Mister Beacon Episode #184
Lighting Up Supply Chains with TrackVision AIJanuary 23, 2024
Curt Schacker is the Co-Founder of TrackVision AI, a startup with a mission to revolutionize supply chain visibility and traceability.
Join us as we look into TrackVision AI's journey since its founding in May 2023, focusing on commercializing EPCIS 2.0 and Digital Link to overcome the challenges posed by current proprietary supply chain systems.
Curt shares insights into the importance of interoperability and how the adoption of open standards can simplify data exchange and collaboration within the supply chain.We’ll also uncover the various applications of EPCIS 2.0 and Digital Link, ranging from enhancing food safety to tracking carbon emissions and certifications.
Curt highlights how factors like weight, travel distance, and mode of transportation can contribute to a more accurate carbon footprint, challenging the conventional ‘averaging’ approach.
TrackVision AI is on a mission to provide an affordable platform accessible to enterprises of all sizes, including small farmers and manufacturers. The significance of supply chain visibility in understanding inventory levels and regulating production systems is key. TrackVision's approach even draws inspiration from Curt’s background in developing flight software for the Hubble Space Telescope.
Illuminate your understanding of the future of supply chain management with TrackVision AI on this week’s Mr. Beacon Podcast.
Curt’s Top 3 Songs:
A Day in the Life, The Beatles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usNsCeOV4GM
Baby Blue, Bad Finger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbILy-bCN4M
Sunday Morning Coming Down, Johnny Cash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9DuLnd7Tqw
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Steve Statler 00:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. What if you could turn godmode on in the real world and suddenly see up and down a supply chain in real time? This is something that you assume that maybe you can do now, but hardly anyone can no one can, I would say. And the reason is, interoperability and standards and software. And today, I'm going to be talking with a gentleman who I think has the key to turning on godmode and giving real time visibility upstream downstream, across supply chains. His name is Curt Schacker. And he's part of a startup called TrackVision, who are pioneering the use of digital link and EPCIS to supply chains. And this may seem a little obscure, but I really believe that this supply chain visibility, capacity is central to the future of the way business is done throughout the world. We are really using 19th 20th century paradigms where you sell a product to someone and that's it, you lose lose visibility of it. If we're going to solve problems like food safety, drug safety, if we're going to be able to manage climate change and understand what the carbon footprint of things are. If we're going to drive a level of efficiency, which will define new winners and new losers in the supply chain business that is essentially the business of food and retail and building things generally, then supply chain visibility is fundamental to it. It'll separate the well run companies from the companies that are stuck in the past. So how do we unlock this? Well, I think Kurt has some really good answers to that. And I hope you enjoy my conversation with him. The Mr. Beacon ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, bringing intelligence to every single thing. Curt, welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast.
Curt Schacker 02:25
Thanks, Steve. Great to be here.
Steve Statler 02:27
Well, I am really looking forward to picking your brains, you are an industry veteran, you've done some really interesting things I do want to get into your forays into space travel or exploration I should say later on. But before we go into the Hubble telescope, and that, I want to talk to you about this relatively new company that that you are part of TrackVision who are commercializing EPCIS to Dotto and digital link. And those you know, I think what you're doing is really, really important. Supply chain visibility, traceability, and opening up the exchange of data about the supply chain, amongst different parties, I think is tremendously important to solving some very big problems. Food safety, climate change, just making the shopping experience better, making it more efficient, giving people information that they need to make better decisions. And in the on the podcast, we have covered those standards. EPCIS two Dotto and digital link, interviewing an old colleague of yours, Dominic Dennard, who's involved in a garden. So his friend, colleague, a lot to talk about, why don't we start off with just the elevator pitch on TrackVision. And then we can peel that apart and talk a bit about what you're doing and why you're doing it and how you ended up doing it. But that's short for people that have never heard of TrackVision. Who are you? And what do you do?
