Blockchain – still problems to be solved

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Adoption of blockchain technology is gathering pace. In liner shipping, more companies have been joining the TradeLens initiative, which now covers more than half the world’s container cargo.

Nestlé said recently that it is collaborating with OpenSC – a blockchain platform that allows consumers to track their food back to the farm.

Malory Davies, Editor.

And only this week, it was revealed that Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric and Vodafone are all participating in a blockchain network, Trust Your Supplier, launched by IBM and Chainyard.

With a host of major corporations adopting blockchain, it might seem to be game over – just sign up and take advantage.

Of course, it is not that simple. After analysing more than 100 projects involving distributed ledger technology blockchain, the Centre for Blockchain Technology at University College London warned that there is still “a great deal to be done in terms of ways of working to implement decentralised systems at scale”.

The study, entitled Distributed ledger technology in the supply chain, found that most of the active projects are in the grocery section, while “the greatest number of projects is within the Product Tracing usage area, followed by Logistics and Financial Transactions”.

It highlights important gaps which require attention in order for blockchain adoption to successfully scale across increasingly complex supply chains.

“First, in terms of data quality, the old adage of ‘garbage-in garbage-out’ still applies: blockchain overcomes trust issues through decentralisation but it is still reliant on the quality of data which goes in.

Secondly, the study warns that “the on and off ramps between the digital, blockchain-enabled world and the physical world are yet to be fully defined”.

And finally, it says, “the new co-opetition model of consortia is not an easy one to implement. It requires a new way of working for companies and also is potentially challenging from a regulation and anti-trust perspective.”

Clearly, there is a lot of momentum in the growth of blockchain, but caution is key – there are still plenty of problems to be solved.

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