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A blockchain/IoT combo could reduce food fraud by $131B in five years

Using blockchain and IoT tracking technology to trace the journey food takes from farms to grocery store shelves will “revolutionize” the food industry, reducing retailers’ costs by streamlining supply chains and simplifying regulatory compliance, according to a new study by UK-based Juniper Research.

The report said blockchain’s immutable ledger, combined with IoT sensors and trackers, is key to creating a more efficient food recall process.

Food fraud relates to mislabelled, diluted or substituted food and ingredients.

“For example, extra virgin olive oil labelled as originating from Greece when in fact it comes from somewhere else,” said Juniper analyst Morgane Kimmich. “Much of the interest in the technology also comes from the fact that blockchain has the potential to give more control to all actors involved in the process, from farmers to retailers, by providing them with a transparent and immutable platform offering full visibility of the supply chain.”

[ Read the Download: Beginner’s guide to blockchain special report ]

With adoption increasing in the supply chain industry, blockchain and IoT will create $31 billion in food fraud savings globally by 2024 by immutably tracking food across the supply chain. Substantial savings in food fraud will be realized as early as 2021 and compliance costs will be reduced by 30% by 2024.

Currently, food tracking systems heavily rely on paper-based transactions to manually track assets throughout the supply chain, an inefficient system that allows records to be lost or unreconciled, Kimmich said. Additionally, paper-based records cannot be shared by all supply chain users, which reduces the overall visibility of the supply chain.

Starbucks mobile app Starbucks

Starbucks’ and Microsoft are creating a mobile “bean to cup” tracking app that may look like this and enable customers to see where their coffee was grown and the journey it took to their cup.

“Furthermore, companies often have to rely on intermediaries to perform these tasks. All of this adds a level of complexity to the supply chain, which in turn increases inefficiency, fraud and waste,” Kimmich said.

Private or “permissioned” blockchains can be created within a company’s four walls or between trusted partners and centrally administered while retaining control over who has access to information on the network.

Blockchain can also be used between business partners, such as a cloud vendor, a financial services provider and its clients.

While IoT devices shipped with goods link the physical and digital worlds primarily via location tracking sensors and temperature and humidity monitoring, blockchain provides a place where the data can be stored and accessed by everyone on the ledger. Ledger users can also be segmented so sensitive business data isn’t exposed to competitors, the report said.

The distributed ledger technology’s innate capabilities have not been lost on enterprises as pilots and proofs of concept are sprouting up across the industry. Twenty percent of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain by 2025, according to a Gartner study.

“Blockchain can help deliver confidence to grocer’s customers, and build and retain trust and loyalty,” Joanne Joliet, a senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement. “Grocery retailers are trialing and looking to adopt blockchain technology to provide transparency for their products. Additionally, understanding and pinpointing the product source quickly may be used internally, for example to identify products included in a recall.”

Juniper’s research found IoT and blockchain will add significant value to players in the supply chain, from farmers to retailers and consumers. By replacing lengthy procedures with automated smart contracts, blockchain and the IoT save money, reduce risk and bring transparency to supply chains.

Juniper Research recommended that blockchain vendors seek IoT partnerships to appeal to stakeholders across the food production market. In some cases, that’s already happening.

The supply chain industry has been active in the blockchain space for the past two years, according to Kimmich.

In 2017, IBM launched Food Trust, a blockchain network based on the Hyperledger protocol; since then, it’s attracted a large group of leading food suppliers who are piloting it as part of a consortium. The group includesDole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, and Unilever.

In October, IBM announced a blockchain-based supply chain service with AI and IoT integration, adding to the company’s existing blockchain cloud offering.

Last year, Walmart completed two pilots using suppliers of mangoes and pork; after a proof-of-concept, the food-tracking blockchain network is now in production. Walmart told suppliers of produce to get onto its blockchain by the September of this year. The products on the blockchain-based supply chain also powered by IBM’s Food Trust Solution range from poultry and berries to yogurt and lettuce. And Walmart Canada just launched the “world’s largest” blockchain-based freight-and-payment network.

“While IBM’s Food Trust is the current market leader in blockchain-powered food tracking with 188 organizations shaping its network, other players are building on their solutions this year,” Kimmich said.