Curt Schacker 04:10
We are startup the company is is based actually in London in the UK. And that's because a lot of the folks that I'm working with are former colleagues that were based there. But we started the company, as you suggested in response to what we perceive to be a pretty fundamental challenge in the world of supply chains. And it has to do with really the nature of how supply chains are constructed. And what that is, is they're largely supply chains today are largely built on proprietary implementations that are supported by a number of different vendors. And, and that means that the data is stored in proprietary formats, the API's for exchanging information are proprietary, and so on. And if you're within a closed system, and everybody's using that particular application issue from that vendor, then I suppose the world works fine. But the problem is, is that as soon as you open that up and one participant is not using that system, the whole thing kind of comes to a screeching halt. And that's a long way of saying that we the paradigm for supply chains today does not support interoperability. To the extent that people do exchange information, those exchanges are built on a point to point basis, which are expensive. They're kind of brittle, they're, they're difficult to scale. And you can imagine, you know, the exponential complexity that happens, the more participants you have, the more complex the system gets. And so that's not a good state of affairs for the world. And again, as you suggested, there are a set of modern business challenges that, that we face that are really challenging that status quo. A lot of this falls under what people call supply chain traceability, which is sort of the ability to visualize, up and down your supply chain all the way to source in one direction and all the way to the consumer in the other direction. And we can't do that today with the existing architecture. Unfortunately, as you said, there are a couple of standards that have come on the scene, courtesy of GS one standards organization, one of those has been around for a while, it's called the Digital link. And if you scan a QR code, you've probably interacted with a digital link. There's much more to it than just pointing you to a web page. And we can certainly talk about that. But the other one is EPCIS. And in particular, the 2.0 version of EPCs. That standard was ratified by Gs one only last June. And it is the other key building block. And I'm sure we'll talk about, you know how those standards operate. But the two together offer us an opportunity to really fundamentally transform the paradigm and the nature of supply chains. In the sense that if everybody adopts those open standards, we suddenly get a world where interoperability just falls out of the out of the system by by its design. And system integration really kind of disappears, it's um, connecting to suppliers, or trading partners and supply chain is just as easy as opening up a browser and go to a web page. And, you know, we're, we're past due for that kind of revolution. If we look at other networks, like the internet, the World Wide Web, financial networks, cellular networks, and so on, they all rely fundamentally on standards and on the adoption and deployment of those standards by all participants. And that's why they work as well as they do and create the trend of tremendous value that we enjoy. It's not that way for supply chains, we think it should be that way. And we're going to take a bet on seeing if we can help make that happen.
Steve Statler 07:57
Excellent. So I want to explore what does the world looked like, after we've all got the religion or actually it's not religion, it's kind of very good, it doesn't require faith. It's all a matter of logic. It seems to me that we are operating supply chains in the dark and working familia, I have a perspective on some of the reasons why that's the case. But irrespective of the data carrier, whether you're using QR codes, RFID or Ambien IoT, that's just kind of an identifier, you need to exchange much more than just a asset ID up and down the supply chain. So what is it that your company does to enable that interoperability What what are you actually selling?
Curt Schacker 08:50
Well, we're providing a platform that is based on the the various standards that he talked about. So GS one digital link, and EPCs 2.0 are built into the platform that we've architected. And it manifests as some tools that enterprises can use to operate their supply chains in a way that are based on those standards. So we have a supplier portal where suppliers who are selling goods can enter information about their products, their batches and so forth, label them with digital links. And, you know, ship those into their trading partners and their and their trading partners. The receivers of those goods can interact with those labels as they come in again, using our software, extract that information from that digital link and record that supply chain event all in a standardized way. And if any and that can be done on an end to end basis. So any number of suppliers can do that with any number of their of their customers or their their buyers. And it requires really no out of the box or No pre system integration, we don't have to agree on how we're going to talk about things, how we're going to name things, how we're going to label things, what data structures or formats that we're going to use, it simply falls out of the infrastructure. So we are providing a set of tools that enterprises of all size can utilize within their organizations to operate their supply chains based on these standards.
Steve Statler 10:25
So you describe some, some screens, management screens that could be used and the kind of information that you get out, but are you providing an end to end solution? Is it a full stack? Or are you thinking of this as essentially a platform that other people build applications on top of?
Curt Schacker 10:45
Well, it's, I think it's somewhere in between, I mean, we have to be cognizant of the fact that these proprietary systems exist, and nobody's going to turn around and throw them out overnight. These are, these are big companies and big businesses. And you know, enterprises and organizations are utilizing this functionality on a very wide basis. So we can't just sort of stopped doing one thing and start doing something different. So what we provide is the ability to, for companies to use our software, in partnership with those applications. So if you're using SAP, for example, to manage your supply chain, that's great, continue to use SCP. And however data is represented and manipulated and utilize within that system can continue to do how it's being done today. But you don't have to force your partners to all use SAP in order to communicate with you. So if you plug TrackVision, if you will, kind of in between, that what we will do is we will provide for the communications with those other system has to be done within the standard. And if somebody else is using a system from Oracle, hey, no problem, they'll get the they'll get the information in EPCs format, with digital links, they can ingest that into the Oracle oracle system, and continue to operate the way that they always have been. But what they're not doing is having to force somebody to comply with their way of doing things. And, you know, that is just a very clunky way to operate. And that's what we're trying to affect positive change toward.
Steve Statler 12:23
And we'll get into a bit more detail on digital link and EPCIS. For people that don't really understand what those are, and haven't watched the episodes with, with Dominic that explains that in isolation, but just back to the fundamentals of what you're hoping to achieve and how you're hoping to achieve it. So you give the ability of people that have these big, huge enterprise applications that manage part of the supply chain to potentially interoperate and exchange data, insights, sensing information up and down the supply chain. Is that anybody else that's implemented the standard in the way you have? Because it seems like your company is born? I think out of some frustration that no one's really implementing the standards properly. Doesn't that give you a fundamental problem of if no one's implementing the standards? How can you interoperate with with others, because no one else has implemented the standards?
