Author: Greg Clary

State Vets are Front Line of Animal Disease Traceability

 

State and local veterinarians are a vital connection in the lives of humans, animals, and the society at large. Working with cattle and other livestock carries a huge responsibility when it comes to matters of public health and the health and vitality of our animal population as well. Detailed record keeping and strict abidance with government reporting requirements are a must—in addition to delivering the animal care that ensures the health of our populations now and into the future.

During a recent livestock traceability strategy forum, I had the pleasure of meeting with many state vets and others in the industry who shared some interesting perspectives and needs. Today’s traceability requirements are becoming increasingly complex and that’s where technology like mobile data capture can play a key role. Let’s first look at the responsibilities of a state vet in a bit more detail.

The business of selling and shipping animals from one state to another is anything but simple. Before an animal can be transported, it must be certified healthy by a trained veterinarian. The vet checks each animal’s heart, lungs, eyes, legs and feet, intestinal sounds and manure, and teeth. When that’s all complete, the vet produces a health certificate.

Cattle must be vaccinated to protect them from potentially deadly diseases. Cows are safely restrained while the vet vaccinates, inserts ear tags (for identification), and performs other procedures to ensure the animal’s safety (whether for human consumption or simply to protect the cattle from diseases).

What is animal traceability and why does it matter?

As you might imagine, accurate record keeping is a chief concern of government agencies with responsibility for cattle and livestock—and therefore, a primary focus of the vets themselves. Cow-calf veterinarians and producers keep detailed records about every cow to monitor each animal’s health, and by extension the health of the entire herd.

Since many diseases that affect animals can spread to other animals or to people, the veterinarian must report any signs of those diseases immediately to state or federal veterinarians for further investigation. This ensures that food-producing cattle stay healthy and thus the milk and meat from them can be safely consumed by people. Animal traceability refers to the collection and documentation of this critical animal data. More broadly, it’s the ability to follow an item or a group of items—be it animal, plant, food product or ingredient—from one point in the supply chain to another, either backwards or forwards.

Animal traceability has been important for years but with the Mad Cow Disease scares of the early 2000s, a greater focus has evolved over the past 15+ years. Along with that focus has been a monumental shift in the advancement of mobile technology—making it easier than ever to document critical animal data and share it instantaneously with the people and agencies that need it to do their jobs. By enabling their use of tablets for mobile data collection, Mi-Corporation helped the USDA increase the number of cattle inspections it performs by more than a factor of eight.

What’s the role of mobile data capture in animal traceability?

At Mi-Corporation, we’ve got a big opportunity and an important responsibility in supporting our nation’s livestock safety and the public health. As I prepare to attend the United States Annual Health Association meeting this week, I plan to do a lot of learning but also share some of the important reasons that mobile data capture can support vets and government agencies in the important work they do. Mobile data capture software from Mi-Corporation supports the mission of state vets with the following:

  • Offline data collection, including pre-population of data into mobile forms from databases, and the capability to store-and-forward the data when a connection becomes available
  • Fast data collection
  • Easy to use mobile data user interfaces
  • Immediacy of data availability
  • Error-free record keeping and reporting

State vets and their staffs acknowledged at the recent Livestock Traceability Strategy Forum that electronic record keeping is far superior to paper record keeping. Some states now require electronic submissions of health records by vets. What’s more, the USDA challenges state vets to meet traceability performance measures by conducting test traces. In the past, traces were performed by searching through boxes of paper files and calling other states for information.

Today’s technology allows accurate electronic recordkeeping and electronic searching. With mobile data capture software, records can be collected in the field, even while the user is disconnected from the network. More standardization is needed to make the process even more streamlined, but electronic traceability is here to stay. (An interesting side note – RFID tagging of animals is an enabler of Livestock Traceability. RFID tags such as those used by large retailers such as Amazon and Walmart and even on the feet of cross country runners can provide a unique, electronically readable tag for an animal.)

