Category Archives: History

Fifty Years Ago Today …

Sweden entered the modern age of transportation when Dagen H occurred and traffic changed from driving on the left to driving on the right … literally overnight! (Those Swedes are masters of efficiency.)

Now if only the UK (and it’s former colony now known as Australia) could get with the times and join the rest of the world. However, given how long it took them to accept the modern calendar, it will probably be another hundred years. But it would make the creation of true global routing software so much easier …

Two Hundred and Sixty Five Years ago today …

Great Britain finally adopts the Gregorian Calendar, nearly two centuries later than most of Western Europe, and begins its entry into the modern age. Considering the influence of Britain, and the number of colonies (now CommonWealth countries) it had by 1752, by 1852, and by 1952, could you imagine if it, and its (former) colonies, were still on the Julian calendar.

We (and especially we Canadians) all know the importance of standardized time (especially since it it typically credited to Sir Sandford Fleming, a Canadian who eventually settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia that attracts great Canadian minds even to this day) when trying to do global business, but imagine if we didn’t even have standardized dates! Two o’clock on the 7th would be different days! And if Great Britain didn’t come in line when it did, Sir Sandford Fleming would have had a much harder time …

One Hundred and Ten Years Ago Today …

The first taxicabs begin their operation in New York City, imported by Harry N. Allen, a thirty year old businessmen, who, as per this great NY Times article on The Creation of the Taxi Man, became incensed when a hansom cab driver charged him $5 for a three-quarter-mile trip from a Manhattan restaurant to his home.

These vehicles were imported from France as he wanted reliable, improved automobiles that were superior to the American versions derided as “smoke-wagons” using par of the eight million in capital he raised to start the business and the first taxi cab went into operation on August 13, 1907. (Source: 6sqft) Less than two months later, on October 1, 1907, Alan he orchestrated a parade of sixty-five shiny new red gasoline-powered French Darracq cabs, equipped with fare meters, down Fifth Avenue, which could be interpreted as the grand opening of the taxicab revolution in New York and the United States in general.

It was an important milestone in the evolution of supply chain, as it allowed the people who run it to get around quicker and more predictably.

Forty Five Years Ago Today

The United States of America, under the leadership of Richard Nixon, launched Landsat-1, the first satellite of what began the US’ Landsat program – the longest running program for the acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. (We are now up to Landsat 8, launched four years ago on February 11, 2013.)

As succinctly summarized by Wikipedia, the images collected and archived at receiving stations around the world are a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education, and can be viewed through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ‘EarthExplorer‘ website. For example, the latest, Landsat 7, records data across eight spectral bands with resolutions ranging from 15 to 60 meters and a temporal resolution of 16 days.

And while Landsat 1 only had two sensors, the return beam vidicon (RBV) and a first generation multispectral scanner (MSS) that recorded, respectively, visible and near infrared photographic images and radiometric images, this was still extremely valuable imaging data where none had existed before. And without it, we’d never have Google Earth.

One Hundred and Six Years Ago Today …

The United States Supreme Court declared Standard Oil to be an “unreasonable” monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered the company broken up. Given the constant M&A spree across the technology space as a whole, and not just the Procurement space, the concept of an unreasonable monopoly is again becoming relevant.

Alphabet (Google), Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are all Fortune 100 companies, and all of these not only control massive amounts of data (that is now more valuable than gold), but massive amounts of software — and in most cases, back office software and, in a couple of cases, Procurement software. Now, only Oracle has a major Procurement offering, with SAP (Ariba), a Fortune 200, being the biggest in our space, and makes companies like Coupa (at a mere 1.67 B valuation, 1/70th of SAP’s) a drop in the bucket, but still, at the rate Coupa in particular is gobbling up companies and building a best-in-class S2P offering, it won’t be long before an Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, or even a Salesforce take interest and gobble them up, offering an integrated inbound-outbound back-office management system at a 100B+ valuation like SAP.

At this point you gotta wonder if we’re soon going to have to worry about technology monopolies and our software companies being broken up — Alphabet has undue influence over the internet even compared to Apple and Microsoft; Microsoft has undue influence over the desktop even compared to Apple; and Apple has undue influence on the mobile market with its iPhones and iPads, and these companies all have a host of other offerings (subsidized by the insane profits their primary product lines offer) that are, or will, become hard to compete with. And if one of these companies ever gets the IBM back-office model or the Oracle one-instance model right, they will literally have an enterprise software monopoly.

And the sad thing is that while data, internet, desktop and software monopolies are bad, right now Fortune 500 / Global 3000 companies desperately need end to end solutions in order to be efficient, effective, and bring their laggard supply management programs into the modern era. We need a few apparent monopolies to define the space, get it recognized, advanced the laggards to the point where they are ready for best in class solutions, but then we need these monopolies hampered so that new best in class companies have a chance to take the space program. It’s a delicate balance that is needed, but will it be maintained?