Mister Beacon Episode #187
IBM Food Trust: Transforming the Future of Food Safety and Supply ChainsOctober 31, 2023
This week on the Mr. Beacon Podcast, we have a very special guest, IBM! Wiggs Civitillo, who has been a part of the IBM family for the past five years, is here to talk all about IBM’s initiatives in the food supply chain arena. Wiggs, a proud alumnus of Duke University, takes us through some of the history of IBM, from the iconic Watson's appearance on Jeopardy to the ever-evolving landscape of modern business.
While mainframes remain an integral part of the business, IBM has shifted much of its focus to software solutions. As a Product Manager at IBM, Wiggs is actively involved in one of the most exciting and important projects - IBM Food Trust. This initiative is laser-focused on food safety, a mission that began in response to significant food outbreaks in the early 2000s. Built on blockchain technology, the IBM Food Trust is a game-changer in the world of food supply chains.
But it's not just blockchain; it's a sophisticated application layer technology that facilitates food suppliers and distributors in tracking the journeys of food products based on the GS1 standards. In an era where sustainability is paramount, the Food Trust is proof that technology can be both cutting-edge and eco-conscious.
Wiggs also sheds light on the role of GS1 and EPCIS standards, which enable the sharing of event data for products within the supply chain. We also discuss the recent partnership with iFoodDS, a collaboration that promises to scale traceability for the global food industry. By creating a network where food suppliers and distributors can share data, IBM Food Trust is making it much easier for business owners to begin adopting these new food safety standards.
We also discuss how the FSMA Rule 204 is set to push companies towards adopting these new traceability standards.
Also, you won’t want to miss Wiggs’ three favorite songs, the stories behind these were among my favorite ever brought on the Mr. Beacon Podcast!
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Steve Statler 0:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week is pretty special. We've got one of the most consequential computer companies in the world, IBM, that we're going to be featuring, and their program director for supply chain intelligence, Wiggs Civitillo. He is a great guy, and he has an amazing portfolio of products that he manages. And so that's what we're going to drill into. It's important stuff, we are focused on IoT on this podcast. But IoT is really infrastructure. It's the applications that make it useful. And so this application layer that IBM provide, is the thing that gives visibility to supply chains. And that visibility is going to drive massive explosive growth of IoT technologies. So we're going to talk about the applications for it, how it works, what IBM is doing. And for those of you who, obviously everyone knows IBM, but you want to be able to talk about it into intelligently, then weeks is gonna give us an update on on their latest as well as some of the history. So interesting stuff. Enjoy.
The Mr. Beacon Ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, bringing intelligence to every single thing.
Steve Statler 1:33
So Wiggs, welcome to the Mr. Beacon, Ambient IoT podcast, it's a real pleasure to have you on the show.
Wiggs Civitillo 1:42
Thank you so much for having me.
Steve Statler 1:43
It's a pleasure. We've got a lot to talk about. Second half of the show, we're gonna talk a bit about IBM, this shows all about kind of, well, me learning, that's actually the kind of the secret reason for the show. But also equipping our listeners and viewers with what they need to be successful in creating designing solutions. And I think IBM is an incredibly significant company. And later on, we'll go into some of the history and how that's evolved since since the 2000s, when I worked there, but we're gonna get a chance to talk to you about your, the area that you're responsible for, and get into crypto into the supply chain, into the applications that IBM has that are really at the heart of some of the biggest companies in the world, and the way they manage their supply chains. And you've recently made an announcement on a partnership with AI, food ds. So I want to talk about that. But I mean, the reason why I think this area is important is you know, we're focused on Internet of Things IoT, and a rebirth of IoT that will deliver on the original vision and scale beyond the few 10s of billions to trillions. And it's really the things that are in the supply chain, especially the food where we can have huge benefits if we connect it to the power of the cloud, which IBM knows all about. And apply the intelligence there to reduce waste, to manage down carbon footprint, and to unlock huge economies and profits and new business models. But you know, at the center of this, you need some infrastructure. And I've as I've been thinking and working on Ambient IoT, one of the bits that I'm really been concerned about to be frank is how do you join up suppliers, distributors, retailers? And how do you pass all of this information up and down the supply chain, especially, you know, these new sensing dimensions that we have, and I think one of the products that's in your product portfolio as a product manager, includes the GS one EPCIS standards that can be used to go beyond the kind of the very crude, all this pallets arriving to the details of exactly where things are in the supply chain, at a much more granular level, and the condition that they're in the temperature that are in and even in the future, the carbon that's being accumulated at every step. And it's all very well having sensors that can measure that, which is what I focus on in my day job. But how do we pass that data around and I think IBM is of a stature and has some of the tools to do that. So welcome to the show when we get into it and maybe you can describe a bit about your role at IBM and the give us an overview of the products that you're responsible for.