Curt Schacker 13:28
Absolutely. And I think all standards, you know, all technologies originate as proprietary technologies, and perhaps some less with the exception of stuff that was developed within the government. But all standards ultimately have that problem, you've got to migrate from the proprietary way of doing it to one based on standards. And it's a slow process at the beginning. And but you know, as adoption picks up, you sort of get this accelerated curve and eventually reach a tipping point, and it starts to make sense for everybody. But you're right, we've got to start somewhere. And, you know, one of the ways we're gonna get some help is from some government mandates that are coming out, that are dictating or mandating that, that some of the standards are used to accomplish the goals that they're they're attempting to achieve through the regulations that they're that they're providing. But yes, I mean, we're a startup and startups make bets. This is a big bet. You're absolutely right. If nobody picks up the standard will then TrackVision, we'll have to find something else to do. But we think it's a it's a worthy bet to make. And we know we're not the only ones we're probably we're one of the only ones that has started from a clean slate though, and have been able to base all of the the applications and the algorithms within our system based natively on the standards. And that's probably an advantage that we have and of course, we've been able to leverage a lot of the advance ANSYS and modern computing that have happened over the last few years. But the so most of the other implementations that are out there, at least the ones that I'm aware of, are more where they have sort of bolted on, if you will help the standards onto the side onto the side of their systems. And so there's sort of an internal transformation process that's happening, which I think is fine. And that may be you know, if I was retrofitting an existing system, that's probably the way I would do it, too. But we think there's a lot of sense in in building a platform natively around those standards.
Steve Statler 15:36
Where do you think the sweet spot is for what you're doing? You mentioned these regulatory mandates. And that's obviously a great thing for anyone that's building a business plan to look at this compelling need to change. Where do you see the biggest opportunities, the opportunities the moving the fastest?
Curt Schacker 15:58
Well, I think it's, I think it's a function of if you go back to what are some of the business challenges that are very difficult to address, what's the current paradigm, and then think about where those challenges are most acute, that's sort of the fertile ground to play. And so take recall, as an example, the world has a very big problem with recall. And a lot of effort is going into figuring out how we get that bad lettuce off the shelf before people get sick. And there's some really good work that's that's going on there. Of course, the FDA is leading the charge, I would say, with the FISMA 204 Act, which goes into full effect in January of 2026. And so, you know, they're basically requiring a certain set of foods that are listed on what they call the food traceability list, and the handlers of those foods to be able to respond to a traceability request from the FDA within a 24 hour period. And so, if you look at recall, as an application within the supply chain, then that makes food certainly an area to focus on. And so that's one of the areas indeed, that we that we believe there's a lot of opportunity for TrackVision. There are some other, again, applications that are related to supply chains, there's a lot of concern around carbon emissions naturally enough in the world, we're a little bit critical of what we think is the the kind of state of the art that we've seen right now for calculating carbon emissions, which are at least what I've seen, based kind of on averaging and taking a snapshot in time. And saying, Well, you know, in general, this is what they are based on the construction of your supply chain. And here we're talking, by the way, mostly about what are called scope three emissions, which are actually the majority of the of the impact of a carbon footprint. So there's the business that there's the carbon that you generate within your own organization. But when you ask somebody to do something for you, they have to emit carbon to fulfill that commitment. And those are called scope three emissions. And they're actually the largest part of the carbon footprint of of any organization. So, again, the way it's done today, it's sort of audits and averages and estimates and snapshots in time. And the problem with that is that it assumes the supply chain is very static, which it's not. So you know, one of the examples we use, if I'm buying two chairs, those chairs may be identical in every way from the standpoint of that the same G 10, the same SKU of the same materials. But the sourcing of those materials could have been quite different. And those differences have a meaningful impact on that carbon score. If the lumber, let's say it's a wooden chair, if the lumber that went into that chair was sourced in Brazil, while the chair was made in China versus being sourced in, say, Sri Lanka, and made in China, that's a very different trip to get that wood from one place to another. And there is a, there's a meaningful, in fact, that particular example, the impact of that emission probably actually outweighs all of the other emissions combined. And so, if you actually had and, and supply chain visibility, on an ongoing basis, it would be trivial, it is trivial, actually, to interrogate the digital links of those finished products and follow the digital links within that link. It's kind of a breadcrumb trail all the way back to source materials, and then just simply apply an algorithm. How much does this thing weigh this, this material I used? How far did it travel? And what mode of transportation did it take? And with those three inputs, I can come up with a pretty accurate estimate of what those carbon emissions are calculation of what those missions were. So chair number one is x. Chair number two is why and you can't get that with with averaging and estimates and audits.
