various data sources into an individual company’s data warehouses. “When hou close a deal, your customers need to connect to your beautiful APIs,” he said. With some technologies, that isn’t possible, but the RedwoodConnect integration capabilities allow that.


Jason Traff, the president of Shipwell, pulled out a flip phone to show the audience that not everybody in the market is operating on late-model technology. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Traff demonstrated an application where voice recognition allows an automated service to reach out to drivers who might not be using anything more complex than a flip phone to determine the location of a truck, as well as other factors connected to a shipment. The tool will be available later this year but a recent test over a weekend showed that Shipwell was able to cut in half the number of outgoing calls to drivers it needed to make. Instead, the automated tool did the job.


Raj Patel, the chief product officer of, demonstrated where AI can predict delays up and down the supply chain. “We can predict shipment delays from San Francisco to Dallas, crunching millions of data points,” he said in his presentation. Those data points can range from emails read by AI to Excel spreadsheets, also consumed the same way. But what pops out of the Slync system, he said, is not the product of a “black box.” Rather, the user of the Slync system will be notified precisely why the system is predicting such delays, and the customer “can look for this and no longer be reactive” to the problems. The system is designed to allow shippers and carriers to “change a workflow.”


Darrin Demchuck of Platform Science reviewed the company’s IoT fleet management program and numerous features, including what he said was an ability to customize it to a specific driver “on the fly.” It provides maximum flexibility. Its features on compliance also include state-by-state provisions to add to the flexibility, so for example, it will reflect California’s unique rules that drivers must abide by. Platform Science also was one of several presenters that effectively reminded the audience that paper is a ways from being out of the trucking compliance system; Demchuck demonstrated the tool’s ability to scan and consume paper documents.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.