Oracle plans on strengthening its existing asset tracking solutions with supply chain temperature monitoring along with warranty and usage tracking, Kimmich added, while SAP currently supports 565 different products and engages with 70% of the US market.

walmart shoot bison winnipeg blockchain Walmart

Bison Transport was a carrier partner in the Walmart Canada’s pilot for a new freight and payment network based on blockchain and IoT. According to Rod Hendrickson, vice president of finance for Bison Transport, the end result is “a mutually beneficial solution.”

Meanwhile, Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to build a blockchain supply chain aimed at tracking coffee beans from farms to stores and create a mobile app that lets customers track the supply chain journey of the beans they buy and the coffee they drink.

GrainChain, a blockchain-based supply chain service based in McAllen, Texas, is also being piloted by roughly 10% of Honduras coffee growers, or about 12,000 farmers, with an eye on going into full production around April 2020.

“When coffee farmers don’t have access to formal financial systems and formal contracts for purchase, they are the ones pushed down in the industry,” Macias said. “One of the larger focuses in the overall industry…is to find solutions to not only have more financial inclusion but enhance the ability for coffee producers to have a marketplace.”

supply chain blockchain coffee beans hand with coffee cup of coffee by nathan dumlao via unsplash Frankie / Gerson Cifuentes / Nathan Dumlao / Modified by IDG Comm. (CC0)

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner Review & Rating

The Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner ($269.99) is an entry-level combination flatbed/sheet-feed document scanner designed for small organizations and workgroups, such as doctors’ offices, banks, and travel agencies, that need to digitize a variety of items. The Xerox Combo is relatively fast for its price, it’s accurate, and it comes with a superb software bundle. It also comes packed with a powerful software bundle. All of these perks earn it our Editors’ Choice.

Small, Light, and Capable

Typically, you would use a sheet-feed document scanner with an ADF for capturing stacks of text pages and a flatbed machine for digitizing photos, book and magazine pages, or for fragile document pages that may not survive a trip through a sheet-feed device. The advantage of a combo flatbed like this one is that you get the best of both worlds without having to buy and schlep back and forth between both types of scanners.

As entry-level combo machines go, the Xerox model’s footprint of 5.5 by 15.8 by 13 inches (HWD) is a few inches wider than average, but its weight of 5.9 pounds is almost half that of the Epson DS-1630 mentioned above. Similar in size and girth to the Epson model and therefore a bit smaller (yet heftier) than the Xerox machine is HP’s ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed Scanner, which is one of a few flatbed combos (ranging up to 10 times the volume rating of the other models mentioned here) that HP offers.

The Xerox Combo comes with a 35-page single-pass auto-duplexing ADF, meaning that it has two sensors that allow it to scan both sides of two-sided pages simultaneously. Nowadays, single-pass auto-duplexing is standard fare on most document scanners; however, for some reason, the Epson DS-1630 supports only manual-duplexing, which requires you to flip the originals midstream to capture the other page sides. The ScanJet Pro 2500 and, again, most other flatbed combos, support single-pass duplexing, though.

Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner automatic document feeder

Also, like most entry-level scanners these days, the Xerox Combo comes with a minimalist control panel that consists of four options—Up and Down arrows for scrolling through workflow profile numbers on a small digital LED and Simplex and Duplex buttons for initiating one-sided and two-sided scan sessions, respectively.

Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner control panel

Everything else, including resolution, destination, file type, and location (i.e., a local folder, email, a cloud site, and so on) is handled from the included Visioneer OneTouch scanner interface utility and other bundled software, which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section.

To scan photos and other one-off items, you can bypass the ADF by lifting the lid and placing them on the glass, or platen. This method, of course, dramatically increases what you can scan to include not only photos but also difficult-to-access content, such as magazine and book pages, passports, laminated and other types of plastic-coated cards, card stock, and so on.

Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner flatbed

Finally, Xerox rates the Duplex Combo (or places its daily duty cycle) at 1,500 scans per day. That’s the same as both the Epson DS-1630 and HP ScanJet Pro 2500 mentioned above, and about 1,500 scans per day fewer than HP’s next model up, the ScanJet Pro 3500. In any case, 1,500 scans per day (or about 30,000 scans per month, based on a 20-days-per-month work cycle), is, for an under-$300-scanner, impressive.