Steve Statler 19:58
Yeah, so it seems Like, if I'm actually going to give a credible accounting of the carbon footprint of my organization, which I'm now obliged to under SEC rules, then I need to know that information. And at the moment, we're kind of doing these very, very high level, yeah, once a year at annual exercises, but what you're talking about is instrumenting, the supply chain to get ground truth, and being able to tell what the carbon footprint is of one product versus another. And I think, you know, once you do that, it's a short step to provide that real information to consumers. And then they can start to weigh in, and not just consumers, but anyone that's buying the product. And they can favor the Low Carbon approach. And then suddenly, we're employing the massive engine of capitalism to drive improvement and carbon reduction. But we can't do it unless we have the data and we can't get the data unless we can exchange the data up and down the supply chain. So I think what you're doing there is really important, I don't underestimate how far we've got to go, because this is just a huge leap. So I think you'll focus on food safety, and there's a very, very short term regulatory driver around the Food Safety Modernization Act. And we've had frank Yanis, the architects have for Switzerland for on this podcast, and he talks about it for anyone that wants to get into that. But you know, I have taken an interest in the regulation, it's, I think, for any of us that are involved in real time, supply chain visibility, it's, you know, huge opportunity to show the benefits of what we do. But I and what I've seen when I sit in on the GS one working group is, you know, there are some legacy standards that may if you twist and turn, be fit for purpose using EDI, advanced shipping notices, Electronic Data Interchange, advanced shipping notices, that's a form of passing data. But it doesn't really contemplate the structure that we're talking about. There's nowhere in the EDI spec there where it talks about food traceability, let alone carbon footprint. And it tends to cover the original shipment into the you know, the DC but maybe not from the DC to the grocery store or the warehouse. So it certainly doesn't cover the receiving events, which are part of shipping and receiving events are the kind of the fundamental links in the food safety chain. And there's no question in my mind that EPCIS is the best way of documenting and capturing the receiving events. What is it that I got in in the back door of the restaurant? Because, you know, theory, there's no question the theory of what you should get. And what you actually get is not always the same. And the regulation says you need to be accurate, and anyone that's ordered anything online and ever received a surprise delivery that wasn't what wasn't, was not what they ordered, knows that, that this needs to be validated and verified. So two good areas to focus on. I'm going to pause because I'm on a bit of a rant. But I do want to ask you about other use cases as well. But and anything else you want to more you want to say on the the food safety and the carbon front?
Curt Schacker 23:41
Well, I mean, I think those are, I think recall, I think carbon I think General provenance, you know, in other areas, what we sort of call certifications. So you know, again, if I'm buying that chair, I probably care at some level. And certainly a lot of people care about where those source materials were from. We have areas that are sanctioned. We know that things like you know, bad things like forced labor, child labor, deforestation happens. And there are organizations that are certifying, providing certifications to manufacturers, producers, farmers, etc. And those certifications can be essentially attached to the digital link for the materials that they're producing. And so again, the power of this is imagine having the digital link for a finished product. And being able to use that digital link to access all of those upstream materials all the way back to source. So not only do I get to do interesting things like calculate carbon, but also get to know where this product was made. I get to know whether the that area that it was made or where those materials were sourced were subjected to any kind of sanctions from any government organizations. I can read their certifications in digital form about there are compliance with rules and laws and moral issues like child labor. And again, I can make business decisions. And you know, as you talked about, if this information is surface to consumers, they can make business decisions, but also the enterprises and the retailers and the manufacturers can also decide who they want to work with. And based on that, you know, that transparent information that they're now being provided, get with the system, the way it works, today, it's all pretty much opaque, you have to take people's word for you know what they're telling you. And we just think there's a better way to do it. One thing we will talk about I'm sure is in the big upgrade that happened with EPCs. Two point out, and that's why we always say the 2.0 Is it really was the web ification of supply chain tracking. And that's why the digital link is so very, very important. Most people think of a digital link is, hey, you can put it into a QR code, and you can scan and it'll redirect you to a website. And that's how most people use them, it's fine. But a digitally can carry a lot more information. And in particular, you can attach other digital links to that digital link. And that's where you get the breadcrumb trail. So I if I buy that chair, and that chair has some some wood in it, I can have the digital link for the batch of wood that was provided to the manufacturer of that chair. And if I have the digital link to that, that can contain the digital link to the lumber, the planks that were used to to, to manufacture that. And I can follow that all the way back to source. And all I need is the web address. If I scan that web address, all of that information suddenly becomes available. And as a result of that, I think we get something really, really fundamentally different. Because all of these things that we're talking about all these business challenges are the are sort of attacked on kind of a request response basis, like I'm operating in, you know, in my world, everything is fine. And suddenly something bad happens. And I've got to track it down. And I've got to do whatever use whatever tools or mechanisms or obey whatever laws have been, you know, mandated to do that, right. But if we really, really had true end to end traceability, why can't that just be a monitoring system? Why can't I just have a dashboard that I can look at anytime I want, or that can alert me that if any upstream material that that I'm basing my product on has been subjected to a recall, why can't I just know that immediately? Why do I have to wait and ask for a report or conduct really any kind of forensic investigation, it's going from this request response model to a subscription model, just I want to subscribe to the things I care about recalled products that poorly performing performing carbon emissions situations, source materials that are coming from areas that I don't want to do business, and why can't I just be told that and and really the ultimate expression of what we're what we're gunning for here is is that ability.