Wiggs Civitillo 5:09
Yes, certainly. And thanks again, you know, this, this is such a wonderful opportunity to share share my story shared the IBM Food Trust story. So, I, I'm a product manager at IBM. I'm a leader of a few different products. But one of my one of my favorites, and one that I've spent most of my time at IBM with is IBM Food Trust. It's it's a very dynamic role within product management, you know, working very closely with our development teams or customers or partners, to define the platform's features and capabilities that I've been doing that for, for the past two to four or five years, really just continuously, trying to evolve the product to meet the needs of the food industry and make sure that we're facilitating the best experiences possible. Now, the story of IBM Food Trust is a bit of a fascinating one. And I'd love to share a little bit about if that's okay. Really rooted, rooted in the need for increased transparency and increased food safety, and the global food supply chain. So it all began with a series of very high profile food safety incidents that really shook consumer confidence. So we saw cases of E. coli outbreaks we saw a Salamina salmonella contamination and, and even counterfeit products to some degree, right. I did some research and I learned that you know, the odds of me, if I order a red snapper in New York City at a restaurant, there's there's only really a 50 or so percent chance that I'm actually getting red snapper on the plate because there's another fish that might be you know, one quarter of the cost that I could be served and I wouldn't know any better, right? And I really wouldn't, I don't have that discerning tastes. So IBM recognized very early on that blockchain technology had the potential to really revolutionize the way that we manage the food supply chain. concept was very simple but groundbreaking, we're going to create a digital ledger that records every step of the journey of a food product from farm to table. The Ledger built on blockchain, specifically, hyper ledger fabric would be tamper proof and immutable and accessible to all authorized participants. Right, that's a key piece and we can dig into more later. But the key tenant of the platform is that every company owns their data, and controls the privacy and how they want to share their data. And that's very important. And so this system was designed to provide a unchangeable record of all the products history and promoting transparency and trust. Now, in order to do that, you need to adhere to different standards. And we can talk about emphasis in a moment. But IBM Food Trust was initially launched as a pilot project with a number of major major food industry players are talking about it Walmart, Nestle, Tyson Foods, right and all participating in uploading their data, sharing their data, and you know, building, helping build this network of supply chain participants that can seamlessly share their data. Today, we've become a global platform with a network of hundreds of suppliers, retailers, and consumers all working together, to ensure the integrity and safety of the food that's being produced and consumed. So you know, the driving force really behind what we're trying to create is a shared vision of building a safer, smarter, more transparent and efficient supply chain ecosystem for everyone. And that's really evolved into a tool for the industry providing consumers with the story of their products, right consumers, they love seeing love seeing the story of their products, but they don't want a generic marketing story of here's how your coffee may have been treated. They want to know, How did my actual cup of coffee come to be? Where was where was the farm where it was harvested, and tell me about my specific product. And you this really makes a difference in building trust. That's why we call it IBM Food Trust. And it's a really key tenant of what we've built.
Steve Statler 9:07
And if I can just put in I think it is really important. And I think there's two dimensions to it. One is about food merchandising. But the other one is actually a chance to make really meaningful change in where food comes from. So, you know, I there's a local, I go to all sorts of places. I actually buy stuff at Walmart, but I also go to a local store called Jim Bo's, and it's organic, and everything costs roughly 60% more than what you'd pay elsewhere. But I pay that because they have these little signs that tell me where the food came from and how far away it's traveled. And that is, I think, an incredible opportunity. You know, we can scale that experience and the and the trust and the enjoyment it gives me You know, I feel good about the food that I'm eating when I know where it came from, because as anyone that watched that, Netflix documentary poisoned, knows, you know, if your food comes from, from a farm that's next to some source of, of pollution, even though it's organic, and there's the slurry running from a densely packed cattle shed, then you know, it can be it can be dangerous. So I think, you know, there's definitely money to be made. And there's joy to be had from giving consumers visibility on exactly what they're eating and where it came from. It's not just window dressing, it can be a core part of the business model. But the thing that really gets me passionate is, and I got this from a conversation I had with an amazing climate scientist, who I've mentioned before on the podcast, Mike Berners, Lee, younger brother of Tim Berners, Lee, the guy that invented the web and HTML and HTTP. So Mike is as brilliant as brother, but he's focused on climate. And the thing that he's passionate about is consumers voting with their purses and wallets, to buy food that is good for the planet to buy food that either has a low carbon footprint, or maybe even a negative carbon footprint it was if it was grown from a regenerative farm. But how are we going to find this out at scale? And that's why I think what you're describing is, is actually very important. I think it's also a big business opportunity. So I had to get that in but I didn't want to interrupt your, your flow. I do have some questions, though, about how it works. So I have to confess I came to IBM Food Trust with a huge amount of skepticism, I kind of had envisaged these massive blockchain mining farms, creating very wasteful data structures that weren't really required. And can you help disabuse me of that? That prejudice?
Wiggs Civitillo 12:17
I would be happy to. Yes. And it's a common. It's a common challenge that we faced being in the blockchain space, many minds tend to naturally gravitate towards crypto to, you know, open permissionless Ledger's like Aetherium, like Bitcoin. And it's important to acknowledge there are other types of blockchains or different categories of blockchains. Specifically, you know, hyper ledger fabric is very focused on supporting the concept of a private permissioned ledger, right, the idea of not having mining operations only having trusted parties handling those, those nodes, which we call trust anchors. And that really changes the dynamic of the system, you know, talking about, you know, IBM's, you know, executive level, you know, high level strategy, sustainability is core, a very core tenet to what we're trying to do, we've actually recently renamed our entire software division that I'm a part of, to IBM sustainability software. And that's, you know, not not just a message to the market of our investment in this space, but it's, it's taking every product that we have, and figure out how we can drive sustainable goals. So when we think about food traceability, we're, you know, feeding into reduce reduction in food waste, right, building more consumer trust and confidence. And even when we look at this on a macro macro scale, and what we were just saying about consumers voting with their wallets on better quality food, and, you know, treating, treating the farms and all the participants in the supply chain better. There's a version of that, that has us eating food that's so much better, so much nutrient rich and healthy. And I was talking with one of your colleagues about this, that we actually reduce healthcare costs, right, we actually give people healthier lives, we improve the health of people on a macro scale. And that's that's a beautiful vision. I know we're getting a little off track on this, but I really think it's it's something that I would love to see come to come to fruition. Yeah, that's essentially you, Sofia, and he's our VP of, of climate and circularity. And he spent a bunch of time in agri tech and as well as back to IBM and Food Trust.
