In my line of work, I get a lot of e-mail, actually make that a LOT of e-mail. The topics range across all modes of freight transportation, to be sure, as well as policy and technology. One common theme in more than a few e-mails that has come in over the last several months, and even longer, centers around blockchain technology and its impact, or rather potential impact, on myriad aspects of freight transportation, supply chain, and logistics operations.
In its most basic form, blockchain technology is viewed as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value” according to Don Tapscott, co-founder and executive director at the Blockchain Research Institute.
On the surface, that appears to be intuitive enough to get your arms around, but when one sees the ongoing proliferation, and, again, potential, of blockchain, things quickly move to an advanced level, a level in which a lot is being asked of a technology that is still, for the most part, pretty new, while still continuing to gain traction, as well as increasing interest.
At this year’s SMC3 JumpStart conference, which was held in Atlanta in January, keynote speaker Adrian Gonzalez, head of Adelante SCM, explained to attendees that despite the early traction blockchain has received, it is still too early to gauge its impact.
He described blockchain as a technological platform, asking if blockchain was a better mousetrap than what is currently out there today.
“When you look at the technology, the greatest value proposition of blockchain lies today in the supply chain for sectors like food, pharma, and high-value goods,” he said. “We are seeing some of that happening in pilot programs. My fear is that people will view it as a silver bullet solution for supply chain visibility. But the challenges related to supply chain visibility are not related to just software. There is still a lot of [bad] data and data across multiple different standards and computers, with different nomenclatures. There is the challenge of aggregating and cleansing data. Blockchain does not solve that.”
So, no, blockchain is not likely to be a technology panacea by any stretch, and that is coming from one of the foremost logistics technology experts there is, but, at the same time, it is impossible to overlook at this point. If you need further convincing, take a look at my e-mail in box.
But, seriously, over the past few months, blockchain continues to ride a wave showing no signs of crashing. Here are a few quick examples of that:
So, these are only a few examples, but you probably get the idea: one that indicates it is full systems go for blockchain within our sectors. In a business that constantly talks about the need for visibility, it stands to reason we are in the very early innings of blockchain technology, and for good reason. It will require a very watchful eye going forward to say the least.