Steve Statler 28:15
I think it's tremendously worthwhile. What, and I had to sort of check myself, I get all excited about Yeah, I want to be able to buy furniture. And I know it's not coming from a freshly clear cut part of the Amazon rainforest, or I so I don't want the wood that was used for the clear cutting, and I don't want the the dairy products or the meat from cows that have been grazing there. And actually, there's European legislation that says that I need to be able to prove that. So there's a regulatory driver. So this is all, you know, compliance, better worlds. It's kind of them meaningful to people's lives. But what about profit? Where do you think the biggest money making opportunities are from what you're offering?
Curt Schacker 29:08
Yeah. Well, you know, what, we have to think about this hard, obviously, as a startup, we have to present a viable, you know, business going forward. And certainly, you know, that's gonna be the first question investors are going to ask. But, you know, I think that one of the things that people forget is, you know, in a proprietary world, it's sort of this winner take all model, I'm gonna win, because I'm going to force everybody I'm going to get convince everybody to use my system. And of course, the world pushes back against that, because we sort of don't like monopolies. But we believe, you know, sort of the arc of history ultimately pushes towards standards and interoperability. And so you have to be able to build a business around the assumption of the existence of standards, and there are ways to do that. Look at all the companies that that were formed in the sort of late 80s, early 90s that exploded and grow of doing nothing other than implementing the protocols of the internet, Cisco Systems making routers mean all that's doing is taking standard packets coming in and routing them to someplace else in the next hop in the line. Somebody could have criticized that business and said, Well, anybody could do that. Well, perhaps but you know, there is a business to be made about being first, about being best in implementing standards. And I think that's what we're aiming to do. Get out there first, and be the best implementation that we can absolutely be. And we're happy to compete on that basis. We do not expect to be a monopoly, nor do we want to be a monopoly. If we're the only ones doing this, as you pointed out the beginning, it's a fail, it's a failure. Right, but but we think we can build a healthy business on that. And one of the things that we're missing right now from all of this is that we tend to talk about supply chains in the context of really big enterprises that have big it bunches, budgets, and departments, and so forth. But what about the small farmer with a 10 acre farm? That's just, you know, growing lettuce and shipping it to the supermarket? Right? What are those poor people supposed to do? You know, and they're kind of left out of the equation today. And, you know, the way it kind of works today is you've got these, I mean, literally, paper, you know, sending pieces of paper that, that say, I'm shipping you this, here's a case of lettuce, and it's bachelor XYZ, and you take that piece of paper and you entered into your system, I mean, we can do way better than that. We think we have constructed the platform in such a way that it is eminently affordable, all the way down to that small farmer running that 10 acre farm, we can get this technology into their hands, they can supply their downstream customers, all of them, they can use one approach, and support all of their customers. And we can do that very affordably. And there's there's a good business to be made doing that as well as to supporting the mid and large companies.
Steve Statler 32:01
Yeah, so in a world where more data exchange is being required, where you can't just ship the product, you need to ship information about the product, then you can help players like that save money, with a cost effective standards based way of sending the data to both Kroger and Walmart, and target, and Amazon. So. So you've convinced me that there's definitely a business model for you, and that you can make profit being the Cisco of exchanging data in the supply chain. But what I was thinking about was, you know, are there any other use cases where a buyer might say, well, I can really make a lot of money? And I think what I got out of your answer was A, you can make money and be you can save money for other people. But are there any other use cases that you can think of where this visibility just allows you to generate more revenue? Or is it really a cost saving thing and a compliance thing?
Curt Schacker 33:03
Well, I think those are the initial drivers. But you know, that's, and, you know, I probably could think of some additional ideas, maybe not quite on the spot, but I think, you know, I think we have to, you know, build have a belief in what the standards enable, I mean, you know, when when, when the World Wide Web Consortium, sat down and started writing the standards for the web that is fundamentally architect to sit on top of the internet, I don't think anybody in their right mind had any idea there could be such a thing as Amazon, and Facebook, and Google and all those. All those companies that are so much a bit so much a part of our life today are, you know, we're not even considered at that point in time. So I believe that when you create an ecosystem that everybody can participate in, there's a there's a value creation environment, and those applications will come about. And you know, if we do a good job here, we don't have to be the ones that come up with those applications. Anybody can can build applications on top of the standard infrastructure, they don't have to build something and port it to 10 different environments, because of all the proprietary systems out there. They can build it to the standard, market it to everybody using the standard, and I think the value creation will be tremendous. I don't know that we will be in that business or not. Perhaps that will be a direction of travel for us in the future. But as you said, you know, we've we've got some heavy lifting to do in the in the early days to get the standard off the ground.
