Blockchain Technology for The Innovative Enterprise
I’m often asked what #Blockchain technology is and how it can be used in enterprise environments. It’s best to think of Blockchain technology as a tool and not just as the underlying platform that supports #cryptocurrency. Imagination and innovation will drive more creative uses going forward.
Blockchain technology, also known by its more generic name distributed ledger technology, can be used to support a variety of business processes and workflows requiring secure and permanent records. Conceptually speaking, it can be thought of as an encrypted records database that can be securely shared between two distinct parties. Businesses looking to innovate inter-company processes, workflows, and/or improve customer experience can share sensitive data in a more secure environment than rewritable databases provide. Blockchain-based platforms require authentication of when and by whom data posts to the ledger. Moreover, data is encrypted and cannot be changed once written to the ledger. Business processes where there is risk of data being breached or changed without a record can now be deployed between two federated entities.
Blockchain technology is a tool for governing accountability in business. Contracts, transactions, and the records of them are among the defining structures in our economic, legal, and political systems. They protect assets and set organizational boundaries. They establish and verify identities and chronicle events. They govern interactions among nations, organizations, communities, and individuals. They guide managerial and social action. And yet these critical tools and the bureaucracies formed to manage them have not kept up with the economy’s digital transformation. In a digital world, the way we regulate and maintain administrative control has to change.
Blockchain promises to solve this problem. The technology at the heart of bitcoin and other virtual currencies, blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. The ledger itself can also be programmed to trigger transactions automatically.
With blockchain, we can imagine a world in which contracts are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organizations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain.
Here are a few more examples of Blockchain enabled workflows and processes:
Businesses needing to track goods or assets can use Blockchain technology to securely track and record the stages of manufacturing or movement of assets.
Software development teams working for different companies can capture who took part in each step of the development process.
Companies can manage their licensed digital content by securing authorship data and who has accessed it.
Healthcare providers can more securely store electronic health records in permanent non-re-writable databases.
Mortgage brokers can offer applicants a single place to store and share sensitive financial data with multiple lenders.
Insurance companies can reduce fraud by tracking customer interactions. In claims where multiple insurance companies are involved, data can be shared between them identifying events such as double payments.
Case Study: Somethings Fishy
Fraud runs rampant in the seafood industry, but blockchain could help ensure the fish you order in a restaurant is the fish that finds its way onto your plate.
In 2016, Oceana, an ocean conservation advocacy group, compiled a report drawing from 200 published studies on seafood fraud. Based on their findings, a whopping 20 percent of seafood is not labeled correctly. The problem extends to all corners of the globe and at all levels of the supply chain, from the people catching the fish to those distributing and selling it.
The seafood mislabeling infractions detailed in the report ranged from the relatively minor (a restaurant advertising wild salmon but serving a cheaper farmed salmon) to the downright disturbing: sushi chefs purposely mislabeling endangered whale meat as fatty tuna in order to smuggle it into the U.S.
The consequences of mislabeling pop up in global health, the economy, and conservation efforts. According to the Oceana report, the best way to combat them is by increasing traceability. The report asserts that a more detailed and transparent record of information about the fish as it moves along the supply chain could help decrease instances of mislabeling.
Blockchain could provide this record.
Though most commonly associated with money, blockchain’s utility isn’t limited to the world of finance. At its core, the technology is simply a secure, transparent way to record transactions. A number of companies are looking for ways to apply it to the seafood supply chain.
In April 2017, Intel released a demonstration case study showing how Hyperledger Sawtooth, a platform for creating and managing blockchains, could facilitate seafood supply chain traceability. That study used sensors to track and record information about a fish’s location, temperature, and other characteristics as it moved from boat to restaurant.
In January 2018, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced their appropriately named Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project. Through that project, the WWF and their partners are cracking down on illegal tuna fishing by recording every step along the supply chain on a blockchain.
“Through blockchain technology, soon a simple scan of tuna packaging using a smartphone app will tell the story of a tuna fish — where and when the fish was caught, by which vessel and fishing method,” said WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy in a press release. “Consumers will have certainty that they’re buying legally-caught, sustainable tuna with no slave labor or oppressive conditions involved.”
Of course, getting everyone along the supply chain to agree to a new recording system might not be easy, and that’s why a blockchain-based seafood solution like Fishcoin could be useful. The idea behind that project is to reward people all along the supply chain for providing valuable data directly to those at the end of it.
For example, fishers in developing nations might send a restaurant or grocery store information on the seafood they caught. This triggers a smart contract that transfers a certain number of Fishcoins into those fisher’s crypto wallets. The fishers can then exchange those Fishcoins for something of value to them, such as prepaid cell phone minutes.
Most of these projects are still in the development stages, but should they take off, it could have far-reaching implications for global health, the economy, and, of course, your dinner plate.
Chief Strategy Officer
Richardson Communications and Consulting, Inc.
Industry veteran and former XO Cloud evangelist and strategist, Jaime Zarate brings more than 20 years of telecommunications, systems integration, IT outsourcing and managed services experience to Richardson Communications and Consulting. Jaime brings a unique, broad understanding of aligning a client’s strategy with processes, applications, infrastructure and networks, as well as, extensive hands-on experience in the development and deployment of cloud solutions.
Before joining Richardson Communications and Consulting, Jaime had been a strategic planning and cloud services consultant to companies such as AT&T, Fujitsu, Rockwell, Unisys and XO Communications. He also served in business development and global alliance management roles.