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Undoubtedly, “blockchain” is one of the key technology buzzwords of 2017. While there is still considerable hype around this topic, we’re starting to see real projects using blockchain, and real value emerging in certain markets.

In this blog, I’ll look at several recent examples that highlight the drive for innovation behind blockchain’s adoption—but first, let’s cover some definitions.

Blockchain is the technology that enables the existence of cryptocurrency, among other things. A cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange, like the U.S. dollar or the Euro. Unlike hard currency, however, blockchain is digital and uses encryption techniques to control the creation of monetary units and to verify the transfer of funds. You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency and the one for which blockchain technology was invented.

Blockchain has potential applications far beyond Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Blockchain is, quite simply, a decentralized ledger that records all transactions taking place across a peer-to-peer network (two or more connected computers that share resources without the use of a server). What makes blockchain a potential blockbuster innovation is that it lets market participants transfer assets across the Internet without the need for a centralized third party—like a bank, for example.

From a business perspective, it’s helpful to think of blockchain as a type of next-generation business process improvement software. Collaborative technologies like blockchain promise the ability to enhance business processes between companies, radically lowering the “cost of trust.” For this reason, it may offer significantly higher returns for each investment dollar spent than most traditional internal investments.

Curbing counterfeit drug distribution

Several blockchain use cases have made news in recent months. For example, U.S. pharmaceutical companies and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could soon track prescription drugs over an interoperable blockchain—one that’s able to communicate, exchange data and use the information that’s been exchanged. Based on a blockchain “track and trace” pilot developed for the pharmaceutical industry, the solution could prove a viable means to curbing counterfeit drug distribution and sales in the U.S. and beyond.

The blockchain platform will adhere and satisfy the FDA’s Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), signed into effect by President Obama in November 2013. The purpose of the act is to “develop an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States.”

The blockchain solution will comply with DSCSA protocols and focus on data privacy while adhering to GS1 standards, a system for traceability that can be implemented by all participants in a supply chain across borders globally.

Cracking down on food fraud

One feature that makes blockchain a no-brainer for supply chains across industries is its immutable, time-stamped, tamper-proof ledger, accessible by all or by pre-approved participants in the supply chain.

Parcel shipment company Australia Post recently announced a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to curb the rise of counterfeit food exports from Australia to China, using blockchain to improve traceability.

Australia Post is a major exporter of food to China, which has seen an increase in counterfeit Australian exports like wine, nuts and nutritional supplements. Designed to “trace food exports from paddock to plate,” the technology will obtain crucial details from suppliers about where and how their food was grown and map its journey across the supply chain.

Cutting down on shipping paperwork

Shipping company Maersk announced the use of blockchain to track of shipments in containers as they’re hauled across the seas. Maersk claims that a single container moved from East Africa to Europe might require as many as 30 different people to handle paperwork across 200 or more interactions.

With blockchain, every participant in the supply chain can see the shipment’s progress, including the container’s location and the status of its documents. As a result, shippers can reduce the weight of paperwork to be completed, while customs officials and clients can see where goods are at all times. So far, shipments of flowers from Kenya, mandarin oranges from California and pineapples from Colombia have all been tracked using the tool as they flowed into the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Antuit has helped several clients explore the true value of blockchain for their business, leading to exciting and innovative developments in this space. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you accelerate your blockchain journey.

ABOUT THE Blogger

Patrick Strauss, MSc
Associate Vice President

Patrick leads Antuit’s Digital Supply Chain Practice in Europe