Mobile Innovation for the Enterprise On-Demand
After developing the vision and prototype for a mobile logistics platform in 2010, the MIT NextLab Program continues its mobile innovation research in 2011 by expanding it beyond distribution networks into other areas of the enterprise. ‘Enterprise On-Demand’ is the coined term for research and development of mobile prototypes aimed at crowdsourcing as many organizational roles and functions as possible, in an attempt to disaggregate the enterprise, flesh out its inefficiencies, and envision the nimble, networked organization of the smartphone age
Key questions for this research are:
- what types of businesses and industries could be significantly improved through on-demand crowdsourcing, leveraging the impending ubiquity, and the ever increasing “smarts” of smartphone technologies?
- which individual roles and which group functions within an organization can become candidates for on-demand crowdsourcing and what efficiencies could be obtained by doing so?
- implementation of an online platform that enables our students and corporate partners to design and deploy Enterprise On-Demand apps quickly and easily, so that they can be used to help transform organizations in the real world?
To address these questions, NextLab has forged a collaborative relationship with industry partners to consolidate a broad base of skills and expertise from which to undertake a thorough research and prototyping program. This partnership is being spearheaded by the Center for Latin American Logistics Innovation (CLI), a research foundation funded by Logyca, a leader in logistics products and services in the Colombian market. Other Colombia-based partners include Alpina, a leader in food products in the Colombian market; Inversiones Mundial a group of companies in diverse business like paints, water, chemicals and commerce; and Unilever, a renowned global consumer goods company. Leading the mobile and emerging payments platforms is Bank of America, one of the world’s best known and most innovative financial services companies.
This work builds on NextLab’s experience in the design and deployment of mobile technologies for challenging environments, mostly as part of the Next Billion Network, from 2006-2009, and m-Logistics during 2010. Successful technologies and commercial spinoffs include Assured Labor, a mobile job search startup; Dinube, a cloud based mobile payment venture; Zaca, a mobile rural price board; m-UV, a mobile purchasing application for rural storekeepers, and most recently, m-Logistics, a mobile distribution network enabler.
Program of Research and Prototyping
To flesh out these questions in an academic setting, NextLab has partnered with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá (Javeriana) and is running a dedicated course at the University’s Bogotá campus during the Spring semester of 2011.
Started in January 2011, NextLab@Javeriana is a course that merges the content of the Mobile Computing class being offered at the Universidad Javeriana and the NextLab class being offered at MIT. It has a selected group of 22 engineering and computer science Javeriana students organized in 5 Project Teams that will develop mobile technology prototypes designed to address real-world enterprise problems under the principles of Enterprise On-Demand.
During the Summer term, Students, NextLab and Javeriana staff will undertake testing and implementation on-site, in the operations of our Industry Partners. In the Fall, NextLab staff will use the results of the Summer testing and implementation to integrate an end-to-end Enterprise On-Demand solution using the mobile applications and managerial interfaces developed during the Spring. We expect to have a working prototype ready by the end of 2011. (NextLab went through the same process in 2010, with the conception and launch of the m-Logistics prototype that is now being piloted with CTL sponsor Estafeta Mexicana, S.A.)
Colombia is an ideal setting to undertake these research questions and develop mobile prototypes, given the following characteristics of the environment:
- with growing demographic needs and high potential for economic development, but lacking fully developed infrastructures to compete at a global level, mid-bracket emerging markets are an ideal setting for Leapfrogging, the phenomenon in which developing countries skip technologies and business models currently used in developed economies in favor of newer, more efficient ones, thus bypassing legacy infrastructures
- the active collaboration of CLI as a research foundation, as well as its consortium of corporate sponsors -all of which are innovation-minded multinational corporations- enables an ideal incubation environment for cutting edge technologies and their adoption in real-world business operations, thereby significantly increasing the odds for Leapfrogging to take root and flourish. Furthermore, the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) has an active collaborative relation with the CLI and its corporate consortium, and the two institutions have worked in diverse innovation projects since 2007
- Colombia is well known for its fertile lands as well as for its decaying land infrastructures. Thus, logistics and distribution jobs are significant challenges for its fragmented transportation industry, and the many workers employed in temporary and informal terms. The wide array of companies that rely on this industry to get its perishable and other consumer products to their destination are keen to embrace innovative technologies and business models that can help them address these inherent obstacles in their quest to become efficient, world class competitors
In the near future we will continue to leverage our relationships with other major universities in the emerging markets to expand the footprint of our research. For the Fall 2011, we’re planning to replicate this process in Brazil, collaborating with the University of Sao Paulo.
