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Tokenization Blockchain For Your Next Pizza Delivery Tip?

Pythagoras Pizza serves artisanal pizza on a unique sourdough crust that has been aged and baked twice to give it more character. Its San Francisco fan base is very fond of their offerings, but that’s not where Pythagoras plans to make a bold impact – they will offer “tokenization,” a Bitcoin-type cryptocurrency to its staff and clients.

If Pythagoras and other businesses want to create a currency or reward system using this technology, it could be a bold idea that will leave a resounding impact on business and commerce…

Pythagoras’s CEO Evan Kuo is no stranger to the startup scene, having been part of several startup companies in the past. In fact, this is what motivated him to change the way stocks and company growth are measured. He plans to use the same blockchain technology Bitcoin is known for in order to create a new digital currency he named “fragments.” Employees who make and deliver pizzas, as well as loyal customers who refer their friends, get fragments instead of the usual points people earn in a regular loyalty reward program.

Through this tokenization, fragments are accumulated and tallied in favor of the employee or customer. Later on, they can be considered as shares of stock; the value can rise and fall depending on how Pythagoras performs in the market.

Kuo laid down his plans for Pythagoras and his Bitcoin derivative in a proposal he likens to the American Dream. The Business Insider interviewed him about this bold idea, and Kuo explained he wants employees to share in the growth of his company. However, unlike stocks in Silicon Valley companies, the fragments don’t really give employees ownership of the Pythagoras Pizza. They are also not allowed to make corporate and planning decisions.

Not Another Cryptocurrency Imitation

Bitcoin has become a popular cryptocurrency over the years. Its blockchain technology allowed it to become an effective means of exchanging money. It is used for payment and is now considered as a form of investment. Because of its popularity, there have been several imitations of Bitcoin, using the same blockchain technology.

Pizza with Bitcoin Pepperoni

Burger King, for one, announced its version of the Bitcoin, called the WhopperCoin. This is a customer rewards program of the popular burger chain, but is currently only available in Russia.

Tokenization, conversely, is used to switch out sensitive data such as a credit or debit card number with random numbers in the same format. It’s not the same as encryption because encrypted numbers can be decrypted or cracked with the right key code. Tokenization can be considered as a higher form of security, because it uses an undecipherable token, and the data can be later stored in secure cloud-based data vault.

The tokens stand in for the actual set of numbers. There’s no need to decrypt because there is no mathematical relationship between the token and the original numbers. To regain access to the original set of numbers, the numbers need to be “de-tokenized.”

The goal of tokenization is to thwart credit card theft and personal financial attacks.  The key here is limiting the usable information thieves may have access to. When credit card numbers or bank accounts are tokenized, they become practically useless to everyone else. It basically leaves nothing to steal, and this is what makes the system effective.

If Pythagoras and other businesses want to create a currency or reward system using this technology, it could be a bold idea that will leave a resounding impact on business and commerce – but only when the technology is perfected and all the kinks have been ironed out.

Still, it’s something new and unique and could be something to look forward to with each box of pizza you order.

Bodega Internet-Connected Vending Machines Make a Splash

There are an estimated 16,500 bodegas in New York City. These are mom-and-pop owned convenience stores which sell pretty much everything from cigarettes, to food and water, to other obscure items such as lottery tickets. As such, bodegas are a distinctive part of the NYC landscape. Part of their appeal is the friendly neighborhood service with a personal touch to regular customers. Recently, the bodegas of New York were startled by a San Francisco startup which called itself Bodega.

According to Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there were 1.5 million internet-connected vending machines in 2015. Among the companies which operates vending machines, Shop24 has locations in Europe and in the United States.

Bodega made a bold action, launching a product and a concept which was basically a smart vending machine. These would be internet-connected and the customer would use an app to operate the Bodega. The app itself would be linked to the user’s credit card, creating a system where the Bodega vending machines would not be accepting cash.

