Blockchain technology’s claim to fame is cryptocurrency–things like bitcoin and ether. But this ledger technology has a wide array of uses thanks to its immutability, and it makes trustless environments operate smoothly. In fact, something called “smart contracts” are already widely used in blockchain payment systems. The ability for everyone involved to view records of each transaction makes blockchain tech usable for everything to smart energy, to advertising, to esports.
Always on the forefront of new tech, IBM is putting blockchain to good use in another realm–trucking. As Freight Waves puts it, blockchain is poised to help the supply chain industry by offering up “more cooperation, more transparency, and more trust without anyone giving up their individuality.” This is important in an age where proprietary data is as valuable, perhaps more valuable, than currency itself.
In order to understand how blockchain can be used for supply chain, it’s important to understand just how blockchain itself works, especially outside of payments. IBM themselves have explained how blockchain functions in this quick video:
Using blockchain, everyone who needs to know information about a shipment can have that information at their fingertips. This can include everything from environmental factors such as temperature and jilting motions to time of arrival to the condition of goods when being transferred between drivers.
Because of the way blockchain functions, there is no way to alter the record of events without the majority of a network agreeing on that change. In that sense, it is much easier to trust that the data in a blockchain record has not been altered, because any changes are simply added as a new “block.” These blocks of information are chained together to make a blockchain.
Especially in conjunction with the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain can be an invaluable resource for supply chain by logging data from those connected sensors.
As Fleet Owner points out, blockchain can log aspects of shipping such as road conditions and drivers time on and off duty completely automatically which can help in the event of disputes. They also point out that the technology may open business opportunities by putting companies on one another’s radar from within a network.
IBM and Maersk’s are implementing a trust rating system into their tools, so that new members of a supply chain network can see who they are able to trust in the beginning as well as build their own trust score, as IBM representative Holli Haswell explains on PR Newswire.
IBM has had close connections with Maersk, their counterpart in developing this technology, and understandings of their challenges in supply chain management have cued the companies to work together to create a blockchain-based solution, according to Transport Topics.