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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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Optimize Your Spending and Reduce Your Bills With Truebill

There are only two ways to get richer: earn more or spend less. Improving your salary is hard, but there are many ways to reduce your expenses. Truebill is a mobile app that helps you find the unnecessary spending. The app can also help you lower your bills and keep track of costly subscriptions. It is super secure, very smart and completely free to download.

Three-Step Financial Freedom

When your schedule is packed, budgeting can slip pretty low on the priority list. However, the main reason why most of us overspend is because we simply don’t know what we can afford.

Truebill helps you take control of your financial life without spending hours hunched over a calculator. Available on iOS and Android, the free app connects to your bank and credit card accounts (using bank-level 256-bit SSL encryption) to track your income and expenses.

The data is presented in one simple dashboard, helping you gain an overview of your finances. Truebill automatically categorizes every transaction, so you can see where your money is going.

But that’s not all. Truebill lets you create savings goals, and the app will tell you how much you can spend. The app can also help you lower your bills by finding cheaper alternatives for your cell phone, cable and security. You can even monitor your subscriptions and cut the ones you don’t need.

Get Started Free

Truebill is completely free to download on iOS and Android. Head over to the homepage now to get started.

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Apple TV on Fire, Reduce Smartphone Use, Awesome Halloween Movies & Makeup

In this week’s packed show, Christian Cawley and James Frew cover everything from the Apple TV app on Amazon Fire Sticks to Halloween movies.

On the way, free VPNs, record players, giant squids, reducing smartphone use, managing the Screen Time feature on macOS, and the latest installment of Christian’s Samsung tablet repair.

Is it fixed? Will he wait another week? Click play to find out!

Really Useful Podcast Season 4 Episode 9 Shownotes

We’ve squeezed more into this show than any other, so refer to these shownotes for help:

Your can help us reach people by subscribing, reviewing, and sharing the Really Useful Podcast via email and social media. We’re available anywhere you can listen to podcasts, including:

Come back next week for another Really Useful Podcast!

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Google Launches Apps to Reduce Your Smartphone Use

Google has launched what it’s calling Digital Wellbeing Experiments. These are apps designed to reduce your smartphone use. While installing more apps in order to spend less time on your phone sounds wrong, it actually makes perfect sense.

We’re all spending too much time on our smartphones. And that time spent mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, watching random videos on YouTube, and playing addictive mobile games

The 10 Best Free Mobile Games With NO Ads or In-App Purchases

The 10 Best Free Mobile Games With NO Ads or In-App Purchases

Here’s our pick of the best mobile games with no ads or in-app purchases, all of which are available on Android and/or iPhone.
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could be put to much better use. Which is where Google comes in.

How to Try Google’s Digital Wellbeing Experiments

Google launched its Digital Wellbeing Experiments in a post on The Keyword. The initiative is described as “a platform to encourage designers and developers to build digital wellbeing into their products”. And the first five Android apps are as follows:

Unlock Clock: This is a Live Wallpaper that counts the number of times you unlock your phone in a day. You could try setting a limit to stop yourself from opening your phone at every opportunity.

Post Box: This app enables you to get your notifications delivered in batches at a time that suits you. This will help minimize distractions, and prevent you from checking your phone every five minutes.

We Flip: This is designed to help groups put their phones away and communicate with each other. You all join together and promise not to touch your phones. And as soon as someone does, the session ends.

Desert Island: This app makes you choose the apps that are the most important to you. Once chosen, your challenge is to go a full 24 hours only using those apps, and none of the other, more distracting apps.

Morph: This organizes your apps into different modes, such as Home and Work. Your phone will then automatically adapt to what you’re doing at that time, putting the apps you need front and center.

How to Create More Digital Wellbeing Experiments

These are just the first five Digital Wellbeing Experiments. However, Google is likely to produce more, and it’s also inviting developers and designers to create their own. You can get links to the Hack Pack and open source code on Experiments With Google.

We wholeheartedly recommend trying to spend less time on your smartphone. And if Google’s Digital Wellbeing Experiments help you do that, they’re a good idea. And if you can’t stand to use it less, at least learn how to use your smartphone more productively

5 Expert Ways to Use Your Smartphone Productively Every Day

5 Expert Ways to Use Your Smartphone Productively Every Day

Could your smartphone make you more productive in a healthy way? Yes, they can. So, let’s look at how you can optimize your smartphone and get even more out of your daily life.
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How to Reduce the File Size of a PowerPoint Presentation

powerpoint logo

Considering that Microsoft PowerPoint presentations are generally accompanied with tons of images, gifs, embedded videos, charts, graphs, and other content, it’s no surprise that you get some pretty big files. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce a presentation’s file size.