Steve Statler 14:37
So how does Food Trust work today? Let's say I am a supplier and I am selling to one of the biggest grocery chains in the world. Who happens to use IBM Food Trust? How do I see it and what does it do?
Wiggs Civitillo 14:55
Yeah, so I'll start at the high level and we'll go we'll go a little bit deep. But we won't go too deep. But from a seller's perspective, from any participants perspective, it's very easy to get data onto the platform, right? You don't need to know anything about blockchain. You don't need to, you know, study the GS one standard even or even understand what EPCIS events are right, all you need to do is ensure that you're collecting the right data. And that collection can happen via simple web forms, right, pull up your tablet, pull up your computer and just enter enter data in while you're on the manufacturing line while you're on the farm, right pull out your phone and enter that you've just harvested a product right and the you know, the date, the time and what product you've harvested, and what your identifying identification code is. Or you could do it in a programmatic way, right? You could integrate with our API's and feed data from your ERP systems from other systems that might collect this data. Now, it's important to acknowledge that many ERP systems today don't collect all of the data necessary for traceability, right, traceability is much different than the financial focus of many ERP systems. If we think about the origins of sap that was built, originally, as an accounting system, it's not designed to tell the story of the product. So when we were telling the story, you really need to break down what each participant does in the supply chain. So if, if I'm a farm, I'm harvesting, and I'm shipping, and then once I ship someone's receiving it, right, it could be a broker, a distributor, you know that a processor, right or cooler, right? Whoever it is, receives that product, they do something to it, then they ship it right, step by step until it gets all the way to the consumer, right, and it's consumed. Now, there could be complex transformation events that are many to one, right, you take all the ingredients, you've got feta cheese, cucumbers, carrots, and romaine lettuce into a Greek salad, right? That's a transformation that needs to be tracked across different identifiers and, and then that salad could be divided into portions or it could be you know, allocated in different ways. And so the idea of traceability does tell the story of the product, but it requires additional information to be captured so that each link can be made in the supply chain. So at the underlying level, the IBM Boutros platform is leveraging blockchain technology, and more specifically, it's built on hyper ledger fabric. This is getting back a little bit to your original question of kind of this mega kind of mining operation. hyper ledger Fabric is a bit of background is an open source, Linux Foundation maintained framework that was developed. IBM had huge contributions to this framework, but it is open source and publicly owned in many different contributors around the world, under the hyper ledger project, right. So it's designed to offer privacy, scalability and security, making it an ideal choice for food supply chain, right. And specifically, privacy is paramount. Your data is your own data, if we take a supplier, they don't want two different retailers that they serve to see what they're shipping to another retailer because you could find yourself in a very dangerous anti competitive situation where you may lose business with one or you know, be doing business with one at the expense of the other. So the way that our system is designed is that the data that you upload, you control how you share, and we have default entitlements that allow end to end traceability. And the way that works is at the actual lock level at the individual unit, right? If it's a crate of tomatoes, or a crate of lettuce. If you ship 10 crates to one retailer and 20 crates to another, those retailers can only see data for the products that they touch, and the products that they receive. And that's really, really important. Now, it's it's a little bit complex to do that. But the key part about how data is shared is that it's handled in a trusted way. And this is where some of the blockchain aspects come into come into play. And specifically, we think about smart contracts, right? smart contracts, is a concept of enforcing an agreement of how data is handled once it's on the platform. So if I register an event that a product has been delivered to my warehouse, then I should automate it automatically issue payment right. And even better if we have IoT sensors, right tracking a product, and they can register that a price and receive there's no need for any human intervention. We know exactly where the product is. We know that that contract the contract of delivering the product on time and in full has been delivered and you can issue payment. The potential to reduce disputes in the industry is huge. And disputes are not insignificant in this industry. Right? It's it's a commonality of doing business is that you need to deal with disputes. Shipments do arrive late, right this this stuff happens right and there are all sorts of complexities, how products are handled, but underlying this smart contract context is also rules about how we handle data sharing. IBM can't change those rules, right? They are encoded on the ledger, right? They're all secure. And that adds a layer of trust about how we're handling your data, you can see exactly what our governance structure is for how we handle data. And you can know that your head, your data is being handled in a trusted way. There's, there's no risk of IBM coming in and just changing everything on you. It's consistent, and it's trusted, which makes a big difference to a lot of enterprise great companies.
Steve Statler 20:26
Well, I have a question about this visibility, basically, how much you can see and how much you can restrict. I mean, in my ideal world, then I'm going to the store, and I'm seeing exactly the farm, where the product came from, when it was harvested, and how long it took to get to me and oh, by the way, I'd also like to see the carbon footprint so I can use my resources to vote for low carbon food is that end to end visibility, something that you can facilitate?