Getting the Words Right

More important than the number of pages this device churns each day is how quickly and how accurately it produces usable file formats. To that end, Xerox (and Visioneer, the company that makes Xerox scanners and creates the accompanying software) includes a collection of very adept applications and utilities for scanning and converting images of scanned text to editable text and then saving the results to usable file formats.

For our testing purposes, those formats are images and searchable PDFs. But the applications included with the Xerox Duplex Combo are capable of exporting your scans to several other different text file formats, including Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (DOCX, DOC, XML, XLSX, CSV, PPT, and PPTX), Adobe Acrobat (PDF), HTML, and TXT. Supported graphics files include JPEG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, and a slew of others.

In addition to the various scanner drivers (TWAIN, EMC, Captiva, ISIS, and Microsoft Windows Image Acquisition, or WIA, which should allow you to scan directly into most supported applications, such as Photoshop and PowerPoint), the software bundle includes: Visioneer OneTouch, Visioneer Acuity, Abbyy Business Card Reader, and Abbyy Fine Reader Sprint.

Visioneer OneTouch is the primary scanner interface that comes with most Xerox and Visioneer scanners. It has two principal components: the frontend (shown below) and the backend. The frontend is the component that you see and interact with.

Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner OneTouch user interface

Note that these profile numbers correspond with the numbers displayed in the scanner’s control panel. In other words, scrolling to a specific number and then pressing Simplex or Duplex will initiate a one- or two-sided scan job based on the parameters defined in the corresponding OneTouch profile. As mentioned earlier, OneTouch comes with nine predefined profiles that you can edit by right-clicking in the System Tray, which in turn launches the OneTouch backend where you can edit or create all new profiles.

Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner editing OneTouch profiles

The sheer power here is that the program presents a simple interface with very few choices, while, on the other hand, you have complete control over how each workflow behaves. You can even narrow the selections down to one, making it next to impossible for your users to make the wrong choices.

While OneTouch is the principal utility included with this scanner, the other three programs–Visioneer Acuity, Abbyy Fine Reader Sprint, and Abbyy Business Card Reader–should also come in handy. Acuity, for example, uses Visioneer’s algorithms and dynamic thresholding technologies to help optimize scans and capture sharper images of your documents, which in turn improves OCR accuracy.

Abbyy Fine Reader Sprint is a pared-down version of Abbyy FineReader, an industry leader in optical character recognition software for converting scanned text to editable text, and Abbyy Business Card Reader is a business card scanning and archiving application. It comes with its own contact database, or you can scan directly to Microsoft Outlook.

abbyy Business Card reader

Respectable Speed and Accuracy

Xerox rates the Duplex Combo at 25 pages per minute (ppm) for one-sided scans and 50 images per minute (or ipm, where each page side is counted as an image) for two-sided scans. I tested it over a USB 2.0 connection from our standard Intel Core i5-equipped desktop testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional.

Related Story See How We Test Scanners

Without the “lag” time, or the time it takes from when the last page in the scan job hits the output tray until the software (in this case, Visioneer OneTouch) saves it to a usable file format, the Duplex Combo scanned our one-sided 25-page Microsoft Word document at the rate of 28.3ppm and our 25-page two-sided (50 sides, or pages) at 56.7ipm. That’s just over Xerox’s ratings of 25ppm and 50ipm.

More important, though, is how fast the scanner and accompanying software captures and saves your scans. For example, it scanned and saved our one-sided 25-page text document to an image PDF at the rate of 26.1ppm and our 25-page two-sided (50 sides) at an average of 54.5ipm, and that, too, is just over the company’s ratings.

That’s almost 10ppm and more than 27ipm slower than the lower-rated (20ppm and 40ipm) HP 2500, and 1.1ppm and 42.5ipm ahead of the Epson DS-1630. But it’s important to note here again that the Epson model does not have two sensors for single-pass two-sided scanning. To perform two-sided scans, the DS-1630 scans the first side, then pulls the page back into the ADF mechanism, flips it, and captures the other side—which, in this case, more than doubled the scan times.

Let’s return to the Xerox machine. When scanning our two-sided 25-page (50 sides) document to searchable PDF, I clocked it at 58 seconds. That score is more than three times faster than the ScanJet Pro 2500 and almost five times faster (again, due primarily to the reversing duplexer) than the Epson DS-1630. In any case, the Xerox’s Duplex Combo easily outpaced these competitors.