Large files can be annoying. They take up loads of precious disk space, slow down playback performance, and can cause emails to bounce back due to exceeding the file size limit. You can prevent all of these things by reducing the file size of your presentation.

We’ve mentioned it before, but the first thing you’d think of when considering file size reduction is images—and for a good reason. Image files can be quite large. There are steps you can take to reduce the size, such as compressing the images in the presentation. If you suspect the reason your PowerPoint file is so large is due to images, then be sure to read the article we’ve written on how to reduce the size of Office documents that contain images.

RELATED: How to Reduce the Size of a Microsoft Word Document

We do have some additional tips to add if you followed these steps but still need to reduce your presentation’s file size.

Convert Your Presentation to the PPTX Format

Microsoft released the PPTX format in Office 2007. Still, it’s not uncommon to see PPT files floating around. So what’s the difference between a PPT and PPTX file? The PPTX version compresses all of the content within the presentation. If you have a PPT file and convert it into a PPTX file, you’ll notice a decrease in the file size.

Converting the file is as simple as pressing a button and choosing the file type. Go ahead and open your PPT file, head over to the “File” tab, and then click “Convert.”

Convert presentation

Windows File Explorer will appear. You’ll notice the Save As type is set as “PowerPoint Presentation.” This is the PPTX file type. Click “Save.”

Save as type

Your PPT file will now be converted to a PPTX file. As you can see, the size of the file has been reduced.

reduced file example

HTG Presentation 2 is our PPT file, and HTG Presentation 3 is our PPTX file. Merely converting the file type reduced the size by 335 KB.

While this isn’t a breathtaking drop in file size, we managed to reduce a Word document file size from 6,001 KB to 721 KB. It all depends on what’s inside the file. With any luck, this will be the only step you need to take. If not, keep reading.

Insert Your Pictures—Don’t Copy and Paste

It’s tempting to copy and paste an image in PowerPoint instead of using the insert function. This won’t be an issue if you’re not concerned about file size, but if you are, then beware of copy and paste—it may reformat your image to BMP or PNG. Why is this an issue? Both of those file formats are larger than JPG.

png to jpg conversion size difference

You can see in the above screenshot that the PNG file is 153KB compared to the 120KB JPG file of the same image. Each time you copy and paste a JPG file to PowerPoint, and it gets converted to PNG, you’re adding a bit of unnecessary file size to the presentation. Using the insert function will ensure your images are inserted as intended.

Do Image Edits in an Image Editor—Not in PowerPoint

When you insert an image in PowerPoint, it’s best to make sure that it doesn’t need any edits. If it does require edits, you’re better off doing it in an image editor. Why? When you use PowerPoint to edit your image, it stores all of those edits as part of the presentation. For example, when you change an image to black and white, PowerPoint retains the full-color image as well. That’s a lot of extra bites being stored.

If you don’t have an image editor (you do) or you simply must use PowerPoint, be sure to tell PowerPoint to discard all of that excess data saved from the edits. It won’t save you as much space as working in a dedicated editor, but it will help.

Compress All of the Images in Your Presentation

You can compress images in PowerPoint one at a time or all at once. If you’re looking to do the latter, here’s how.

Open your presentation, head over to the “File” tab, and then select “Save As” in the left-hand pane.

select save as option

Next, select “More Options,” which you’ll find under the area where you would name your file and choose the file type.

More Options in Save as tab

The “Save As” window will appear—this time with a few extra options available to you. Next to the “Save” button, click “Tools.”

Tools in save as dialogue box

In the drop-down menu that appears, select “Compress Pictures.”

Compress pictures option in tools

The “Compress Pictures” window will appear. Here, you can choose the resolution type of the images (based on PPI) in the presentation. You’ll also notice that you’re not able to select the “Apply only to this picture” option in the “Compression Options” group. That’s because, due to the way we accessed this tool, this option isn’t available.

Note: If you do want to compress a single picture, select it and then head to Picture Tools Format > Compress Pictures.

Once you’re happy with your selection, click “OK.”

compress pictures window

Be sure to save your presentation afterward.

Don’t Use Embedded Fonts

We get why you might want to embed fonts—you might be making a Star Wars themed presentation and, as a result, anyone you may be sharing the presentation with is not likely to have those special fonts available to them. Embedding the fonts in your presentation could prevent issues down the line, but it comes at the cost of increased file sizes.

In general, unless you are sure you need to display a particular font, we recommend turning off font embedding.

Head over to the “File” tab and select “Options” at the bottom of the left-hand pane.