Steve Statler 34:36
Very good. So let's just talk a bit more about the standards. I think you did a nice job of explaining that, you know, this digital link thing is it's it's a web address. It's a URL, if you like that is pointing to data about the product rather than just to the markup It describes how to paint a webpage, which is what a lot of web addresses are pointing to. Where does EPCIS come into this picture?
Curt Schacker 35:09
Yeah, so. So you know digital link is really the identification part of it, we we label, any trackable unit with a digital link. And that can be product items, or batches. And batches are usually the unit of that we're talking about of within supply chains, but product items, batches, cases, pallets, etc, they can all have digital links, and those digital links, basically carry all the information that we need to be able to access them over the web as you as you stated. So that's sort of how the digital wing part of it the identification part of it. That by itself is not enough, you also have to have the ability to collect supply chain event information. So as a product or any trackable unit is using his for example, moving from one location to another in sort of supply chain parlance, that is a supply chain event. And that event needs to be captured and recorded somehow some way, and made available to other systems to be able to utilize that data. Again, that's all being done mostly today with proprietary systems. So I've got a proprietary way of capturing that data, I've got a proprietary way of storing it. I build proprietary API's, so people can I can share that with other people. Again, that's the problem, right? So what EPCs does is said, Let's just standardize all that. Let's create a standardized data format to who, what when, where, why have any tracking event that occurs within the supply chain, let's standardize the way that information is recorded. And let's standardize a new set of API's where that information can be freely shared between trading partners. So you know, it's it's really not very different, maybe not different at all, from the operational steps that are performed today in supply chain operations around the world. It's just moving it from being done in a proprietary way to a standards based way.
Steve Statler 37:08
So those events might be location change events. So if we want to look up and down the supply chain and see where a particular item is that we've ordered, that we might use EPCIS, to see upstream. And if we're a manufacturer, and we want to see where our products are downstream, then we could use those location change events, so that if I'm Unilever, or the manufacturer of furniture for IKEA, I can get a sense of where things are. And if I can understand where they are, then I can understand inventory levels, and then suddenly, I get some amazing information that's going to help regulate my production systems. And I am basically manufacturing with the lights on up and down the supply chain, rather than things disappearing from sight, the moment they leave my factory.
Curt Schacker 38:02
Yeah, you know, like supply chains are, they work great until they don't work. And we got a pretty good glimpse of that, with COVID, where supply chains were massively disrupted. And it caused some, you know, some very big problems around the world. But they're kind of this, you know, there's there are these pristine constructions that don't tolerate deviations very well. And so, you know, what happens when, you know, there is a typhoon in the Pacific, and my supplier is based in Okinawa, Japan, or in Japan or China or what have you. And they can't make that shipment to me anymore. Well, I've obviously I'm building you know, I'm depending on that for my business. I've got downstream commitments, you know, based on the receiving those those orders. And right now, those you're getting that information is very, very difficult. And so the ability to sort of be malleable and agile, and to be able to react to those kind of real time changes is quite difficult to do. But you really pointed it out once you've got visibility, visibility is power, visibility is action ability. So once I can see what's going on, I can start to make no business decisions that will allow me to be responsive, and to be agile in the face of disruptions when the supply chain suddenly doesn't work as well as, as his usually does.
Steve Statler 39:29
Yeah, I mean, I'm thinking about answering my own question about how this can help companies be more profitable. But if I'm a retailer and I standard on EPS standardize on EPCIS, then I can potentially do what Walmart pioneered, which is delegating responsibility for filling shelves, to my suppliers. I can say, Look, I'm going to put a lot of cost, price pressure on you. But I'm going to sudden I'm going to start giving you information that allows you to run a much leaner supply chain so you can get more of my business, you can sell more stuff to me. Because you can lower the price while still having margins because I'm going to share information about where your product is in my supply chain. So you've suddenly got this like really intimate bond between the retailer and the manufacturer. And they're able to cut the capital tied up in inventory, they're able to run a leaner supply chain, they're able to drive down costs. I mean, you see, like Tesla, what Tesla is doing, they have, they're driving down costs to mercilessly, and they are entering into price wars, where they're making money, and the opponents are losing money. So I think putting EPCIS in place can essentially give enterprises the same kind of capability, it's a way of engineering cost out of supply chain, and eliminating out of stock, so you can sell more. So it's really what, how can I run a supply chain if the lights are on, and I switched on? godmode, which allows me to see everything? And how much more money can I make if I see all of that? So we've covered a lot, but I'd like to hear a bit more about your company, and you know, who's in it, and what you're doing is pretty revolutionary. How did attract vision come about? And who are the founders?
