Real-world uses of blockchain, from supply chain to equity

Blockchain
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Blockchain is already being used in a range of applications, from cross-border payments to election voting

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22 July 2019 | 0

Blockchain is increasingly moving out of research and development laboratories and into real-world applications, creating a global market that will grow from $1.5 billion (€1.33 billion) in 2018 to $23.3 billion (€20.8 billion) by 2023, according to estimates by MarketsandMarkets.

Despite widespread scepticism, there are real world examples of the application of these technologies. Here are some of the ways in which organisations are already using blockchain.

Pfizer

Pfizer and fellow pharmaceutical giants McKesson, Genentech, Gilead and AmerisourceBergen have teamed up for the MediLedger Project, which uses blockchain to track and trace compliance regulations and build a secure open network for the drug supply chain.

The initiative aims to help pharmaceutical companies comply with new regulations that require them to apply a unique identifier on each unit sold and pass the serial number information between trading partners. It does this through a permissioned blockchain network based on open standards that prevents verifies authenticity and provenance of each product prior to each transfer taking place.

Bumble Bee Foods

Bumble Bee Foods is using the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service to trace the journey of yellowfin tuna from the ocean to the table.

The technology allows consumers to access the complete origin and history of the Natural Blue by Anova yellowfin tuna sold by Bumble Bee Foods, North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood company. The information available includes the size of the catch, point of capture and the fishing community that caught it. It also provides insights that help verify authenticity, freshness, safety, fair trade fishing certification and sustainability.

Verisart

Verisart, a US-based start-up, is using blockchain to verify the authenticity of artworks.

The company has partnered with software developer ArtSystems to offer galleries blockchain-based certificates of authenticity that are embedded in their art inventory management systems.

It has also created a system for the auction market called P8Pass, which stores detailed provenance information on artworks on the Bitcoin blockchain, providing an immutable record of artworks being traded.

ADNOC

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has partnered with IBM to develop a blockchain-based system that securely tracks, validates and executes oil and gas transactions between ADNOC’s operating companies.

“We believe this could be the first application of blockchain in oil and gas production accounting anywhere in the world,” said Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, ADNOC Digital Unit Manager, at the 2018 World Energy Capital Assembly in London.

“It demonstrates how ADNOC is leveraging innovative partnerships to unleash the power of technology and creative thinking to enhance efficiencies and deliver greater performance.”

IBM

IBM has developed a banking solution to help financial institutions process cross-border payments using blockchain.

The idea is to leverage the distributed ledger technology to reduce the settlement time and lower the cost of processing global payments, while also offering greater transparency for all parties involved in the transactions.

The solution has been developed on the open source Hyperledger Fabric platform. IBM has partnered with open source blockchain network Stellar.org to create the ‘Lumens’ which are being traded, and South Pacific financial services provider KlickEx Group to prove out the solution, with the aim of rolling it out to global banks.

In a press release, IBM says that this could enable “a farmer in Samoa to enter into a trade contract with a buyer in Indonesia. The blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalise transaction terms with immediate payment,” using the solution.

IBM has also released open source code patterns for blockchain (as well as AI, microservices and analytics) apps. These code patterns include packages of reusable code, GitHub repos and resources explaining the underlying code.

World bank

The World Bank, working with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has announced that it is launching a blockchain bond on Ethereum.

The Ethereum blockchain platform was selected due to its huge active community of developers worldwide. The infrastructure will run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

Investor interest in the bond has reportedly been strong, and proceeds will be directed towards funding sustainable development.

Every year, The World Bank issues $50-$60 billion in bonds to fund global development projects. Because of this, the bank has often been at the forefront of financial innovation, issuing the first electronic bond in 2000.

Wenn Digital and Kodak

After leaping some regulatory hurdles, a blockchain image copyright system developed by Wenn Digital with Kodak will open for an initial coin offering on 21 May 2018 with a $50 million ceiling.

The two companies developed the “image rights management platform” KODAKOne to create a digital ledger for rights ownership. Photographers will be able to license new or archived work on the platform where they will be paid in KODAKCoin, a cryptocurrency designed for the system.

The KODAKOne platform itself is built to constantly crawl the web looking for intellectual property infringements.

KODAKOne cofounder Cam Chell told Reuters: “We really took a step back and decided we would ensure that all Ts were crossed and Is dotted before we embark on a public sale. We wanted to make sure that we got it right.”

The coin offering will move through a tool compliant with the US Securities and Exchange Commission regulator called Simple Agreement for Future Tokens, or SAFT. 