My grandfather started businesses that were the predecessor of Brown Packing Company of Gaffney, SC, a major beef processing company. I credit stories about him for inspiring my entrepreneurism. It is a blessing to be able to learn more about and contribute to keeping the beef supply safe in the United States.

Mi-Platform & Esri—a Great Match for Mobile Data Capture

Recently, we’ve been talking to a number of state and federal GIS coordinators. Esri is the clear leader in the GIS software market. They have great mapping functionality both in the cloud and on-premise.

This week, they highlighted their mobile offerings in a blog post by Jeff Shaner. In the blog, they mention three specific use cases:

  1. Display and query of my data on a map on a mobile device
  2. Building an asset inventory (capturing location, status, and photos)
  3. Maintaining existing infrastructure

The Mobile Impact Platform (Mi-Platform) complements Esri software in several ways. First off, our smart forms capability delivers the same kind of power on data capture that Esri provides on map information.  Mi-Platform also supports an additional use case, namely interaction with multiple mapped database resources to pull/push data to and from mobile forms. A real-world example is a federal agency with maps in Esri, but with attribute/observation and inspection records in Oracle databases. In addition, our product is extensible through the use of industry standard JavaScript scripting.  What our clients have found is that our intuitive smart forms capture and then integrate this data back to source databases, thus greatly improving data accuracy.

The blog also mentions one of the Esri’s requirements-gathering practices called ‘lean coffee.’ Thank you, Jeff, for sharing a great interactive approach for actively soliciting requirements and gaining user buy-in. We make heavy use of an interactive requirements gathering process as well, rapid prototyping. In addition to simply providing prototypes to the users, we solicit their feedback and make changes in real time to the prototypes during the requirements gathering session. Then the users can try the prototypes again and give more feedback, possibly leading to more changes.

We iterate like this during a prototyping session as much as possible. This saves a tremendous amount of time on future software development and changes down the road. Ultimately a well done lean prototyping approach applied towards technology like Esri’s ArcGIS and our Mi-Platform create solutions that eliminate paperwork and a great deal of the manual efforts of your mobile workers.

We are excited that Esri has made great progress on its mobile offerings and look forward to continuing to complement ArcGIS and ArcGIS online.

Using Inspection Data for Predictive Analytics (Believe the hype!)

One of our first customer champions, Dr. Etta Pisano, a nationally renowned Breast Cancer Imaging Radiologist with Harvard Medical School, recently shared a TechRepublic article on Facebook that probes the question—is machine learning overhyped?

My answer is a definitive no. As a computer scientist, I’ve spent many years studying machine learning and its practical applications. And while I believe that certain applications of machine learning are overhyped, in general machine learning is not overhyped at all. In fact, machine learning is worthy of its hype—and we’ve only started to scratch the surface of its potential.

Take, for example, speech recognition. In the early 1990s, I saw moderately accurate speech recognition software with a somewhat limited vocabulary on very powerful Unix workstations. At that time, the technology seemed impressive—but it had a long road to successful commercialization.

Today, we have great speech recognition in the cloud through our Smartphones, which I use every day for emailing and texting. Powerful machine learning algorithms are only possible with ample amounts of training data. We have more capacity than ever to capture, store and compute models based on very large amounts of training data. Every Google and Apple speech recognition user is supplying training data to those companies, if they give permission—and in doing so, we’re helping to create a more intelligent product for everyone.

So how does this apply to your business?

Machine learning, and practically speaking, predictive analytics, is starting to impact the inspection management market in many ways. One Predictive Solutions eBook discussing workplace OSHA safety put some of the traditional (non-predictive) practices in perspective:

“…waiting for incidents to occur before preventing new ones sends a very chilling message to employees about the company’s safety culture. To put it bluntly, leaders are essentially saying, ‘Joe, I am going to wait until your arm gets severed in our production line before I figure out how to ensure Susan doesn’t suffer the same fate. In the meantime, stay safe, and keep that production line moving…we have profit goals to hit.’ If leaders are trying to drive both a strong safety culture as well as productivity, this is not an acceptable option.”