Wiggs Civitillo 21:04
Absolutely. And that really is the end goal, right. And some companies may not want that. And that's that's perfectly fine. Right in, in the context of the Food Safety Modernization Act, right, the FDA legislation that's just gone into effect. Companies need to have traceability data, and there is a mandate out there for many categories of food. But it doesn't require end to end, traceability. What end to end, traceability facilitates is not only a story for consumers, but faster and more precise recalls. And, and that sort of consumers has been proven to have a positive effect on consumption habits on price, price, price marks, right willingness to pay for a higher price. So the end to end visibility is absolutely feasible. And that's something that we facilitated for many different supply chains for many different categories.
Steve Statler 21:55
Is anyone doing it yet, or because my sense of the status quo is that generally speaking, the people up and down the supply chain don't really want to share the data today? And I'm hoping that they'll be good reasons for that makes sense to their business to do it. But am I right in saying that generally end to end visibility, you could facilitate it. But the market has not spoken to the point that those that you can actually see it today?
Wiggs Civitillo 22:25
Emphatically, yes, it's been done in many, many different categories. Now, I will caveat to say some categories may not may not find it as valuable, you need to make sure that it's category specific, it's a product that really does benefit from a traceability. In some cases, if recalls are less frequent, and consumers aren't as passionate about seeing the story, it may not make sense, it may not have a business justification to actually go with traceability. But even in those cases that end to end traceability provides visibility about how your products are treated, and you can manage shelf life, you can manage, you know, expiration risk, right, you can, you can understand the dwell time of your product, both at your facilities and at your partner's facilities to make your supply chains more efficient and more resilient. And you can identify risk and share certificates to validate that, you know, someone's certified as Rainforest Alliance compliant, right, or, you know, any any kind of certificates that need to flow through the supply chain with this data. So even beyond the two use cases, right, supply chain efficiency is a broad category. That is a big driver for some companies. So with end to end, traceability, we've seen use cases, across all these products. We've even seen large drive in non food categories as well. So we've seen it with textiles is a major driver in Europe with a lot of the new sustainability regulations and especially regulations like the EU deforestation act and regulations like the Uyghur forced labor Prevention Act, right. These ethical labor standards that require product traceability are getting into the same space where we've been that requires product level traceability and yeah, that's that's been an interesting journey where some laws are now starting to mandate this end to end traceability, which is going to have a big impact on how companies handle this.
Steve Statler 24:13
Well and, the FTAs, Food Safety Modernization Act, Rule two, a four is a classic example of that, and I want to talk about that and I food. Yes, but before we get there, I want to understand a bit more about the plumbing. Can you explain a bit about how EPCIS is used by your platform? We've had folks from GS one on and what was the even the the chair of the group that defied the PCs? So we've kind of gone into the detail of it in the abstract, but I'm really interested to understand how you're using it today. And if if there are going to be any changes how you might use it in the future.
Wiggs Civitillo 24:58
Yeah, at GS one and EP DCIS is a crucial component of IBM Food Trust from the beginning. I think I think IBM made a really smart decision to not assume that we know how to handle traceability better than the food industry. And I think that's a really important thing. Some some technologies companies come in and kind of assume that they can they can build their own standard, they can do it better than people that have been doing this for hundreds of years. Right? It not hundreds, but you know, the industry that's learned and grown. And, you know, I'm not saying they're 100 year old operators, doing trace of the food industry has been going for, I mean, the farming, that 10s of 1000s of years, organized agricultural, so I get your point. Yeah, so So the GS one standard is phenomenal. We've loved using it, because it's not only provided us a framework to capture the necessary data for traceability, but also provided a framework for interoperability with other solution providers. Now, just to start, you know, apsis, sorry, EPCIS. It for those that maybe are less familiar or missed the other podcasts, it's a,nit's a standard that enables the sharing of event data about the movement of, and status of products within the supply chain. By incorporating EPCIS into IBM Food Trust, we can capture information about various points of the supply chain, such as the movement of a product from one location to another, the combination of ingredients, just like the transformation events, I was mentioning the many to one, one to many. And EPCIS provides that underlying language that allows us to standardize the data and communicate not only with other companies, but with our own, within our own framework, right about how data should be shared. So interoperability is another key area that the GS one standard facilitates that I really think is very important. So early on in the journey, that we had a lot of support from major companies, we had a lot of momentum. But very quickly, we learned it's a very difficult thing to capture this data. In many cases, it's not enough to just provide the technology and expect these companies, many cases, these, these food safety teams are very, very lean, very small teams that operate and have the management responsibility and management of huge levels of risk for their their companies. And so adding food traceability to their plates, and having additional data capture to all of their teams across the entire supply chain is a huge, huge lift. In many cases, they need help, they need guidance, they need someone to come in and hold their hands, right. And maybe it's holding their hands, maybe it's doing some of the work for them. But we were not able to provide enough support to the industry, we provided enough support for many different categories. But it's so much support that realistically, I think the entire industries, technology providers all need to work together to provide the capacity to help companies do what's needed to become compliant with FSMA. Right, and I bring this back to the Food Safety Modernization Act, we will 204 It's going to go into effect in January of 2026. We're about 1/3 of the way there to compliance, no companies are 1/3 of the way to being compliant. But we're going to see an absolutely exponential curve of companies that come up on that deadline and want to get it done as soon as possible. And the industry technology providers are just going to run out of capacity. So our thinking and my thinking specifically has been that this will not be in any scenario, a one winner take all market, as much as we'd like everyone to be on IBM Food Trust and participating. We do need a way to work with other technology providers to share data and share it in a trusted way. Bringing this all the way back to GS one GS one lays the standard to share data in that standardized format. So we do have the means to do that data sharing. We have run pilots on data sharing, we know that it works and with the new FSMA requirements right there their strict data standard that is fully compliant with the GS one standard, right? So we know that we have a model that works, we're adding a few data attributes to that model. And I think we're really well positioned to partner with other people in the industry to make make these companies successful.
