The blockchain is one of the most enthusiastically discussed and most widely pursued new technologies available.
The blockchain was first introduced alongside Bitcoin, the first digital currency, and it’s since captured the imaginations of crypto enthusiasts and traditionalists alike. Some of its distinguishable features, including its decentralised network, smart contracts, and broad usability have led to the vigorous development by small startups and tech industry titans.
A recent survey by PwC found that 84% of the 600 executives surveyed are “actively involved’ in pursuing blockchain initiatives at their companies.
One of the technology’s most visible and impressive use cases is in the rapidly modernising shipping industry. In many ways, the blockchain’s features seem uniquely tailored to address the sector’s shortcomings and to equip its future ambitions.
Here are just a few ways that the blockchain is preparing to impact supply chain management.
Unquestionable trust & reliability
As the name indicates, supply chain management involves multiple companies and individuals who each play a pivotal role in ensuring that an item arrives at its destination. This process requires an unprecedented amount of trust, as a defect in one link of the chain can result in fraud, theft, or accidental but unaccountable damage, especially when shipping uniquely valuable items.
However, blockchain technology equips companies to transparently track their items at every phase of the delivery process. What’s more, the blockchain’s distributed ledger can log that data, making it unalterable and verifiable.
In short, when combined with modern tracking technologies, the blockchain creates perfect and unchangeable records for a product’s entire delivery cycle.
Just as blockchain technology is demonstrating a veritable tour de force, continued innovation in IoT devices is creating compelling opportunities for improving supply chain management.
Everything from sensors and beacons to tracking chips are making the shipping process a recorded event with accurate, live data that allows companies to make real- time decisions while generating a comprehensive record of an items journey. When coupled with the blockchain’s ledger, this data receives the networking capabilities to make a real impact on the shipping infrastructure.
Not only does this improve a company’s ability to attest to the veracity of their items, but it enables real-time, data-driven decisions to improve the quality of the shipping process.
One of the blockchain’s most frequently touted features is its embedded smart contracts. These contracts operate like a digital escrow service that automatically distributes data or payments when predetermined conditions are met.
For instance, shipping companies can implement smart contracts connected to IoT driven blockchain data points that compensate members of the chain when their role is completed.
In addition, smart contracts can automatically distribute data including shipping progress and quality control inspections that make a meaningful impact on the shipping experience. Whether it’s conveyed to customers or used to make informed decisions at a company level, this information is a valuable addition to the current supply chain infrastructure.
Taken together, these features are the driving force behind the blockchain’s hype when it comes to supply chain management, and they represent the future of supply chains in the digital age.
About the Author
Adrian Clarke, a former Microsoft CTO, is founder of tech startup Evident Proof – a blockchain-based platform that turns documents, transactions, and data events into immutable, unhackable proof. Evident Proof delivers evidence that can be used to meet compliance, provenance and other data verification requirements.