Blockchain tech ready for prime time now, not later

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Tomorrow's Tech, Here Today

Blockchain is one of the most important technologies developed since the Industrial Revolution, and likewise, its impact will stretch into the future in ways unforeseen today.   

A bold statement, but one being embraced by a growing number of decision-makers in the logistics industry. The vision of harnessing the fundamental power of the blockchain to transform the supply chain as we know it is not limited to far-reaching, long-term endpoints, but in the shorter term here-and-now.

This vision includes blockchain-powered seamless border crossings and track-and-trace, which will not only tell you where your product is but the product’s environmental attributes like temperature or harsh handling conditions. Additionally, at any point in time, we will be able to predict the probability of on-time delivery and, in the event of delays, notify you the exact moment the delay’s probability exceeds a given threshold.

The process to move new technology out of the hypothetical and into real-world, practical use can be a daunting one. The benefits must be clear, the C-Suite needs to buy in and implementation has to be airtight.

My team has had the good fortune to have had those stars align, and we launched our first production blockchain through a partnership with Chain.io earlier this year. This project securely and immutably stores compliance documentation — a solution ready for production today, not some nebulous time in the future.   

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Enhanced Compliance through Blockchain

The majority of the world’s commerce is managed by text-based electronic documents like EDI and XML or scanned images. The inception of data transmitted in current modes is not guaranteed.  All parties involved are not working from a single source of truth, which causes headaches for auditors.

Using a blockchain solution solves both problems by providing a single source of truth via independent blockchain and a permanent, timestamped fingerprint derived from the data itself for provenance. If a single letter in a document or pixel in an image is changed, then the fingerprint is immediately invalid. The fingerprint is generated using a cryptographically secure hashing algorithm.

Storing archive-grade, encrypted records while publishing an unchangeable fingerprint on the public Ethereum blockchain ensures the integrity remains intact. The blockchain used is immutable and therefore cannot be altered after the fact.

The blockchain will also be able to store critical compliance information, including sourcing records, environmental chain of custody information, tariff classification support, vendor security audits, general commercial documents and more.

Compliance is of utmost importance in the logistics world, and this technology upgrade is providing a demonstrative step forward.

These new capabilities significantly boost the ability to meet regulatory demands, providing a higher level of available details as we manage customer accounts. The increased visibility internally will allow us to continue to support the new challenges in today's world of global trade.  

More to Come

The documents of the future will be all digital and securely stored on an immutable blockchain. Payments for services or exchanges of services will be made through smart contracts only after all the exact conditions are verifiably met. It’s an exciting time of evolution in the industry.  

In my team's experience, this project's value proposition has been immediately apparent to internal and external stakeholders and has opened the door to increased interest in the technology. As a result, future blockchain efforts are being approved; in the coming months, we expect to add blockchain-enabled bills of lading and blockchain-powered invoicing.

This impact of blockchain technology will eventually not only disrupt, but destroy intermediaries. Peer-to-peer interactions between entities and direct, frictionless interactions will change everything about the world in which we live and do business. Are you ready?