Steve Statler 29:23
Well, I think you're masterfully drawing us to the next topic of discussion, which is I fu DS, so you just announced that partnership? To be frank, I was very surprised. I thought that you guys did everything didn't need anyone. What Why are you partnering with this other company and who are they?
Wiggs Civitillo 29:42
Yeah, it's not it not to harp on the message of togetherness and collaboration too much. But another quick anecdote you we we were attending the North American Food Safety and Quality Conference in Chicago recently and one of the themes that just kept coming up over and over and over again, which I love. It was that as an industry, we are better when we work together. There's no There's no questioning this and you know, there is some conventional concepts of competition and especially in the data, you know, the solution provider space, right, we have companies that are doing very similar things to what we're doing. I think globally, there may be 200 Different traceability solution providers that IBM Food Trust technically competes with. But I would really like to shift the narrative to working together, I think that's the only way that we're all going to be successful. Now, I food DS is an exceptional company. I love everything about them. And we started talking with him about eight months ago, about a potential partnership with with no real knowledge of what that would turn into. Right. You know, a lot of these conversations start as just meeting meeting these people. We met up in New York and got to know each other and started having the conversation and as things developed, it became very clear to me that I food DS was going to be a power in this industry. Right? And, and a staying force. Some of the reasons I had this belief, very easy to explain. They hired Andrew Kennedy, right, who is a very well known player in the industry. He is one of the key contributors and writers of the actual FSMA rule 204 D. Having him on their team was a huge, huge step for them. And when it comes to providing the services and the expertise to help companies get compliant with the rule. There's nothing, nothing better than having the guy that wrote the rule. Right. I was pretty simply set.
Steve Statler 31:36
Wiggs Civitillo 31:36
Now we also had another key player come full circle for us. So at the start of when IBM Food Trust launched, we were actually working very closely with Frank Gowanus when he was at Walmart, to build this initiative together. And he was one of the ones that actually helped derive, you know, the mandate to the growers to drive this mission. He has been on this mission, I think, for a large part of his life to facilitate improve food safety through the concept of traceability. And he's done incredible things. After Walmart, he moved on to the FDA where he was a deputy commissioner for a number of years, where he again had huge impact, but continued to drive this initiative and was able to push through the finalization of this rule. So he joined the IFO DS board recently. And I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with him at the IFO DS company meeting recently. And what an incredible an incredible guy what an incredible story that he has. And he continues to be a major force in the industry, we can have providing guidance and help to companies that are interested in becoming compliant, right and working on this compliance journey.
Steve Statler 32:43
And, and the risk of self promotion, which is a risk I'm always willing to take, then Frank has been on this show, so a couple of weeks ago, then people can check out the episode with Frank and I fully agree with all the positive things you've said about him, I have the privilege to work to work with him as he's also full disclosure and a strategic adviser for for Williams, which I think is part of how I got the chance to meet you. But anyway, back to your and IBM is decision on why to work with a few DS is pretty clear. They've got amazing expertise between Frank and Andrew. Then you've got the architect and the builder, if you like, of the role. What about the product fit? Fit between their product and your product?
Wiggs Civitillo 33:41
A it's a great question and the product fit could not have been better, right? It wouldn't when we think about our individual strengths. I feel DS is a company that has had a great deal of success in the food quality traceability and insights and analytics space, they have strong technology capabilities, deep industry expertise well beyond Andy and Frank, right. It's really a very strong team, trusted by major brands like a hold us foods at Del Monte AlTi, just to name a few. And with that track record right complementing their expertise and depth of knowledge with IBM's technology seem to be a very natural play. Now, based on that initial theory, right? It turned into so much more. And it's actually the case that they address one of the biggest challenges that I was alluding to in this food traceability space, which is collecting the data, the data onboarding and data capture. Now, there there needs the needs of there's no one size fits all of data capture. Everyone needs a different set of requirements. Everyone has different needs of what type of data they need to capture what when they need to capture the data, how they want to capture the data, it could be on their phones. It could be print putting labels to put on cases, right? We discovered that the iPhone DS team has a very strong suite of technology to allow for data capture, and specifically FSMA compliant data capture for many different specific personas of the supply chain. So that complemented the basic data capture that we had, you know, we have web forms, we had spreadsheets, you know, API's, but that complementary functionality expanded the suite of data capture well beyond what we had had in the past. So what we are resulting with and what we're calling the IFO DS trace exchange solution with IBM Food Trust, is a solution that has expansive data capture capabilities, and incredibly strong back end backed by blockchain in a scalable way that already host data for many of the world's largest enterprises today. So we have enterprise grade scalability. And not to mention, you know, the amount of due diligence that IBM does on the trust and security front is really unparalleled. It's it's a, it's an enterprise company, with strong strong practices around making sure data is secure and safe. And then the expertise to actually go implement and help companies out with the services branch of AI, food DS brought us all together in a really powerful way. So we've, we're really excited, I really do think it's a significant step forward for the industry, I think AI food, yes, will be a lasting lasting player, and a major player in in the way that companies look at food, traceability and food safety moving forward. And so if I, if I'm a grocer or a quick service restaurant, and I buy this solution, do I contract with both of you? Or am I contracting with ifI DS and I just get the IBM as an embedded solution? Yeah, so we're having i food, ds lead with the contracting and lead with kind of the approach, right, and that's, that's a little bit of a result of, you know, the strength that they have with, you know, not only their knowledgeable sellers and their, their, their kind of assistance, they've got a project managers, they've, they've really got a comprehensive team there that can provide everything. But it is important to acknowledge that, you know, the IBM Food Trust, offering great we do have existing clients that are, you know, existing customers of Food Trust, that may not need these additional services, they may already have integrations, they may already be part of the network, they also will be a part of this global network. So anyone that joins from any avenue, whether it be direct through IBM, whether it be through iPhone DS, will have access to be able to share their data seamlessly with anyone else on the network. So as the network grows, the economies of scale really grow very quickly. And, and we're talking about, you know, one supplier that could feed data to 20, retailers instantaneously or the one one retailer that can interact with, you know, 10,000 of their suppliers, you know, not only tier one, but also tier 234. All the way up to provenance of the origin of the product. So as the network grows, right, it doesn't really matter who who brings the customers in, but and the underlying structure, this network will continue to grow and provide such a service for the industry.