The Bling and the Media Hype

The trouble with Bodega was the hype surrounding it. The company was founded by two former Google employees, Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan; they brought their extensive experience and contemporary technologies into the project, with some tech already in use by other companies. The controversy started when Bodega’s vending machines were likened to the mom-and-pop stores and it was implied that these could replace the brick-and-mortar shops.

 

Additionally, it was considered in bad taste that a product which aims to replace an establishment would use the name of the older establishment. The chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chamber of Commerce mentioned that for the startup “to compete with bodegas and also use the ‘bodega’ name is unbelievably disrespectful.” The organization represents a sizable number of bodega owners, as 85% of these stores are owned by Latinos.

The way the Bodega machine would work is fairly simple. A Bodega machine is, strictly speaking, not a traditional vending machine. It looks like a cabinet with clear glass doors, filled with office food essentials, or whatever product is appropriate for the location of the Bodega. To operate, all you have to use is your smartphone. There is neither card, coin, nor paper money slots. There is just a Bodega machine number on it, which you enter into the matching Bodega smartphone app.

Once you entered the number, the Bodega box unlocks and you can take whatever you want from it. Special cameras within the premises or the immediate area will monitor the activities around the Bodega, which will determine what you took out of the box. It will also calculate how much you have purchased and automatically deduct this from the credit card associated with the app.

Taking Cue from Amazon Go

This grab and go feature has already been used by Amazon in their experimental store called Amazon Go. Such a feature also makes buying from a Bodega that much easier. Since there is no physical money involved, there is no need to monitor the cash flow. Supply personnel only need to place new items for sale when they come to replenish the stocks.

The technology may yet stick. According to Swedish market research firm Berg Insight, there were 1.5 million internet-connected vending machines in 2015. Among the companies which operates vending machines, Shop24 has locations in Europe and in the United States.

In terms of technology, Japan and South Korea have been using cashless payments for vending machines for some time now. The startup called Bodega may have raised some concerns in New York City, but the bold move should not be seen as a threat. If Japanese experience in vending machines is any indication, it would seem that the mom-and-pop stores have nothing to fear, and will co-exist with the vending machines.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures: Bill Gates Energy Play

Bill Gates is one of the most influential thinkers and investors of our time, known for creating innovations that almost always have bold impacts within various industries. Recently he shared some thoughts on Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1 billion fund which invests in long-term research for cheap, reliable and clean energy. The various names and personalities involved in this project have a long history of investing in potential energy sources.

The various projects and technologies are not expected to bear fruit within the next 3 to 5 years. In fact, it is estimated that it could take up to 20 years for these innovations to be ready for the market.

The main idea behind the investment fund is that by 2050, the world would need twice the energy that is currently being produced. Between now and 2050, new and innovative ways for energy production and distribution have to be created and put into line. This is just one part of the many goals Ventures has.

Grand Challenges

The project has outlined five grand challenges, which all contribute to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Electricity – More electricity will be needed by 2050. The question is, how do we generate the reliable and affordable electricity without consequently creating a large carbon footprint?
  2. Buildings – Eliminating emissions from homes, offices, hospitals, schools and homes.
  3. Manufacturing – Factories will still exist. How can factories create objects without emitting greenhouse gases?
  4. Transportation – How to transport goods, and people without having an impact on greenhouse gases (GHG)?
  5. Food – How to grow food and distribute it to the people without further deforestation and climate change.
    Breakthrough Energy Ventures: 5 needs for energy.

In general, investments in startups and growth companies are a gamble. The technology may or may not work. It may not be feasible on a large scale. People might not want to use it. As such, Bill Gates advocates an approach which may be alien to non-investors.

He says that there is a need to fail fast, as well as avoiding investing in large factories, refineries and technologies which might not work. Anticipating that there would be failures along the way, it is necessary to be investing in multiple technologies. The idea would be to give opportunity for other technologies to prosper or develop.

In essence, this is not much different from the approach used by the Manhattan Project in creating the first atomic bomb. There were various engineering and metallurgical obstacles in the project that it became necessary to continue research and development for all the various possibilities.