Options at bottom of lefthand pane

On the “Save” tab, untick the “Embed fonts in the file” checkbox and then click “OK.”

uncheck embed fonts box

We saved a copy of our presentation with all fonts embedded, without fonts embedded, and with only the fonts used in the presentation embedded. Look at the difference if file sizes:

difference in file size with embedded fonts

Convinced yet?

Link to Files Instead of Embedding Them

Consider the difference in file size if you embed an entire YouTube video in your presentation instead of linking back to it. Embedding an entire video will significantly increase the size of your presentation. There are certainly some valuable benefits when embedding a file vs. linking to it (such as when the recipient might not have internet access to play the video), but if the file size is an issue, just don’t do it.

Don’t Store a Thumbnail for the Presentation

Way back when Office let you save thumbnail images of your presentation so that you could get a sneak preview of the file when searching for it in File Explorer. Windows has grown to be more sophisticated, so it no longer requires the help of Office applications to do this. But, the option is still available.

We ran a little test to see the difference in file size with and without this option enabled. Here are the results:

don't save thumbnail

With the thumbnail option enabled, our file size was 2,660 KB. Without the option enabled, the file size was reduced to 2,662 KB, saving a total of 7 KB.

This is a pretty small save, but when we tested it with a Word document, the difference was significant, showing 721 KB without the option enabled, and 3,247 KB with the option enabled.

While this is a large gap between applications and it’s not exactly clear why the difference is so large, it’s still an option worth exploring. To disable the feature, open your presentation, head over to the “File” tab, and then select “Properties” found on the right-hand side, then “Advanced Properties.”

select properties

You’ll now be in the “Summary” tab of the “Properties” window. At the bottom of the window, uncheck the box next to “Save preview picture,” and then click “OK.”

uncheck save preview image

Remove Personal and Hidden Information from Your Presentation

Microsoft Office will store your personal information (such as author name) and hidden properties within your presentation. Getting rid of this information can save you a bit of space.

Open your presentation, head over to the “File” tab, select the “Check for Issues” option, then select “Inspect Document.”

Inspect Document

The “Document Inspector” window will appear. Make sure the “Document Properties and Personal Information” box is checked, and then click “Inspect.”

Inspect the document

In the next window, select “Remove All.” The information will now be removed, saving you a few KB of space.

Turn Off AutoRecover

We don’t necessarily recommend this, and it should only be used as a last resort effort. AutoRecover is an essential tool in Office, and if you’ve ever lost a document before saving, then you understand precisely what we mean.

Each time Office uses AutoRecover, it adds a little to the size of the file. To turn AutoRecover off, head over to the “File” tab and select “Options” found at the bottom of the left-hand pane.

Options at bottom of lefthand pane

In the “Save” tab of the “Options” window, uncheck the box next to “Save AutoRecover information ever xx minutes.”

uncheck autorecover option

If you save and exit out of the presentation immediately, you won’t notice a difference. Over time though, as you continue to progress through the presentation, the AutoRecover feature will add KB to your file.

Copy Everything Into a New Presentation

While you’re creating your presentation, PowerPoint will save various things in the background to help you out. We’ve mentioned how to turn off a lot of these features, delete data PowerPoint saves, and so on, but there’s always a chance something slipped through the cracks, and PowerPoint stored some information you don’t need. Copying your content over to a new presentation may be a good solution to the problem.

This may be a bit of a hassle though as, with PowerPoint, you’ll need to copy and paste each slide (and master slides). Once you do though, the new presentation won’t have any of the previous background saves, AutoRecover information, or previous versions of the file. As a result, you should see a change in file size.

While we can’t tell you exactly how much this will reduce your file size since each presentation will be different, it’s worth a shot.

A Possibility: Unzip the Presentation and Compress It

As we mentioned earlier, a PPTX file is a compressed file (which is why the size is much smaller than an old-school PPT file). This means you can open it with a tool such as 7-Zip or WinRar, extract all the files from your PPTX, add them to a compressed archive, and then rename the archive to a PPTX file extension.

We had some issues here, though.

In Rob’s testing with his Word document, it successfully reduced the size of the file from 721 KB to 72 KB. However, it corrupted the file in the process. In my testing with my 2,614 KB file, it didn’t corrupt it, but it only reduced it to 2,594KB—a total of only 20 KB. We’re unsure what’s at play here, so if you want to give this a go, be sure to have a backup copy of your file before doing so.

That’s all the tips we’ve got for reducing the size of your PowerPoint presentation. We’re always looking for new and interesting ways to reduce the size of our files, so if you have any tips, let us know in the comment section, and we’ll be happy to test them out!