Steve Statler 38:16
And with this integrated solution, am I going to be seeing dashboards from both companies? When would I use one versus the other? If that's the case?
Wiggs Civitillo 38:27
Yeah, yeah. So we've we've actually divvied it up based on personas. So and you know, this is all subject to change, we're going to keep meeting the needs of our our different users. But the way we balance out the the different personas is we have some people that are ingesting data, right? The data capture people and this could be someone, as I've mentioned, on the farm, it could be someone in the manufacturing plant, it could be any operational user that is submitting data to be recorded. Now, that's typically going to be done through the IFO DS applications, because they have this suite of tools that help you capture all the data necessary, bring it all together and submit it to IBM Food Trust and capture it in a FSMA compliant way. Now, on the back end, we have a massive set of tools, for analytics for dashboards for custom ways to view and analyze the data. It's it's very important that you're making sure that the data that gets in is good, right? So we can run evaluations on the data to say, of the data you're receiving from these partners have the data you've uploaded. These items are not good, right? You You're missing fields, you're not sharing data properly, right? There are a whole host of data issues that could come up. So we've actually built within what's called the IBM supply chain Intelligence Suite, a host of applications that allow you to analyze the data, understand where your inventory is, understand where data quality issues may exist, and then instantaneously pull the reports of the FDA needs. So as a very key part of that, you can come in and very quickly, just say no, I need a report on this product in this timeframe and provide the FDA exactly what they need in a matter of minutes. When I think about what we've done with Food Trust and the future that we have, I think it's really bright. And I think with the FTAs mandate, not only will we see huge progress for this industry in the US, but also around the world, we've seen other other countries and other other government organizations, adopting these policies, not only to drive food safety, for their, for their populaces, but also to drive reduction in food waste sustainability initiatives, and this combination of sustainability and in all of its facets, we know environmental, social, and governance. Bringing that aspect into the solution paints a really beautiful picture of how we can use this to reduce food waste, feed more people in the world, provide more nutrition, reduce impact to our healthcare system, and really paint a better future in the food space. So I think we're, we're just getting started on many of these fronts. And when we when we take traceability data, and we think about what we can layer on top, like carbon footprint, and the foods that we're harvesting, like sustainable practices, like certificates, documents, audits, all of the things that we can do, get me personally very excited about how much more potential there is in this space. So I think the next next few years are going to be really defining of what this industry becomes. I'll leave it at that.
Steve Statler 41:33
I couldn't agree more. And one of the things that I noticed is IBM's, one of your more recent marketing campaigns, let's create something that changes everything. And I really think that this is an example of something that could change everything, the ability to join everything up and lead, giving people information about what they're eating, and providing regulators with what they need to keep us safe. That's important work. So full disclosure, I used to work at IBM. And I think once you've worked at IBM, it stays with you for the rest of your life. And I remember, this was like back in 2000 2001 the.com boom was just booming. And IBM bought this computer manufacturer that I worked for, it's like 3000 people merged into a company that was over 300,000 people. And I went into it and this was at the end of a century that basically saw IBM completely dominate the computing landscape, the mainframe, they were just a force, unparalleled force in computing, they pioneered the IBM PC, the world's business was run on IBM mainframes. And they just kind of split into hardware, software and services, but they were essentially still a massive hardware company and so I looked upon working at IBM as being a privilege and an education really being on the inside of this giant with immense power, and an incredible legacy of, of, of innovation and, and so forth. So I looked I asked Bob, what's changed at IBM since 2000 and it basically described, said it's got a bit smaller, but still, like, best part of 300,000 people, that's a lot of people. But the shift onto software when you, one of the beauties of working at IBM, which is something I'd never experienced was everyone knows IBM. So you didn't really have to explain who IBM was. But can you kind of describe IBM's business if you're if you're meeting someone who's just landed from another planet at a cocktail party? How do you describe IBM today if people want to know about IBM's business?