Many industries (a few examples below) are now using their inspection data points to predict business-critical incidents and deliver huge benefits such as:

  • Fewer overall incidents
  • Increased public safety and improved health
  • Time savings
  • Cost savings
  • Increased productivity.

Superior data accuracy provided by the Mobile Impact Platform mobile data capture system is critical to creating and utilizing effective predictive analytics solutions.

Elevator Inspections

A page from Harvard’s Data Smart City Solutions discusses various use cases for predictive analytics. It’s focused on different US cities’ use cases, and it’s a nice reference if you ever want to learn how various types of operational challenges can be tackled using advanced data and analysis techniques. One interesting use case that we’ve been looking at for a while now is elevator Inspections. Harvard poses the question: “How can we prioritize annual elevator safety inspections? For example, can we predict or identify which elevators pass every year…?”

Workplace OSHA Safety Inspections

The Predictive Analytics eBook I referenced above provides some very interesting insights into the practice of using inspection data to predict—and prevent—future workplace incidents. The eBook discusses four “safety truths” that can reduce workplace injuries including doing MORE inspections (thus acquiring more predictive data points), hiring more (and more diverse) inspectors to do the job, and recognizing that worksites deemed either 100% safe or at the greatest risk can BOTH be the strongest candidates for future liability. The safety truths were derived from over 100 million safety observations and nearly 40,000 safety incidents, an ample amount of training data.

Food Inspection

The quality and safety of the food we serve (and eat) in the United States is important to us all. The city of Chicago has tackled this critical public health challenge handily—with the employment of just three dozen inspectors responsible for 15,000 food establishments and the power of predictive analytics.

This Government Technology article discusses a pilot program that yielded striking results. When using an advanced analytics-based procedure, Chicago data scientists discovered critical food safety violations, on average, seven days earlier than when traditional inspection procedures were used. The results have implications not only for Chicago but for forward-thinking cities everywhere that see the value of using advanced predictive analytics.

In summary, machine learning and predictive analytics are far from overhyped—in fact, we’re just getting started. In today’s world of immediate gratification and “google me” results (a luxury I appreciate just as much as the next person), sometimes people forget that collecting and actualizing the use of good data is often a marathon and it’s never a sprint. I’m personally excited to explore what we’ll be doing next and how Mi-Corporation can help shape the future of predictive analytics for our customers. I can’t think of a single customer we have today that wouldn’t benefit from predictive modeling tools. When they’re properly applied and expertly interpreted, incredible insights (and huge business benefits) await.

Stay tuned!

My Life Lesson: Love Wins

My first volunteer trip to Honduras was in the winter of 2009. A church group was making the journey to build homes in the second poorest country in Central America—and though I had heard amazing stories from my friends about prior mission trips, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We touched down at the Tegucigalpa Airport, which boasts the world’s second most dangerous takeoff and landing according to the History Channel (no big deal!), and drove 2.5 hours to Southern Honduras. As we made the trek, I was initially shocked—even haunted—by the living conditions… mud huts, scattered litter everywhere, the pain of poverty palpable. All throughout that drive, I watched and listened to my friends and travel companions. There was excitement in their voices, and their eyes were bright as if they didn’t see what I was seeing. I wondered to myself, how could they not be saddened by what was passing before their eyes? I would soon learn, however, that I was the one who had been blind.

The next day when we arrived on the construction site, the sadness that had consumed me during that long trip from the airport was quickly replaced by something else. It may sound somewhat cliché but the moment I encountered the people of the village, my heart was filled with love. Rarely had I experienced such sincere warmth, love, and gratitude. Gratitude, warmth and love from people who had far less than anyone I had ever met before. The joy of the Honduran people in the midst of those $2/day wages, gnawing hunger, having no real shelter, few clothes on their backs, and often no shoes—it’s something that most people would have to experience to believe. The love and joy were simply mind-blowing.