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How your enterprise can help reduce e-waste

In an effort to help with the huge e-waste problem, Apple now offers a global recycling scheme. In the U.S., it has quadrupled the extent of the program by putting Daisy recycling robots in Best Buy stores across the country.

The same machine is also being put in KPN stores in the Netherlands.

In a press release, the company states:

“Apple has received nearly 1 million devices through Apple programs and each Daisy can disassemble 1.2 million devices per year. In 2018, the company refurbished more than 7.8 million Apple devices and helped divert more than 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills.”

Apple says each Daisy robot can disassemble 15 different iPhone models at 200 units per hour. Clearly there is some way to go: Apple sells these things at a rate of around 395 units per minute, according to this site.

Apple also offers part exchange and recycling/take back schemes at its retail stores. AT&T, Best Buy, Dell, HP, LG, MRM, Samsung, Sony, Staples, Sprint, and T-Mobile offer similar schemes. It’s always worth checking the website of your device manufacturer for information concerning any scheme they support.

How can enterprise IT help?

The consumer electronics industry is at last attempting to make it easier to return and recycle products, though (as Apple’s own data shows) there’s still a gulf between the number of devices sold and those eventually recycled.

This gulf will only increase.

In part that’s because the number of ways in which we use electronic devices is increasing exponentially, but also because so many tech firms manufacture products that have limited usable lives or limit the security and software support they offer to older devices, if they support them at all.

It also reflects a reluctance among many consumers to let go of devices once they are no longer used.

The average U.S. household has $265 worth of unused gadgets tucked away in boxes and drawers around the home, according to Flipsy.

Many enterprises keep old equipment piled up at the back of stockroom or reach deals with recycling firms that may not be all they claim to be.

Recycle responsibly

The Basel Action Network (BAN) claims 40% of e-waste given to recyclers is not disposed of appropriately.

Old electronics may be illegally dumped, thrown into landfills, hacked for data, or recycled in unsafe conditions.

In some cases, they are shipped illegally to other countries where they are recycled in unsafe environments, subjecting poorly paid workers to serious disease. This article provides a good overview of many of these problems.

There are schemes that may help enterprise users choose legitimate recycling schemes. BAN runs the e-Stewards recycling certification scheme that helps enterprises find recycling centers that can be trusted.

Another body, Sustainable Electronics, runs the R2 recycling certification scheme, which also aims to ensure quality, transparency, and environmental and social responsibility of recycling operations.

The U.S. EPA holds a list of accredited electronics recycling firms that have either e-Steward or R2 certification, which you can take a look at here.

Sell or give them away

Apple said it was able to refurbish and sell 7.8 million Apple devices that were returned for recycling in 2018.

There’s a good business in second-user electronics devices, and online firms such as Flipsy can help people attempting to dispose of older systems that may still be useful to others profitably and securely.

The thing is, many enterprises may already have written off the cost of the devices they choose to recycle, and yet there may still be people, groups and organizations who could make use of those products.

It’s possible some enterprises may choose to donate their old equipment to organizations such as Computers with Causes, Vision-Aid, or the World Computer Exchange.

Analyze existing arrangements

It’s not such a preposterous suggestion.

Enterprise IT can look deeply at the environmental impact of the products it deploys in order to prioritize highly power-efficient and environmentally-friendly solutions. The Guide to Greener Electronics may be a useful starting point when beginning the purchasing process.

Socially responsible enterprises should certainly avoid deploying equipment that uses harmful chemicals, such as mercury, PVC, and arsenic, unless absolutely necessary.

Not only are these chemicals hazardous across the manufacturing chain, but they also pose problems (and additional expense) when it comes to recycling at the end of the product’s life.

Enterprises may also want to consider Energy Star and EPEAT status for products when they invest in new equipment.

It seems quite probable that IT equipment manufacturers would take bigger steps to provision better recycling schemes and more responsible manufacturing processes if enterprise buyers were to demand it more forcefully.


Apple is investing in a new Material Recovery Lab that will seek new technologies and processes for future recycling processes.

Based in Texas, this facility is exploring how robotics and machine learning can help improve existing recycling methods and develop fresh recycling solutions.

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

As another part of this work, Apple is supporting The Recycling Partnership, a body that invests in new processes and works with enterprises and communities in order to improve and develop local and national recycling initiatives.

It’s possible that enterprise IT can join forces with schemes of this kind to develop personalized recycling and disposal schemes for their e-waste.

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day takes place on April 22.

If you or your enterprise happen to be iOS-based, then you should check the App Store because the company will be featuring a range of apps and games that improve awareness around environmental responsibility.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

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