Wiggs Civitillo 44:20
Yeah, the history is really important. And it's it's been interesting to even as someone that's only been with the company a little over five years, you know, and I've had a wonderful run I really share your, your thinking that it is a privilege and an honor to work at such a large and history company. A lot of the history that I have learned and read up on of all the things that I've read the book, who says elephants can't dance by Lou Gerstner is a really, really wonderful piece of history on a time when IBM was facing a very difficult decision when many companies at the time were splitting up and dividing into many different pieces, he was faced with the decision of whether to keep IBM whole or to divide it into its separate parts. And there are some wonderful anecdotes in the book. But long story short at the time, Lou made the decision to keep IBM whole. And in that decision, he invested in ramping up our consulting and our software divisions to provide a complementary set of skills, essentially, we provide the technology and we provide the means to implement it. Now, consulting is fully agnostic, right and even to a to a fault. You know, it's it's difficult as a software builder to have, you know, wait my own consulting teams going and selling our competitors. But that's really what they should do. Right. And that's, you know, true to the consulting practice, you give clients what they need, but we still have a big mainframe business, but it's it's been neat to see over the years, how quickly the software businesses have grown. And the span of the software that we cover is pretty far and wide. Right? We have a strong data and AI practice. We've got Watson in the portfolio. And, you know, Watson has continued to grow since a big big market moment with Watson on Jeopardy. Right with with Ken Jennings and seeing seeing that in action a long time ago, a lot of people say, okay, Watson, I know it does Jeopardy, but I don't know what else it does. It's grown so much since then, having the the proliferation of chat, GBT, all these new technologies come into the market. It's been neat to see Watson having another moment again, and you know, it hasn't stopped growing, it hasn't stopped developing, right, it's still there. And it's still providing enterprise grade AI solutions, machine learning solutions to company. So within software, we've got data and AI, we've got supply chain, which is my focus and really quite a bit of depth in supply chain from companies that we've acquired some that are homegrown, and my portfolio is a mix of those two, and many other products and technologies including asset management, right? We've got Maximo TRIRIGA here, these are companies that in some cases IBM acquired and similar to your experience, you know, invested into combined or nurture or grow. And in many cases, they they stand as staples. So there are industries where it when it comes to asset management, everyone knows, Maximo, right. And everyone uses it, right? It it runs the asset management for major airports around the world and major major facilities that people don't know under the surface, what goes into maintaining these facilities, but it's really impressive technology.
Steve Statler 47:36
Well, it's a remarkable story. Let's talk a bit about your story. And now it culminated at IBM, I'm always fascinated to see what people studied. College. Obviously, college isn't the only way to start your career. But you it seems like you was economics and political science. And then you went to Duke and did an MBA, what is Duke? Like, I grew up in the UK. And so I went to the London Business School for what was not really an MBA, it was like just one month of very intensive study with a bunch of people from all around the world, learning about accounting and, and supply chains and so forth. But what was what is Duke like, as a as someone who didn't grow up in, in the US? I'm fascinated by that brand and that environment.
Wiggs Civitillo 48:31
Yeah, I think I'm lucky to have had experiences at so many different places that have rich histories. And Duke is definitely a place with a rich history, right? From the moment you walk onto the college campus and, and you see the the cathedral, right, the beautiful history of architecture, everything down to the library. And we're to get excited about a library, but I loved their library. They were just beautiful, beautifully designed. And did you get excited to go in and study and it was a wonderful experience. The I was at the Fuqua School of Business and it opened up my eyes in a in a really exciting way. So in my undergrad, I was at a liberal arts school and studied economics, political science, and ultimately really felt that that translated well to finance. And I was very fixated on the financial world. I wanted to get into finance. But very quickly in the financial world, I realized that technology was revolutionizing everything that we were doing. So from an early start at the New York Stock Exchange, I kind of was focused on data on technology, and then worked for another firm called pico quantitative trading that facilitated trading infrastructure. All of this to say, you know, this, this was a neat path where I started realizing more and more the value of technology, my own passion for building and creating products and experiences that really had an impact on not only my clients, but you know, the world right and trying to drive a positive impact. So when I got to do I didn't really know what the path was going to be. But it was incredible how much it opened my eyes to what's out there? Right? How many different career paths there are? And everyone talks about, you know, I'm not sure what I want to do with my life, I'm still not sure, right? I don't think anyone really is. And I think it's healthy to keep an open mind, right, you can always change your path and do something new. But it was it was really exciting to discover for the first time that this kind of career path in product management where I could build and be the CEO of my own product. And and I really kind of learned about that there. You know, Duke, Duke, as a school has incredible teachers, I took a class that I'll never forget with Kim Harvey, that was all about crypto, and crypto crypto implementation UK cryptocurrency necessarily, but all of the things happening with blockchain and the technology and different ways to implement it. And in that class, we wrote our own smart contracts on a theory, we actually implemented things and Kim is no known very well as a leader in kind of the crypto space and, and has spoken publicly on many, many different occasions, but having exposure to him having exposure to that class. And in that class, ironically, we had someone come and speak to us about IBM Food Trust, this new IBM product that had been created with a vision to address B food traceability and, you know, throughout the world, and I kind of stuck with me, and you know, that was, you know, less than a year before I graduated a few months, before I graduated, I just couldn't stop thinking about how cool of a use of it, you know, that new technology and just how exciting it was it really sunk in and so I couldn't get it out of my mind. And it's been an eternity to ultimately come to own the product that I was so impressed by at the time.
