Blockchain technology is one of those things that’s been around for over 20 years and yet many have never heard of it, let alone know what it is. However, in the last couple of years, the technology has seen a resurgence. With integrations by companies such as IBM, Deloitte, UPS, JP Morgan Chase, and even Walmart, blockchain technology is starting to penetrate mainstream industries. Major businesses have begun to utilize this technology to further advance their systems and processes.
What Exactly is Blockchain Technology?
In short, the blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic and digital transactions. They can be programmed to record not only financial transaction, but anything of value. A block is the ‘current’ part of a blockchain that records some – if not all – of the recent transactions. Once completed, it goes back into the blockchain as a permanent database. And each time a block gets completed, a new block is generated. Blocks happen to be linked together (much like a chain) in a linear, chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block.
How Safe is This Technology?
Information held on the blockchain exists as a shared and continually reconciled database. And this database isn’t stored in a single location – meaning the records kept are truly public and easily verifiable. Without having a centralized location, the data is accessible by anyone on the internet as it is hosted by millions of computers simultaneously making this technology robust. Blockchains can’t be controlled by a single entity and has no single point of failure which thwarts hackers from corrupting these databases and helps eliminate data breach risks.
Big Businesses Already Using Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is seeing real-world use and here are some businesses and industries using it to secure supply lines, eliminate the middle-man, and cut costs:
1. UPS Plans to Improve Efficiency for Trucking, Shipping, and Logistics Industries
Recently, UPS was accepted as a member of the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) to assist in the development of standards for using blockchain to track or monitor packages, facilitate payments between shipping parties to reduce disputes, and other industry application. They also plan to improve the efficiency and transparency of shipping transactions.
Their ultimate plan is to use the technology to shift from its mostly paper-based processes and establish an efficient, shared platform that can be used by its customers and third-party associates. By supporting the standards around blockchain, UPS aims to promote logistic strategies that will allow its customers to participate in global trade and finance.
2. Big Produce Retailers – Walmart and Kroger – Tracking Shipments via Blockchain
Several of the world’s largest food suppliers are teaming up with IBM’s blockchain technology to fight food poisoning and other food borne illnesses. The consortium includes the likes of Dole, Unilever, Walmart, Kroger, Nestle, and Tyson Foods who are banding together to make plans to cut down the time it takes to pinpoint the source of foodborne illnesses and eradicate it. Previously, investigations could take weeks whereas with a blockchain-based system it could take mere seconds.
Walmart has already used this technology for real-world experiments in tracking pork sales in China and mangoes in the United States. Beyond that, these companies are also looking to use blockchains to revamp their data management processes across complex networks that include farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers. The granular, secure records in the system could help prevent fraud, as well as keep tabs on the flow of goods, track shipments and better coordinate with customs officials.
3. Making Industrial Supply Chains Accountable in the Diamond Industry
Diamond and gems are a very lucrative business. However, some unsavory companies mine “blood diamonds” and counterfeiters try to flood the market with very convincing fakes. The challenge of ensuring you’re buying an authentic, conflict-free gem is quite high.
Utilizing blockchain technology, a London-based company called Everledger has placed more than 136 million diamonds on a blockchain. Any entry on the digital record include dozens of attributes for each diamond. This includes the color, carat, and certificate number, which can be laser inscribed on the crown of the stone. The technology has allowed diamond suppliers and intermediaries to replace the paper certificate process with a blockchain ledger by creating a “digital twin” of the object on the blockchain. The company is planning to extend the use of its technology with diamonds to other luxury goods like vintage wine and fine art.
Blockchain is Moving Toward Mainstream Use
While few examples have touched the public, today many companies are aiming to have something for the masses by some point in 2018. This all hints at the way blockchain technology will change how goods and services move around the world as well as how shippers and merchants provide faster, more secure supply chains for increased consumer confidence and accountability.
Learn More About How This Technology May Affect You
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