I made that first trip to Honduras in 2009 because I wanted to ‘give back’ as people always say. I wanted to get out of my air-conditioned, luxury-laden, big-house living (relatively speaking), overfed bubble and do something for somebody else. I must say, before going, I did not know the magnitude of the bubble. Throughout that first trip and during the eight subsequent visits I’ve made to Honduras over the past eight years, I discovered more about love. The pure love of those experiences is something I want to share.

I want to spread the stories of my experiences as much as possible, and first to my children. I hope to take my 16 year-old daughter to Central America within the next year. She’s put our first trip on hold due to another mission trip she’s taking to New York City this summer—and that’s okay with me. My heart is full in the knowledge that she wants to give back to others, and I have no doubt that she will experience love in a new and life-changing way.

For anyone who may be interested, the groups I work with locally include Sharefish, Mercy and Grace, and North Carolina Baptist Men. Each group has certain specialty areas but the trips I’ve attended focus on construction, education and medical projects. I'm also a fan and supporter of BC Serna, who I had the chance to meet briefly at a conference. He encourages young people to travel to Central America to serve and raises money to sponsor their travel. Check out the group with which he travels.

Top 5 Takeaways from Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2015

Microsoft Hololens

This past week Mi-Corporation's CEO, Greg Clary, and VP of Sales & Marketing, Gautham Pandiyan, ventured to Orlando, FL for Microsoft's 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference. While the entire conference was inspiring, informative, and a huge success, read on for their top 5 highlights from the event.

1. Making a Positive Impact

Hearing CEO Satya Nadella's Vision Keynote on Day 1 of WPC15, talk about "impact" and "making a difference" energized us. We are delighted to see that Microsoft shares our deepest core belief at Mi-Corporation that mobile information positively impacts the world.

"Together with our partners we are transforming the business world for the next era." - Satya Nadella

 

2. Upgrade Your World

At WPC there was a lot of buzz around the upcoming Windows 10 release, including the launch of Microsoft's #UpgradeYourWorld global charity campaign.

When Windows 10 officially rolls out on Wednesday, July 29, Microsoft will also launch the Upgrade Your World campaign, where they will partner with 10 global and 100 local nonprofits to help them support their missions and promote awareness of their causes.

Additionally, Microsoft will also start a crowdsource-based nomination process for 10 more nonprofit groups each in 10 countries. Mi-Corporation is proud to support this campaign through our own charitable work with local nonprofits such as the Ronald McDonald House of Durham, Sharefish, Healing Place of Wake County, and Communities in Schools of Wake County.

 

3. Windows 10

Mi-Corporation's own Gautham Pandiyan gave a fantastic speech during the Windows 10 session.

Gautham highlighted the business case for Mobile Solutions for agencies, with the example of NC Department of Agriculture, who saved ~$220,000 in taxpayer dollars and turned a 4-week process into a 1-day process to provide better citizen service with a tablet solution and mobile forms. He also discussed what we find most appealing about Windows 10 as a leading Mobile Solutions provider:

  • Universal apps -- design once and deploy to all types of devices from tablets to smartphones and more
  • Enhanced handwriting entry support -- for that natural inking and workflow of field inspectors on clipboards

 

4. Simplicity + Innovation

Microsoft is simplifying their marketing message from Azure to Windows 10 to Office--and we dig it. Not only is their new messaging more simplistic, but it is interlaced with the promise of innovative technologies such as HoloLens, Windows 10 Universal Apps, and Cortana Analytics.

 

5. Unprecedented Networking Opportunities

WPC 2015 was a fantastic opportunity to meet key Microsoft executives and sales representatives from around the globe. As the 2015 Public Sector: Government Partner of the Year, it is essential for us to work with Microsoft to understand how we can make a difference to their business, and how they can make a difference to ours.

 

We look forward to continuing to make a transformative impact for organizations with mobile solutions and to upgrade our world with all of you!