- NextLab Staff: the people who work at the MIT NextLab program who participate in the NextLab@Javeriana course for Spring 2011, including the two NextLab interns currently residing in Mexico and Colombia
- Javeriana Staff: the Bogotá-based faculty of the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá who are instructors of its mobile computation course
- Project Teams: the groups of Students that are developing each Project, which includes: 4-5 Universidad Javeriana students, an Industry Partner, and a CLI Mentor, guided by NextLab and Javeriana Staff
- Industry Partners: the corporate executives that, representing their employers, are guiding the Project Team through the needs of his organization in order to have the field knowledge necessary to develop the Project (see Industry Partners section below)
- CLI Mentors: researchers from the CLI who act as the resident experts on all matters of logistics and supply chain management as well as liaison between Industry Partners and Project Teams
- Students: all graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in the Universidad Javeriana’s mobile computation course. Every Student is a member of a Project Team
The following organizations are active partners in the Enterprise On-Demand Research and Prototyping Program.
- CLI, the Center for Latin-American Logistics Innovation, created in 2008 through Logyca’s partnership with MIT CTL, is the leader in education and research in transportation, logistics and supply chain in Latin America. By leveraging strong industry relationships and through innovative research and educational alliances with top Universities in the region, CLI offers world-class educational programs in which global and regional leaders are formed.
- Logyca, for the last 20 years, this supply chain firm has focused on delivering the tools and capabilities that enterprises need to successfully establish collaboration within their value network
- Alpina Productos Alimenticios S.A. provides food products in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and USA. Its products include beverages, milk, baby food, desserts, cheeses, cream and butter, and finesse products. Based in Bogotá, the company is the third largest dairy producer in Colombia with sales over US$700 million currently employing 6,500 people
- Unilever, a British-Dutch publicly traded multinational corporation that owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. The Bogotá office manages the “Middle Americas” region, which includes Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panamá, Honduras and Nicaragua
- Inversiones Mundial: Mundial Logistics Service (MLS), the Third Party Logistics Provider (TPL) business unit for Inversiones Mundial, one of Colombia´s largest diversified holding company. MLS manages a yearly average of half a million individual invoices, and coordinates 60,000 vehicles in 678 routes, covering 12,000 points of sale throughout the Colombian territory. Inversiones Mundial’s other businesses include paints, chemicals, retail, water (tubes and pipes) and other related (inks and packaging), as well as import/export and other diversified services. The Group is comprised of 34 companies operating in 11 countries in Central and South America
- Bank of America, a financial services company, the largest bank holding company in the United States, by assets, and the second largest bank by market capitalization. Bank of America serves clients in more than 150 countries and has a relationship with 99% of the U.S. Fortune 500 companies and 83% of the Fortune Global 500. The company is a member of the FDIC and a component of both the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. As of 2010, Bank of America is the 5th largest company in the United States by total revenue, as well as the second largest non-oil company in the U.S.
Research Projects for Enteprise On-Demand
Project A. Mobile Sales and Customer Service
- Objective: Develop a mobile application and relevant hardware drivers that can be used by Alpina Salespeople in the field to upload, in real time, purchase orders from clients in Traditional Retail Stores. For customer service purposes, the Mobile Application should also enable the salesperson to follow up the purchase throughout all processes
- Field Stakeholder(s): An Alpina Salesperson that travels daily to Traditional Retail Stores
- Industry Partner: Alpina Productos Alimenticios S.A
Project B. Mobile Warehouse Management and Point Of Sale
- Objective: Develop a mobile application and relevant hardware drivers that can be used by Unilever ice cream micro-entrepreneurs in the field to signal their location, container temperature, existing inventory, and other relevant information. It should also act as a POS to record sales, and receive payments of some form
- Field Stakeholder(s): A Unilever ice cream micro-entrepreneur
- Industry Partner: Unilever
Project C. Mobile Shipping, Delivering, and Invoicing
- Objective: Develop a mobile application and relevant hardware drivers that can be used by the Shipper to receive the purchase order from Salespeople, check inventory, and contract out the transport. It also should be used by the Loader to tell the Shipper the various phases of the loading process of the package into the Truck, and monitor the proper delivery of the Package by the Trucker from the Origin to the Destination. The Receiver must be able to input various types of relevant information related to the physical delivery of the Package or of the transaction, including problems, changes, or requests. All matters of invoicing should be included
- Field Stakeholder(s): Shipper, Transport Contractors, Loader, Receiver
- Industry Partner: Alpina Productos Alimenticios S.A.
Project D. Mobile Fleet Management and Trucking
- Objective: Develop a mobile application and relevant hardware drivers that can be used by any Transport Contractor to obtain, in real time, all the information necessary to bid for every Contract that becomes available from its client (Alpina/MLS). It should also help manage all aspects of the delivery job from start to finish once the Contract is awarded. To do that, he must also have full visibility of all the relevant characteristics of the fleet, the Truckers, the Package (i.e. load), the Origin, and Destination
- Field Stakeholder(s): Transport Contractor, Trucker
- Industry Partner: Mundial Logistics Service (MLS)
Project E. NFC-enabled Peer-to-Peer Mobile Transactions
- Objective: Develop an embedded contactless system of payment and stored value account between all parties involved in all Business Processes, leveraging the most innovative business models and effective technologies available commercially in the market.
- Field Stakeholder(s): All Stakeholders who need to pay or be paid at any time during any of the Business Processes
- Industry Partner: Bank of America