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The global supply chain is a complex interaction of myriad supplier relationships, components and finished products traversing an increasingly challenging macroeconomic landscape.
One of the vendors trying to help organizations and governments gain actionable supply chain insights is based in New York Altana Technologiesfounded in 2018. The company’s first three years of existence were spent building a new type of federated knowledge graph data system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help organizations understand their global supply chains.
It is a company that has been supported by rapid demand, especially in the past year as pandemic, inflation and security concerns have placed renewed pressure and emphasis on global supply chain management. That has led to the company’s announcement that it has raised $100 million in a Series B funding round. The new funding comes just a year after the company raised a much smaller series A round of $15 million in September 2021.
“The reason venture capital and financial markets generally freeze is inflation, war, climate disruptions and supply chain shocks,” Evan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Altana, told VentureBeat. “The same things drive demand for our platform.”
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How Altana’s AI-powered Supply Chain Platform Works
Although it is still a young company, Altana already has a number of large clients on the program, including US Customs and Border Protection, Boston Scientific, BMW, Maersk and Merck.
It has taken time and technical innovation to reach the current state of the company. Smith explained that the original proposition for Altana was to build a living map of the supply chain that connects and powers the things around it.
“You have to somehow access and learn from all the non-public supply chain data out there,” Smith said. “You can’t just scrape the internet like Google did and put a search index on it.”
Smith explained that what his company has developed is a federated set of data and machine learning platforms, all working together to learn about silo data. He noted that Google Maps is a good metaphor for what Altana is trying to do, by providing users with a unified map or view of the supply chain.
“We are building a map of the supply chain network using artificial intelligence to support customers in making decisions,” he said.
Where AI adds value
Smith explained that Altana uses AI for a variety of purposes.
At a fundamental level, AI helps Altana build a model of the supply chain world using the raw data it accesses through the federated network. The ability to ingest and load data from multiple sources in a range of different formats and languages is a complex task where AI can play a critical role.
Altana uses AI to provide analytics and decision support on top of its supply chain map of the world. Smith said Altana uses multiple AI technologies, including natural language processing (NLP), graphical neural networks and spatial statistics.
“[We] put everything on the map — including text and data that is in Chinese, English and Spanish — and we build a clear picture of all the entities and relationships between them,” Smith said. “So we use a combination of AI techniques and an integrated pipeline to do what we do.”
Look into the future
Currently, the Altana platform has a strong focus on trade, including supply chain resilience and visibility, and helps organizations understand business continuity risks.
Looking ahead, one area Smith plans to develop is an opportunity to uncover information about supply chain sustainability.
“Because we have this living, multi-layered view of supply chain networks, we are in a very unique position to profile scope-3 greenhouse gas emissions,” Smith said.
Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions are defined as emissions that are not produced directly by a company in its own operations, but rather are produced through its extended supply chain. Smith said what Altana would like to do is put greenhouse gas emissions from point sources on its supply chain map of the world. Putting that information on the supply chain map makes it easier for organizations to understand their climate and environmental impact.
For example, a user can look at a company and see if it operates sustainably. The platform can also provide a supplier with insights into the upstream supply chain to ensure they are making sustainable choices.
“You want to be able to look at a container of goods coming into the country and say, ‘This is a really strong estimate of the true footprint of greenhouse gases,'” he said.
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