 

Using Mi-Forms for Email: Eating Our Own Dog Food

dog food

dog food

At Mi-Corporation, as at many companies, email is one of our main modes of communication aside from meetings and phone calls. Very often these days, I find myself emailing the key members of my team from my phone, using voice dictation. I happen to use Google's speech recognition technology via a Samsung Galaxy S4. As user interface designers, we are very aware of the number of steps any given function takes, such as with sending an email.

For example, sending an email to a team member from my phone requires:

1.  opening the Android email app

2.  tapping the compose icon

3.  positioning the cursor in the To: field

4.  entering a few characters of an email address (possibly as few as one or two)

5.  selecting the email address from the list of auto-completed choices

6.  dictating the body of the email

7.  tapping the send icon.

To test our Mi-Forms mobile data capture software on phones, we have designed a Mi-Forms form to perform this function.  It performs this function in fewer steps than the Android email app.

Steps include:

1.  Opening the Mi-Forms app

2.  Selecting recipients by tapping checkbox choices (for me, key members of my team)

3.  Dictating the body of the email

4.  tapping the send icon.

Mi-Forms Chrome screenshot

The Mi-Forms client software uploads the data to the Mi-Forms Server, where emails to the selected members of the team are formatted and sent.   Smartphones certainly provide other ways to quickly dictate emails, but our Mi-Forms solution gives us another way to eat our own dog food.

Eat Your Own Dog Food Definition | Investopedia

 

A colloquialism that describes a company using its own products or services for its internal operations. The . . .

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/eatyourowndogfood.asp

Amusement Park Companies Use Mi-Forms for Safety Checklists & Inspections

kings dominion

Last Friday, I took my family to Kings Dominion in Virginia.  Kings Dominion is an amusement park with many thrilling rides including the “tallest, fastest roller coaster on the East Coast.”  After riding the Intimidator 305, I am not going to argue with them.  It reaches speeds of 90 mph and has an 85 degree drop from 305 feet.  Another coaster – the Volcano – accelerates riders to 75 mph before they ‘erupt’ upside-down from the volcano.

Kings Dominion is owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.  Cedar Fair is doing really well financially – they reported adjusted EBITDA of $391 million for 2012, and they expect over $400 million of adjusted EBITDA in 2013.

Imagine the liability concerns of amusement park owners with rides like these.  Some injuries do happen despite the best efforts of park owners—Amusementsafety.org is a website that reports the safety incidents for most major amusement parks.  While state laws and legal defense teams protect amusement park owners, safety is the number one concern.

Amusement Park Companies like Cedar Fair and Palace Entertainment have Daily Safety Checklists to keep track of the inspections and maintenance checks performed on all park equipment to maintain the parks’ high standards of safety.  At Palace Entertainment, key personnel are alerted by e-mail if inspections have not been completed by a specific time each day.  This allows the corporate office and park management to respond immediately and avoid any safety issues that might arise due to inadequate inspections or maintenance procedures.

Electronic reports also track all guest safety incidents and provide the guest, park, and employees with digital records to facilitate insurance and legal paperwork.  Guest information, including electronic signatures, can be captured digitally using Mi-Co’s Mi-Forms, providing an effective record of any incident while relieving the parks and corporate offices of the expense of managing paper documents.

The Mi-Forms System from Mi-Co can provide amusement park companies like Cedar Fair and Palace Entertainment the following benefits:

  • Daily Safety Checklists and email alerts to designated personnel
  • Mobile electronic signature capture and capture of details to document guest incidents and safety and maintenance procedures
  • Robust and secure storage and retrieval of data like park name, park response, date, and time
  • Full audit trail support to maintain the integrity of maintenance and signed incident records
  • Electronic records to reduce storage space, processing time, and time to data availability

The Mi-Forms System works to provide amusement park companies with real-time notices and electronic records so that they can make quick, safe, and cost-effective corporate decisions.  Secure audit-trailed records allow park operators to effectively deal with incident reports and potential liability issues. This ensures that all park customers at all locations stay safe and receive the best service and support from the park staff and corporate offices.

**Disclaimer – Gregory Clary is not an investor in Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, but he is seriously considering it.**