De Beers

Diamond business De Beers claims to have successfully traced 100 “high-value” diamonds along the supply chain from “mine to retail” for the pilot of its own blockchain platform.

The Diacore, Diarough, KGK Group, Rosy Blue NV and Venus Jewel diamond manufacturers collaborated with De Beers to develop the Tracr product.

According to De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver, the pilot successfully demonstrated that a diamond can be traced through the supply chain in a “way that was not possible before”.

Rosy Blue NV managing director Amit Bhansali added: “Technology has already significantly contributed to improving transparency within the diamond industry. Initiatives that use blockchain can drive this process even further, as their implementation requires collaboration and trust creation among all industry stakeholders.”

The diamond industry is controversial due to the mining of ‘conflict minerals’. It is thought that blockchain could help ensure these do not enter the supply chain.

Of course, ‘legitimate’ diamond mining businesses are not without controversy either, with De Beers facing criticisms for displacing indigenous people for its operations, described as a tribal “genocide” by Survival International. 

West African country Sierra Leone has become the first in the world to conduct presidential elections with the help of blockchain technology.

Swiss-based firm Agora says it offers decentralised voting based on blockchain. It has a team of cryptographers and security scientists, which the company claims have helped to develop a platform to “radically improve” voting – making votes tamper-proof, transparent, and verifiable from start to finish. The results are available to view here.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission worked closely with Agora to rethink the voting process for the West Districts this March. The usual manual tally was considered a slow and costly logistical process, but Agora says that with its technology in place, the election results were counted “days ahead” of the previous approach.

Digital voting has long been a possibility but there are questions around security – especially with closed-door proprietary systems: can they be tampered with and where’s the proof that they’re transparent or otherwise free from corruption?

Agora boldly claims that it might have solved this problem and that its “unforgeable” solution in Sierra Leone paves the way for a wider roll-out of blockchain-based voting worldwide.

DHL

Global logistics company DHL has jointly created a life sciences and healthcare proof of concept based on blockchain with IT services business Accenture.

The serialisation prototype was designed to tackle the pharmaceutical black market – with Interpol claiming as many as 30% of pharmaceutical products in emerging markets are counterfeit.

The proof of concept contained nodes in six geographies to track the medicine and record its journey on a shared ledger with various stakeholders including manufacturers, warehouses, distributors, pharmacies, hospitals and doctors.

Andreas Baier, Accenture’s lead for travel and transportation, said in a statement: “Using a common, indelible and secure ledger, the industry can achieve much higher safety standards, from the factory to the patient, at much lower cost. This is one of several opportunities blockchain affords to restructure business processes while reducing cost and complexity.”

World Food Programme

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) expects to save millions of dollars in bank transfer fees by using its own Ethereum-based payments system.

Speaking with Bloomberg, WFP director Robert Opp said that the organisation felt it could replace services offered by the banks with blockchain. “We’re putting in place a financial infrastructure,” he said.

The WFP started rolling out a blockchain-based system to aid with food assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan. WFP innovation lab head Bernhard Kowatsch told Bloomberg that applying the Ethereum system to Jordan could cut out as much as 98 percent in bank transfer fees.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is planning to deploy a blockchain scheme for registering frequent flyer miles and rewards, and will launch a digital wallet app with its retail partners in the next six months.

According to Reuters, the airline will invest “hundreds of millions” in digital technology as part of a wider revamp.

Chief executive Goh Choon Pong said that he believes Singapore Airlines will be the first airline to launch a customer-facing blockchain product through its Krisflyer frequent flyer programme – and this will be developed privately to operate only between the airline and its selected merchants and partners.

The airline first developed a proof of concept with KPMG Digital Village and Microsoft, and the app will roll out in the Singapore market before anywhere else.

“It is in line with our recently unveiled Digital Innovation Blueprint, under which we aim to be the world’s leading digital airline,” Goh Choon Pong said, reports Channel News Asia.

Lockheed Martin

Defence multinational Lockheed Martin contracted Guardtime Federal to integrate blockchain into the company’s processes – with the aim of providing auditable reassurance to America’s federal government.

Guardtime Federal’s Black Lantern and its wider Federal Core blockchain infrastructure, Lockheed Martin said, would enable “more efficient and secure” software development, as well as improved supply chain risk management.

RBS

Royal Bank of Scotland and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) partnered with New York-based software company R3 to make use of its Corda blockchain platform in September 2017. Corda automates the creation of mortgage delivery receipts on behalf of the banks, and this data is sent along to the FCA.

IDG News Service

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