Gates $1 Billion Fund

The Breakthroughs Energy Ventures does not have the same urgency as the Manhattan Project, nor does it have a vast amount of money, but $1 billion is still a lot to go around. To raise the fund took a substantial number of people. These were all veteran investors with a like mind towards investing in a wide range of tech startups, as well as having the savvy to be patient. The various projects and technologies are not expected to bear fruit within the next 3 to 5 years. In fact, it is estimated that it could take up to 20 years for these innovations to be ready for the market.

Included among the biggest investors who have put their money into the venture fund are Vinod Khosla, John Doerr, and John Arnold. Other investors include Richard Branson, Mukesh Ambani from India, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, Ray Dalio, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Chris Hohn from the UK, Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna, Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi from China, Frenchman Xavier Niel, Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, Julian Robertson and Masayoshi Son of Japan.

The combined efforts of these movers and shakers are sure to make a bold impact on the energy industry as well as other niches.

Russian Agriculture Becomes the Food Superpower

During the height of the Cold War, the balance of power was arrived at by diplomacy of all kinds, including wheat. There were years when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) experienced shortages in wheat production, and the United States sold them their much-needed grain. This was not acknowledged internally in the USSR, but it was a stabilizing trade.

The growth in the agricultural sector may still be egged on further with some improvements in the system. The current farm systems follow the old large farm collectives of the Soviet Union.

After the USSR’s demise, the division of the various Soviet Republics resulted in some disparities in resources. Ukraine remained the leading wheat producer among the former Soviet Republics, while the southern republics became the leading oil producers. Russian agriculture has vast tracts of land producing both oil and wheat, leading the world in exporting the former.

Becoming a Food Superpower

In recent news, Russian agriculture has benefited from the warming trend. During the period from July 2016 to June 2017, Russian agriculture exports totaled 27.8 million metric tons of wheat. This is more than the total harvest of the European Union and makes the country the leading exporter of grain exports is expected 31.5 million during the current marketing cycle, something that will create a bold impact on the global food market.Chart of Russian Agriculture on Grain Export Production

Besides wheat, Russian agriculture is also among the top grain exports like corn, barley, and oats. However, they are not alone among the former Soviet Republics, as Kazakhstan and Ukraine are also big grain exports.

Russian agriculture is increasing grain exports and a growing trend, along with those of Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The pattern does not seem to be reversing any time soon. One reason for the increasing harvests is due to the effects of global change. Grain exports are expected to experience an increase in temperature of 1.8 degrees Celsius (35.24 deg. Fahrenheit) before 2030, and up to 3.9 deg. C (39.02 deg. F) by 2050. The temperature change is expected to be more significant in winter. Months of snow are becoming shorter in some regions, resulting in longer crop growing seasons and improved yields.

Under the former USSR, large tracts of land were farmed even if these were low yielding. A lot of resources were used to keep these lands productive. After the fall of the Soviet Union, these low-yield lands which required great resources were left fallow, with farmers looking at a better return for their labor. Now that these lands can be more easily farmed, the performances are also better for the farmers. The harvest has grown with more land under cultivation.

Building More Roads to Transport Produce

With more land under cultivation and the resulting bumper harvest, the next question is how and where to distribute the crops. The how is an ongoing problem to this day. As the growth in the volume of harvest has put a strain on the infrastructure, it may take a while before this can be addressed as road improvement is under government jurisdiction.

grain exports from russian agriculture and called as a food superpower

When the Grain exports, consumption has been growing at 2.8% annually from 2011 to 2016. This is expected to continue at a lower growth rate of 1.4% annually up to 2021.

The growth in the agricultural sector may still be egged on further with some improvements in the system. The current farm systems follow the old vast farm collectives of the Soviet Union. These are now composed of a few dozen conglomerates which use Western technology to improve farming techniques and methods.

Russian agriculture has also begun to change land regulations to allow smaller private farms to till the soil. This is expected to further accelerate the increase in farm production, a bold action for the agricultural sector.