Curt Schacker 41:39
Well, so yeah, aside from myself, there are a couple of other founders, who, as I, as I mentioned, who are based over in London, you know, we, we are a group of folks that have been working together for a very long time. And in a previous enterprise. And, you know, we saw the we were, we were kind of first party witnesses to the development of the standards that we're talking about. And you mentioned down Denard, who, who we worked with quite closely, who was instrumental in the development of both of those standards. So we got to see that, that evolve. You know, at the time, I think there may have been, we felt there might have been an opportunity to capitalize on the coming ratification of of EPCIS. But you know, timing is everything, and we just weren't at a place in time within the organization that we were working for, where we were able to, to proceed with that. But we thought it was a really good idea. And, and so we just decided to get the team together, and say, let's go take a shot at this. It's a pure play. You know, we're not trying to do anything other than hand, provide Supply Chain Solutions based on the standards, and we're gonna live and die, you know, on that proposition. But we're very, very passionate about it. We believe this is the way the world should operate. We think a lot of very good things will come out of this a lot of benefits to society. We've talked about some there probably many others that we haven't scratched the surface of. And we're passionate about it. So you know, we're a small, lean and mean team that we're working very hard to are some worthwhile objectives.
Steve Statler 43:26
Well, I know you have some really amazing engineering talent, a lot of experience with building the kind of serialization platforms that is enabling what you're doing. So I'm sure that is helping you a lot. What is your connection with the Hubble telescope?
Curt Schacker 43:46
Well, actually, so I majored in computer science and math. And I'm going to date myself here, because my first my first programming class was was Fortran, on punch cards. So literally, punch a card and one collide, if you know, one line of code is one card, and you put them into this card reader. I mean, just crazy to think about given given how much we've advanced since then. But that's how I got my start, and eventually focused on real time operating systems. So that was really my focus and in college. And when I graduated, I had an opportunity to come out to California to work on the Hubble Space Telescope. And I was on the team that was responsible for developing the flight software. So on the Hubble, there's a flight computer that is essentially responsible for all the operations of the Hubble as a spacecraft. So how does it point how does it harvest energy? How does it communicate back to Earth? How does it interact with the magnetic field around the Earth, all of those things that that aren't about the science that it performs, all of that is done on the on the With the flight software on the on the flight computer, I'll tell you a funny little story about that the grand total of the memory on that flight computer is 48k 48k words of memory. That's it. And the original spec was that all systems would be Tripoli redundant. And so the flight software was supposed to fit within 16k. So we get up three copies of it on board and failover if we needed to, eventually it launched with a consuming about 90 ish percent of that 48k. But you can imagine, you know, we're, we're saving every bit that we possibly can, and lots of time was was spent just trying to optimize algorithms, so we could make things, you know, make things smaller. But it's very gratifying. Obviously, the Hubble is down, you know, just amazing things. And, you know, the nature of spacecraft is that you don't really, you don't really update it much if you don't have to, there have been manned missions to to the Hubble back when we had the space shuttle program. Some of the instruments have been swapped out and so forth. But the but the flight computer is the flight computer. And so, you know, some of that code that I wrote is still out there orbiting the Earth somewhere.
Steve Statler 46:14
Wow, that is so cool. I'm, I'm, I'm jealous. I'm tempted to compete with you with my programming on paper tape story, but I am not gonna go there. At least not on not whilst we're recording. So we have our traditional three favorite songs question, and I'm interested in what you decided your three songs would be? What's number one?
Curt Schacker 46:36
Well, number one, this is I'm sure you hear this all the time. But this is probably the hardest question you ask is I had to dig deep. But I am. I guess I kid that grew up in the 60s. And I was a little kid in the 60s. But I had older siblings, I was exposed to a lot of popular music rock'n'roll at that time. And of course, I became a big Beatles fan. So I'd be very remiss if I didn't name a Beatles song. And you know, probably I could many one out of 10 I could probably agree with that. I had to settle on one. So I picked A Day in the Life.
Steve Statler 47:11
I love. I love that, especially the ending. That's the one with the piano, right?
Curt Schacker 47:20
Yeah, the big though. Well, the massive orchestra where they were just told to just play a chromatic scale, you know, and it'll make a bunch of noise. And that's what we want, guys. So it was also really, I think the one of the really clear collaborations between Lennon and McCartney, they're all They're all giving a song, you know, the songwriting credit to all of the music that they produce, but in reality, a lot of their songs were written separately. But in this case, they really collaborated. So that middle bit is chorus. Paul McCartney and then John Lennon on the on the other parts.
Steve Statler 47:53
Yeah, I, for me, that album is my favorite of, of everything they've produced. I thought it was interesting. I don't know if you've seen the video that just recently came out the last Beatles song because we, you know, we I was born in the 60s as well. And I there was something in Rolling Stone where they said, Isn't it amazing that we're in 2023 and The Beatles and The Rolling Stones both released new material during the same month. Actually, the Rolling Stones album Hackney diamonds, I think is pretty amazing. Especially the last two songs, Lady Gaga and the one where they reprise their, their the song where they got their name from. But going back to the Beatles, there's this amazing documentary about this last single, which is the cleaned up recording from a cassette tape that Yoko Ono gave to Paul of John Lennon, essentially recording a demo, which the quality was originally considered just not good enough. But then Peter Jackson, who who did the amazing documentary about their creative process, as well as Lord of the Rings, and all that sort of thing, cleaned up the audio and separated out the piano. It's just it's I don't know if you've seen that video, but it's an amazing.
