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 Bhagat Nainani, Group Vice President of IoT and Blockchain Applications Development at Oracle, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the supply chain management business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. When did you first hear about blockchain?
BN: I first heard about blockchain when I was working at PubNub in 2014. We had an early bitcoin exchange using our real time messaging service. Since then, I have been following blockchain developments, including the launch of the Ethereum and Hyperledger blockchain platforms and their applications for enterprise use cases.
2. What blockchain use cases are you most excited about?
BN: There are a lot of exciting use cases for blockchain to create more trust and transparency in the supply chain. Blockchain use cases in the supply chain can help verify the origin of a specific product, the conditions in which a product was harvested or transported, and enable product usage to be tracked after purchase. The potential of detailed quality control records and origin information has the potential to dramatically reduce costs and preserve a company’s reputation when it comes to product recalls. Furthermore, the temper-proof shared ledger can ensure counterfeits are not added between production and the customer. As smart contracts become the norm, blockchain will also improve the speed and efficiency of transactions and enable more automated processes in the supply chain.
3. Can you share details on any specific blockchain projects that Oracle is working on?
BN: Last October, we launched Oracle Blockchain Applications to help customers leverage blockchain to solve common business problems. The first four applications are all supply chain use cases, as the supply chain is where blockchain can currently add the most value. In contrast to our competitors that offer a platform to build on (we also offer our customers a blockchain platform), we are looking at common business processes and delivering blockchain applications for specific use cases. For example, we have blockchain applications for Intelligent Track & Trace, Lot Lineage and Provenance, Intelligent Cold Chain and Warranty and Usage.
4. Please describe how Oracle uses blockchain to transform supply chain management:
BN: Our four supply chain use cases – Intelligent Track & Trace, Lot Lineage and Provenance, Intelligent Cold Chain and Warranty and Usage – enable customers to benefit from the transparency that blockchain delivers for tracking parts and ingredients, food and temperature sensitive goods, and to be able to track a customer’s use of goods and services. In all of these use cases, key milestones are recorded on the shared ledger (which can’t be tampered with) to create a new level of transparency between the organization and its suppliers, as well as an organization and its customers. When you think about the recent e-coli outbreak caused by tainted romaine lettuce, the organizations impacted took weeks to pinpoint the source. In this scenario, blockchain would provide an accurate thread back to the supplier/farmer at fault, helping to take infected stock off shelves and giving customers greater confidence that romaine was still safe for consumption.
5. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
BN: We are working with a local brewery to track material from its hops, malt and yeast supplier. Oracle Intelligent Track and Trace application enables them to see key details about the condition of the ingredients at the time of shipping, the route the ingredients take to arrive at the brewery, and which batches of beer each of the ingredients went into. This provides a comprehensive view of what goes into each batch of beer and enables them to share very specific details about the ingredients in the beer with customers.
6. Where do you see the blockchain industry 5 years from now?
BN: Blockchain will be a standard feature of virtually all supply chain applications, and new use cases will begin emerging in other parts of the business. We already see many different companies investing in blockchain companies or partnering with blockchain-centric organizations. There are also numerous consortia being set up to facilitate blockchain networks for financial transactions, which is a more complex use case, or to validate employment and education credentials. We are still in the early stages of blockchain adoption. However, within the next five years we’ll see many applications of blockchain in supply chain and financial contracts and some traction in human resources.