This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Supply Chain Management series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and supply chain management.
In this interview we speak with Žiga Drev, Co-founder and managing director, OriginTrail, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the supply chain management business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind OriginTrail? Why and how did you begin?
ZD: OriginTrail began as a traceability solution almost ten years ago. A local organic meat producer from my hometown was searching for creative marketing ideas to compete with larger manufacturers. The initial challenge seemed simple: let’s build a traceability application to showcase where the food is coming from and gain the consumers’ trust.
This case gained a lot of public attention and our team continued with traceability projects for major food producers in our region, South-East Europe. However, we were getting a lot of questions about how consumers can trust the data’s authenticity. That’s when we discovered the power of blockchain technology to decentralize and safeguard data. We first connected our systems with the Ethereum blockchain in 2017. After initial success and market validation, we started developing an open-source OriginTrail protocol that can now be applied to improve the integrity of any supply chain, globally.
We later deployed OriginTrail solutions in different food sectors, tracing dairy, meat and vegetable and worked with European and Chinese food businesses. In 2017, we were also admitted into the Walmart Food Safety Innovation Pipeline, then selected as one of the three winning solutions in that initiative, which gave us a lot of encouragement and visibility to continue on increasing transparency in global supply chains.
2. Please describe your use case and how OriginTrail uses blockchain:
ZD: I like to say that the OriginTrail protocol enables companies to speak the same language with integrity. It joins data from several points in the supply chain: the primary producer, manufacturing, warehousing, and point of sale. To coherently describe events in a supply chain we use globally approved standards such as GS1 which allow us to work across different sectors and geographies.
Only fingerprints of data are stored on Ethereum or Hyperledger, which makes use of blockchain lightweight yet efficient. The OriginTrail Decentralised Network (ODN) takes care of the rest: matching data amongst companies and putting it to use through powerful business and consumer applications.
Once data from different partners is joined on the ODN, various business or consumer apps can be built on top of it. These apps can do any number of things like display trusted provenance of products, track-and-trace, audit and produce certificates. We have also built nOS – Network Operating System, which enables business users to quickly implement their blockchain projects, with no coding knowledge required.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
ZD: OneAgrix is one of our partners from Singapore that is building the largest online marketplace for halal goods. They chose the OriginTrail protocol as a means of enabling trusted verification of halal certifications to their customers. The global halal market is huge and growing, with more than 2 billion consumers! We have a great collaboration with OneAgrix founder Diana Sabrain, who is an inspiring leader, and have bold plans for further cooperation.
We also partnered with BSI, the business standards company, to deliver blockchain-enabled solutions that will enhance its global assessment, certification and supply chain services to confirm the provenance of goods and the integrity of digital records or services. Founded in 1901, BSI works with over 80,000 clients every year, conducting over 250,000 audits in 172 countries worldwide to help them adopt and cultivate the habits of excellence and best practice. BSI’s expertise in compliance, assessment and certification coupled with OriginTrail’s blockchain-enabled technologies allow organizations to prove the integrity of their global operations and that their product and services claims are real. This type of blockchain application is particularly relevant to the food, healthcare and construction sectors due to being highly regulated industries and the complexity of their supply chains.
In our local environment, we have a fresh example of an application for a poultry producer who wanted to showcase the locations of their farmers. Consumers can scan the QR code on every product and trace it back to the farm thanks to OriginTrail and blockchain technology. It is a great marketing tool for the producer. It enables them to connect with their consumers and further position their premium brand.
We even proved the technology capable of verifying the provenance of physical goods can also be used to track digital assets. We used OriginTrail to describe where Bitcoin that was previously stolen from Binance – the world’s biggest exchange for cryptocurrencies and digital assets – had moved. The company announced that it lost some 7,000 Bitcoin worth over $40 million which was the largest hack in 2019. The hackers transferred stolen Bitcoin to seven addresses.
4. What other blockchain use cases in supply chain management are you excited about?
ZD: There are more stakeholders in modern supply chains than one would imagine at first: financial institutions, government agencies, consumer organizations, auditors and certification bodies.
Some supply chain management use cases we’re exploring are trade finance (how automated data and document flow can accelerate cross-border trade), audit and risk management (we are already working with the global standards consultancy BSI on that), and advanced business intelligence (informed decision making based on complete and structured data). OriginTrail is the glue that connects the shareholders together and enables them to get more insight out of data that is already generated in supply chains but not shared yet due to a lack of incentive.
5. Where will OriginTrail be in 5 years?
ZD: I am excited to see how decentralised technologies will become more and more a part of our daily lives, just as the Internet has greatly improved them in the past decades. In our vision, trusted and scalable data exchange will power the knowledge economy of the future. The OriginTrail protocol is the foundation for that. Its ODN network is up and running, already proving its value in supply chains spanning across more continents.
OriginTrail is also a bustling open-source community, with many tools developed by community members, independent of the core development team. With so much achieved barely two years after we first shared the protocol’s white paper, global adoption in five years is a feasible goal.