Curt Schacker 49:26
People have different feelings about it. I honestly, I didn't love it. And you know, I thought they, I mean, I appreciate the effort and the sentiment behind it. But I just thought it came out kind of clunky for my taste.
Steve Statler 49:43
Well, there's the promotional video, which I think is what you're talking about where they kind of Oh, yes, yes. But then there's the documentary about the making of and I yeah, I can understand why you don't like the promotional video, but there's a little documentary yet on how they actually made it and that was fascinating.
Curt Schacker 50:02
I did sit through the massive get back sessions. I did that twice, actually. So really, those are my bonus feats of being a true Beatles fan.
Steve Statler 50:12
Yeah, I that gave me the hairs on the back of my next stand up.
Curt Schacker 50:18
Unbelievable, really just genius.
Steve Statler 50:21
So that's number one. What's number two?
Curt Schacker 50:24
Well, number two is not too far away, actually. So you may remember, or know that when the Beatles broke up. Toward the end of their career together, they started their own label called Apple Records, actually, and it didn't last very long. And they didn't have very many acts, but one of them was a group called Bad fingered. And they had a lot of help from the Beatles. They had a few hits actually that were one of which was written by Paul McCartney called Come and Get It. And they had a few others but so I've loved them forever. I think I thought some of those songs are just fantastic. And the Beatles played on a number of those George Harrison plays the slide guitar on on one of them that he plays that brilliantly. However, if you were a fan of the Breaking Bad series, you may remember that the very last scene, the musical accompaniment is a song called Baby Blue by Badfinger. And I love that song before and I must love it even more now that it has that association.
Steve Statler 51:33
I love hearing these these favorites because it gives me an excuse to dig into it. So I actually don't know if Badfinger very well and I will dig into it. I think another artists they had on Apple they signed up from and promoted from obscurity with James Taylor is pretty good.
Curt Schacker 51:51
Yeah, he's not too bad. He's he's made a few songs.
Steve Statler 51:56
Very good. So amazed two amazing choices. And what's the last one?
Curt Schacker 52:01
Well, now I'm gonna throw your curveball because through all of that, somehow, I became a country music fan. And I listened to country music quite a lot more into my kind of 20s I guess 20s and 30s. Country music went through a huge change in the early 80s It was sort of the genre was almost hijacked in some ways by by record companies and it was sort of transformed to something that is today not really recognizable as what I would call traditional country music. You know, the the Merle Haggard's and Johnny Cash is in the George Jones and folks like that, but but I have to say there's one song that if I if I could ever only listen to one song again, this might be the one and it's it's a song called Sunday Morning Coming Down. It was written by Kris Kristofferson. And it was a it was a favorite of Johnny Cash as he played it a lot. He played it at most of his live performances. And it's just brilliant. It it evokes some bittersweet feelings that were probably reflective of maybe it was going on in his life, or perhaps Kris Kristofferson, in his life had that time. It's a very powerful ballad, and I think worth listening to.
Steve Statler 53:16
I'm gonna take that suggestion seriously and listen to I have to say, being a Brit. I've always found it a little difficult to relate to country music, although there are a lot of country music fans in England in Great Britain. But like I love it is kind of the closest I've got to reapply. Now. He's pretty Yep. Yeah, I remember going to one of his concerts in Portland, Oregon, where he stopped the concert in the middle and said, Whoever smoking pot, stop it. Otherwise, I'm out of here. I was like, Oh, my goodness. There's a dream living person.
Curt Schacker 53:52
Yeah, I guess. No doubt cleared out the concert all these days.
Steve Statler 53:57
That's true. That's true. Very good. I have really enjoyed those. And I've really enjoyed talking to you. Thanks for coming on the show.
Curt Schacker 54:05
Thank you so much, Steve. Thanks for having me on.
Steve Statler 54:10
So that was Curt Schacker. And I really enjoyed his stories of the Hubble telescope and his music choices. But also, I was inspired by what's going on there in terms of the TrackVision, commitment, pureplay commitment to these GS one standards, which we've talked about in the past, but they're actually doing it. And a lot of lip service is being played paid to implementing EPCIS digital link. But it's great to see a company that are actually fully committed to it. So do check them out. TrackVision.AI is the web address. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. It means a lot to me that we have a dedicated follower set of followers who are interested and have the attention span quite frankly to stick with the in depth long form content that we create. So, thank you, and thank you to Aaron, and to Brooke, who helped make the episode possible. Until next time, stay safe.