By Joshua Seidemann, Vice President of Policy, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
January 9, 2019
Several years ago, Walmart traced a package of sliced mango from its shelf back to the farm. The exercise took a week. Recently, after implementing block chain protocols for portions of its produce aisle, Walmart undertook the same exercise. This time, it took 2.2 seconds.
Metrics are important. They justify our efforts to implement change. They provide empirical benchmarks by which we measure progress and outcomes. Our industry is no different: NTCA has published reports addressing issues such as telemedicine, and the Foundation for Rural Service has presented papers measuring the economic activity of rural broadband. But, sometimes, the numbers, no matter how impressive, do not convey fully the impact of what they represent. That’s when the human side comes in.
This morning, a patient advocate joined a panel on telehealth to explain what remote patient monitoring meant to him. He explained that the illustration of trends in his blood sugar, as opposed to staccato-like delivery of periodic test results, enabled his care team to recommend diet and other changes. He described what it felt like to lose 50 pounds; what it meant to be able to return to full-time work; what it meant to reduce hypertension and achieve blood pressure rates of which he is “so proud, I cannot believe it.” And then he became most human of all. To a ballroom full of strangers, he said, “I love my life. I love the energy I have. I feel good about me.”
Walmart is on schedule to implement block chain requirements for all its providers of leafy greens. So, every head of lettuce or bunch of spinach (or arugula, if that’s your thing) will be traceable from shelf to farm. Is it just a goal of metrics, aiming to reduce to trace time from seven days to 2.2 seconds? Consider this: remember the romaine lettuce recall from a few months back? In those types of events, everything gets thrown out – not just from your fridge, but the from the grocer’s case, the warehouse, the distributors – all the way up and down the line. So, block chain can help eliminate food waste. That’s a human side, too.
And, maybe that is one way to walk through CES this year. What human impact will technology bring? Not numerically, not empirically (though those metrics are critical), but in a way that might be measured in enthusiasm and relief like one person shared this morning.