Steve Statler 51:43
Well, I really think your job is a tough one. I mean, on one hand, you've got the power of a massive company with some awesome customers. But product management, I think is one of the hardest jobs in the world. And it's one of these things where it's kind of easy to get along and do it badly. But to do it, well, it's so difficult. And it requires that 360 degree renascence person type capability to you got to understand technology and business and it's sequencing and requires so many skills. So for someone with your talents, I'm sure it's a lot of fun. I got to get to the those the hardest questions of the interview, which are your three favorite songs and why so what did you choose?
Wiggs Civitillo 52:36
I love this question. I am just so so happy about thinking about that. Because I love music. I've always been kind of music focused. And for me, music is highly nostalgic, right, it in some cases transports me back to a certain place and time. And so I started thinking about songs that have actually had an impact that bring me back. One is a very lesser known song by The Beatles. And the story is when I was in elementary school, I was in a band, and we had a small cover band, we had a you know, drummer, a bass player, piano player, and I was guitar and singing. And you know, we even had some some guests coming in playing the saxophone and, you know, singing for us, it was a really fun band, we performed at our middle school dance once and that was probably the the peak of my elementary school life. I just, you know, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. But there was a moment when we were practicing. And my mom gave us that as a gift, the full, the full charts and full scores of all of the Beatles songs ever published. And it was this thick book, you open it up and you get all the different instruments, all the different parts. But as a result of that we did mostly Beatles covers cover music and, and so you know, one of the songs that I remember was really difficult to play, but really just sounded so good when we played it together was and your bird can say by The Beatles, and it's got this great guitar riff coming in. And I don't know how many people know it. I think it's a little bit of a fringe song, but it just it brings me back to sitting sitting in that band room in elementary school with with our friends and just playing together so that that's my first
Steve Statler 54:21
Wonderful choice. I'm I'm intensely jealous, but what a great story. And you were you were gonna say, what's your second?
Wiggs Civitillo 54:30
The second is an interesting one. No, no one's going to figure out what my tastes and music is because I this is a combination of two, two music tastes that really don't go together. I'm a I'm a real lover of hon Shelley and his singing and specifically I've never been an opera fan. I don't think I could sit and watch a three hour long opera and be thrilled about it but he takes opera and combines it with pop music and there's a song he did a collaboration with Ed Sheeran. It's called Perfect symphony. And so, so as a gift because my wife knows that I love, you know, Andrea Bocelli, she she took me to the concert couple years ago in Madison Square Garden, and it was one of the greatest concerts, you've got Andreea up on stage, bringing, you know, his family together. He's got his son, he's got his daughter. He's got, you know, singers from all different events. He's got a cellist that was, you know, playing drums on the cello. It was just a great, great memory, and they're really special. And so a combination of opera and Ed Sheeran. And it just it comes together in a really, really nice way. So that's, that's number two.
Steve Statler 55:38
Awesome. I've always wanted to go to Madison Square Gardens. Never. Never did it. I did go and see U2 at the Sphere the other day, though, and that was just absolutely. Mind blowingly amazing.
Wiggs Civitillo 55:51
I'm sure, the Sphere in Las Vegas.
Steve Statler 55:54
Yeah, yeah. Like, yeah, it was, I mean, it costs an arm and a leg, but I find another arm and another leg end and go again, to just experience I want to see the movies and that sort of thing. Anyway, but you know, that's new and doesn't have the amazing history of Madison Square Garden, which has just seen so many of rocks, historic concerts. I think that was where John Lennon did his last four months. Elton John asked him on stage, I'm just listening to Bernie Toppings, memoir at the moment, and he describes that anyway, there's been a lot of amazing concerts where you are hitting it out of the park. What's the what's the what's the third one?
Wiggs Civitillo 56:45
The third and most important out which is more for me than that for anyone is another lesser known artists, but it's the song that I chose for my first dance and my wedding. And it's this artists named Ben Rector and and the song is forever like that. It's a little cheesy, it hits all the points, you know, we want to be, you know, very lovey dovey and, you know, probably groan worthy for some people. But this one was solidified in my memory, not just because of our first dance. But my Ben Rector, a, he's a, he's a pretty popular artist, but he's still kind of up and coming. And so we managed to go to one of his concerts a few years ago, and in New York, and it was on a pier that had just recently been completed. And we were on the roof roof of this pier down in the Financial District of New York, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge, beautiful views of the water, and we didn't know what he was going to play. But he ended up playing, you know, our favorite song, he played all of his hits. And we were so happy afterwards, you know, we went to grab a drink at a bar nearby, and we ended up seeing his drummer scooter. And so, you know, I had to say hi to scooter on the street. And so I walked up and I said, Scooter, you don't know me, but you were amazing in water performance. And then all of a sudden, then the man himself walked up right behind us. And it's a moment where you realize, you know, these, these artists are just people like us. They're just good people. And they, they're on an incredible journey. They, they brought such joy to so many people's lives. That was just such a great moment. And they all ended up climbing into the Uber that my wife and I had ordered to go home. And so we said, you know, you guys can come with us if you want. But we're not going where you're expecting your colleague so. So had all snafu with them. And it was it was great. It was just a really special moments. So that's, that's a good good core memory.
Steve Statler 58:40
Yeah, those are great choices. Wonderful. Well, wigs. It's been a delight to have you on the show. Thanks very much. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. So that's the conversation with wigs and IBM. I loved his music choices. I hope you did too. I really appreciate your listening to the end. Please do rate review, share and support the podcast if you can. I want to thank you. I also want to thank Brooke and Aaron for everything that they do on the show our social media and chief editor and show and program writer. Speak to you next time, stay safe.