One of my portfolio companies, Weft, is at the leading edge of one of the next revolutions in supply chain--using real-time shipment related data to better plan and execute operations. And so is Veniam, a new portfolio company of Union Square Ventures, but with a slightly different goal--universal wifi availability for smart phones.
What does Weft do? Through the Weft platform -- which integrates with Weft sensors, with sensors from other providers, and with ERP and CRM systems -- users log in to get the current status and to set alerts for out-of-bounds conditions (location, temperature, moisture, shock/vibration) and stage completion.
What does Veniam do? They make a “stack” of wireless technology that lets moving objects (think buses, garbage trucks, cars, vans, etc) carry a wifi access point/router and mesh with each other and anyone else who wants to join the network. With enough density, buses driving around your city can provision a wireless mesh that anyone can use on their smart phone when they are out and about. It’s a big vision and will take a lot of work (and luck) to realize, but this or something like it is eventually going to work and we are going to have a better way to access the internet on our phones than we have today.
Why are mesh networks a big deal? The current reality is, even though we know a lot about shipments and order availability, most of the data is not real time. If we were able to have more reliable data, we would be able to make better decisions, or so the theory goes.
Or not...the true reality is the existing processes, people and technologies cannot handle real time data in many of their decision procedures. Oh sure, we can certainly use some of the information, but not really change fundamental operations...yet.