As for overall accuracy, the Xerox Duplex Combo scanned and saved our Arial font test page error-free down to 6 points and our Times New Roman test page without mistakes down to 8 points. These scores tied both the HP and Epson combos mentioned here, and the results are close to average against most of the scanners we’ve tested over the past couple of years, especially the flatbed combos.

In addition to running our standard OCR accuracy tests, I also scanned a few stacks of business cards into Abbyy Business Card Reader to assess the business card software. For the most part, it behaved much like most other business card scanning and archiving utilities, including IRISCard and Presto! BizCard Reader. Overall, the accuracy of the software and how well it populates corresponding database fields depend primarily on the design of the business cards you’re scanning. The fancier the card, the more likely you’ll need to make corrections.

A Down-to-Earth, Practical Scanner

If what you’re looking for is a Swiss Army knife of a scanner capable of performing most types of scanning tasks, including text documents, photos, and magazine and book pages, the Xerox Duplex Combo Scanner makes sense. It’s fast, accurate, and comes with software capable of performing all of this little machine’s allotted tasks, thereby making it a shoo-in as our latest flatbed top pick and a terrific value overall.



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How to Create a Combo Chart in Excel

excel logo

A combo chart in Excel displays two chart types (such as column and line) on the same chart. They are used to show different types of information on a single chart, such as actuals against a target.

In this article, we’ll demonstrate how to make a combo chart that follows the same axis and one that displays mixed types of data in a single chart on a different axis.

Insert a Combo Chart with a Single Axis

In the first example, we will create a combo chart to show monthly revenue against a target using the sample data below.

Sample data for the single axis combo chart

You can see that the target value is the same each month. The result will show the data as a straight line.

To get started, select the range of cells you want to chart—A1:C13 in this example. Next, click Insert > Insert Combo Chart. Select “Clustered Column – Line.”

Insert a Clustered Column - Line chart

The combo chart is inserted with both the column and line using the same axis. Easy as that!

Combo chart on a single axis inserted

You can make further improvements to the chart now, like changing the chart title. Click on the chart title box and start typing to replace the words “Chart Title” with something more useful. As you type, the text will appear in the formula bar above.

Change the chart title to something descriptive

Press the Enter key, and Excel saves the typed text as the chart title.

Combo chart with title

Insert a Combo Chart with Two Axes

Using the sample data shown below, let’s create a combo chart to show the monthly revenue and the ad budget on the same chart.

Sample data for a two axis combo chart

Select range A1:C13. Click Insert > Combo Chart. Choose the “Clustered Column – Line on Secondary Axis” chart.

Insert Combo chart

The inserted chart looks like this.

Combo chart with mixed data types

Change an Existing Chart to a Combo Chart

We have looked at two examples of creating a combo chart from spreadsheet data, but knowing how to edit an existing chart can also be useful.

Below is a clustered column chart created from the revenue and ad budget data.

Clustered column chart that needs changing

The chart has one axis, and you can barely see the ad budget columns on the chart. Let’s change this to a combo chart by creating a secondary axis for the ad budget data and changing its chart type to a line.

To begin, right-click on the data series you want to change (ad budget in this example). Next, select “Change Series Chart Type.”

Change the chart type of a data series

Now, check the “Secondary Axis” box for the data series you want to create an axis for. Select Line from the “Chart Type” list for that data series.

Change chart type dialog

The chart is changed to a combo chart.

Combo chart from clustered column completed

You can then make other improvements to the combo chart, such as editing the chart title or labeling the axis.





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Kensington’s LD4650P Is an Okay Dock and Lock, but an Expensive Combo – Review Geek

Rating:
5/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $230

The Kensington LD4650P laptop dock hooked up to a laptop with various cords attached to it.
Michael Crider

An elaborate desktop setup that can transition to portable demands a capable desktop dock. Kensington’s LD4650P is one such dock, with some impressive locking features thrown in. But its bells and whistles fail to justify the sky-high price for most.

