Anticipating tomorrow’s world

Smartphones, tablets, Cloud, Big Data, SaaS, PaaS…... All these developments and the technological trends of recent years have had and continue to have a significant impact on the organization and management of the supply chain. The new generations of millenials and digital natives have already adopted different patterns of communication and consumption from those preferred by generations X and Y.  Businesses are aware of this and adapting accordingly. So too is Zetes, by supporting them with major business transformation projects. Innovation is at the heart of our business, and the extra boost that Panasonic's technological capabilities will be able to give to Zetes, was a strong argument for envisaging our integration with the Japanese giant.

Innovation is essential to the performance and continuing survival of a company like Zetes. With rapidly changing technology, no idea remains new for long. Zetes therefore needs to invest constantly to maintain its competitive advantage.

To encourage innovation, Zetes firmly believes in and promotes exchange and collaboration.

This approach has led to the standardization of its Goods ID solutions, the development of tools like the MCL™ mobility platform and new products and solutions in People ID. Innovation at Zetes is an evolutionary process rather than one of radical new developments. Our customers' processes are often very complex, having evolved over many years and their proper functioning is of critical importance to their organizations. Zetes uses technology to find ways to improve these processes without fundamentally changing them.

Applications management in the cloud: efficient mobility management for the supply chain

To support its collaborative supply chain concept, Zetes has integrated the MCL™ platform, a MEAP or Mobile Enterprise Application Platform, developed by the MCL Technologies division.  Facilitating the management of all terminal devices at a company, it enables us to offer customers all the inherent advantages of the Cloud, which until now have been difficult to access in a mobile environment.

The "Software as a Service" (SaaS) model

The MCL™ platform's cloud application architecture enables Zetes to market its application solutions using a subscription model (Software as a Service or SaaS), with optimized versions for each customer's particular IT infrastructure. Centralized management also offers significant time savings in the development of solutions.

Complete serialization software suite

Following the logic of its collaborative supply chain approach, Zetes continues to develop its application solutions so as to ensure effective traceability throughout the various supply chain stages. The latest evolutions involve, firstly, the ability to serialize products at higher speeds which respect customers' production requirements and secondly, the potential to manage serialization at different levels. Products are being identified with very high precision during production and also in the warehouse. At each step, data is captured and communicated to a central database. Tight integration of these different levels permits high-precision traceability right along the supply chain: an essential requirement for certain products and regulated markets.

Effective support to help our customers face the challenges of the retail sector

New technologies are having a major impact in the retail sector. The new ‘buy anywhere, return anywhere’ consumer model requires retailers to struggle with the challenge of how to fulfil their customers’ needs. Not only do they need to provide a different, more engaging customer experience for traditional shoppers, they also have to meet the new challenges around fulfilling on-line demand. Some of the changes they need to make are more a matter of adapting their processes. Others, however, will involve implementing new, cutting-edge technologies, which can be a key enabler. For example, finding new ways to engage with consumers via their smartphones can help cross selling and loyalty. Empowering store staff with mobile access for easy look up product information and stock availability can also have a big impact. Enabling system directed shelf replenishment will maximise shelf availability and improve sales. Complementing voice technology with other technologies to further enhance picking accuracy in the warehouse can reduce costs.

In response to this new reality, Zetes continues to test and develop new technology enabled approaches such as wearable IT, image processing, voice technologies, NFC, BLE, augmented reality, and RFID.

The Software Factory: a structured approach

Since 2014, the Software Factory has been in charge of developing standardized solutions. This ensures a coordinated and consistent approach to solutions development by:

  • maximizing reuse of code modules;
  • ensuring full compatibility between solutions;
  • ensuring that the same technology and architecture is used group-wide;
  • reducing implementation risk.

The Software Factory builds on the expertise Zetes has harvested project by project in each country.

This networking approach offers many other advantages:

  • accelerated adoption of new trends;
  • rapid sharing of new features and functionalities between different solutions;
  • effective technical support for local deployments;
  • sharing extended beyond codes, to include related resources (e.g. documentation, translations).

Trust services for electronic signatures

With the emergence of internet, the number of electronic transactions has increased dramatically.  However in order to conduct them properly, it is often necessary to irrefutably identify stakeholders.

An electronic signature is a mechanism which makes it possible to place the equivalent of a handwritten signature onto an electronic document. This mechanism is based on a cryptographic technique which uses a PKI system (signing certificate) with a private key belonging to the signatory and a public key held by a trusted third party. Private and public keys are intrinsically linked. The public key allows a third party to verify the identity of the person who has placed his or her signature on a document. The certification authority (CA) then presents a certificate attesting the authenticity of the key.

In 2016, Zetes was certified as a certification services provider under Directive 1999/93/EC. The process is now underway for Zetes to also obtain certification under the eIDAS (electronic identification and trust services) regulation, which replaces the previous directive. The revision strengthens the systems already in place and establishes the mutual recognition of electronic identification means issued by one EU Member State and used in another Member State. In doing so, eIDAS seeks to overcome the fragmentation of the digital market, the lack of interoperability and the rise of cybercrime, which have been identified by the European Commission as the main obstacles to the virtuous cycle of the digital economy.

The solutions and services Zetes offers under the eIDAS regulation are grouped under the heading 'Zetes TSP' (Trusted Services Provider). Zetes acts in this way as a trusted third party in issuing signature certificates. Zetes TSP offers a range of software solutions and processes which make it possible to establish with certainty the relationship between the holder of a document and the public key, thereby validating the signature on a document.

Zetes had already taken a first step in the field of electronic signature with the launch in 2014 of its eaZySign online authentication platform.  This solution makes it possible to sign official electronic documents in a legally valid, safe and user-friendly manner, using the electronic identity card and its PIN code. eaZySign acts as a secure receptacle for electronically signed documents. Zetes then acts as a trusted third party for retaining the data and ensuring its integrity.

This extension of the Zetes portfolio reflects the ongoing evolution of digital identity. The growing need to authenticate remotely, avoiding paperwork, travel and unnecessary queues, requires solutions that optimally guarantee that the person one is dealing with is indeed who he or she claims to be. The difficulty lies in the inability to visually check a document, face or other biometric data. Digital identity is of obvious interest to governments as well as the world of banking and insurance, but other sectors are also impacted. Any area where the signature of a contract is required is potentially likely to go digital. Digital identity and the need for authentication are growing rapidly, with major developments still to come.

Integration with Panasonic: an opportunity for innovation

Several factors have tipped the balance in favour of the acquisition of Zetes by Panasonic, with innovation being a significant one. Since innovation has always been of vital importance for Zetes' development, it was natural that management was particularly attentive to the contribution Panasonic could potentially provide here. With its commitment to becoming a leading player in the supply chain as a service provider, and the resources deployed by its innovation centre in Osaka to provide advanced solutions, Panasonic has shown itself to be a partner of choice. The group already announced, in its 2015 annual report, a desire to establish a European innovation centre similar to the one launched in North America which is dedicated to transport and logistics. Zetes is therefore convinced that this combination will be extremely beneficial to its customers, enabling it to offer them increasingly sophisticated and effective solutions.