Here’s What We Like

  • Impressive RFID locking mechanism
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Audio over DisplayPort

And What We Don’t

  • High price
  • Limited video options
  • Lock only works with standard laptops

Using the LD4650P with its single USB-C connection gives your Windows laptop access to two DisplayPort screens, four USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet data, and a standard headphone jack. It all works as advertised, with the added benefit of locking down your laptop to a heavy base. You can then lock the base to a desk or table with the included chain. But at $250, you need to use every single feature—and be okay with some major ergonomic and functional drawbacks—to consider this dock.

Lock It Down

The LD4650P is odd-looking, with a heavy metal base that slips up underneath the hinge of a laptop. Two “wings” on either side clamp down on the hinge, to lock the dock in place. How do you release the wings from the laptop when you’re done working? The LED on the right side gives you a clue. When you pass the included “key” (a plastic fob with what I assume is an RFID chip inside) over the right side, it releases the wings. The green LED flashes to blue, and both sides click outward thanks to a small internal motor.

The key sitting next to the Kensington LD4650P dock with its green LED lit.
An RFID key fob releases the locking mechanism. Michael Crider

It’s remarkably secure with the wings in place, and the dock secured with a Kensington laptop lock. But there are some serious drawbacks to this design. Most obviously, it doesn’t work with anything like a tablet. It’s impossible to secure a Surface Pro or my HP Chromebook X2 in this dock. That doesn’t mean the electronic components cease to function. But anything other than a standard laptop—and even then, a fairly thin one, with no protruding battery—won’t be able to use this security feature.

An HP Chromebook and the (unattached) LD4650P dock.
The dock doesn’t work with tablets or Surface-style, 2-in-1 laptops. Michael Crider

The dock’s locking mechanism also won’t work if the power supply isn’t in place, which isn’t an issue for a conventional lock. That’s probably not a problem for most people. After all, why have a USB-C dock if you’re not going to keep it working? It does, however, make this gadget unsuitable for more extensive deployments that aren’t using its full capacities at every engagement.

Based on your particular scenario, the unique RFID key might be an advantage or a disadvantage over the more general Kensington lock key.

Using the Dock

Using the dock was a more pleasant, flexible experience. The placement allows you to easily connect up to two monitors (plus the laptop’s screen), as well as any USB-based accessories you might want. I was disappointed to find only two video-out options, and no choices for the much more common HDMI, with resolution limited to 1920 x 1200 maximum. The dock could handle my 2560 x 1440 main monitor, but only when a secondary screen wasn’t connected at the same time.

The ports on the back of the Kensington LD4650P.
Rear ports include Ethernet, four USB-A, two DisplayPorts, and a combined headphone/microphone jack. Michael Crider

I was also disappointed the dock only supports USB-A connections, even though they’re high-speed 3.1 spec. This meant I couldn’t plug in any of my USB-C devices directly to the dock—I had to use a secondary port on the laptop.

The USB-C PD connection on the dock works flawlessly and carries video and data without any major issues or errors. (It didn’t work on my HP Chromebook, but that’s not the only problem I’ve had with that machine—it performed exactly as expected on Windows.)

I was pleased to see that it carried audio over DisplayPort—a feature that’s not a given and is often left out of laptops, docks, and splitters. Power output is 60 watts on the C cable, which is enough to fill even the thirstiest of batteries.

Who’s It For?

The LD4650P costs $230 at the time of writing, a high price even for a USB-C dock with dual video output. With a little hunting, you can find something with the same (or more) ports for quite a bit less.

However, something cheaper won’t have the heavy-duty, built-in locking mechanism. Even though it only works with conventional laptop designs, that minute or two you save by not having to lock down your laptop to your desk has value.

If you plan to use the dock’s electronic features, and the disappointing resolution and DisplayPort limitation doesn’t bother you, it might be worth the premium price.

A laptop docked and locked down to the Kensington LD4650P.
A laptop, properly docked and locked down. Michael Crider

I can’t imagine there are a huge amount of people with standard laptops, who work in offices where theft is a problem, and have so little time, they’re willing to spend more on a faster lock-down option. And who would accept limitations on resolution and a lack of extra USB-C ports. That’s a very small intersection of the Venn diagram.

But for those few people, the LD4650P is ideal. Everyone else will probably be fine with a cheaper, more flexible dock and non-electronic lock.

Here’s What We Like

  • Impressive RFID locking mechanism
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Audio over DisplayPort

And What We Don’t

  • High price
  • Limited video options
  • Lock only works with standard laptops





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