Blockchain is a new technology making headlines and for good reason. Blockchain is the technology underlying cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. While the massive, headline-grabbing increases in the price of Bitcoin (1764% this year as of this writing) have spurred professional investors to cry “speculative bubble” and “greater fool principle,” these same professional investors acknowledge the potential of Blockchain and its numerous applications. (For details, see Wilbur et al, “Cryptocurrencies and The Blockchain,” Latest from the Lakefront, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, August, 2017.)
So, what is Blockchain? A Blockchain is a shared, secure, distributed, ordered, write-once database. Commonly used to track cryptocurrency ownership and transactions, it can also be used to track ownership in supply chains. A helpful article is here. Industry-leading Testing, Inspection and Certification company Bureau Veritas is championing the use of Blockchain technology for traceability in food supply chains. They have piloted the technology in the tuna industry as discussed in this article.
Provenance.org also discusses a pilot using Blockchain in the tuna industry. Mobile data capture is key for making cryptographic entries on the Blockchain. In their pilot, fishermen used SMS messages to register their catch on the Ethereum Blockchain. Suppliers and factories used smartphones, tablets and laptops to document on the Blockchain their participation in the supply chain, as fish made their way from the ocean to the consumer.
Readers of our blog know that we have been working with USDA and state veterinarians on the problems of livestock traceability for managing animal disease outbreaks (we’ve talked before about Animal Disease Traceability). Blockchain is very promising for livestock traceability but not magic. Producers must still be willing to participate, which today is the biggest problem in livestock traceability. The USDA has identified RFID as the preferred means of animal identification for livestock traceability.
Advanced mobile data capture technology such as Mi-Corporation’s Mobile Impact Platform, which now supports RFID tags, must be implemented all along the supply chain to create secure transactions for the Blockchain. The Mobile Impact Platform supports multiple computing device types, including smartphones, tablets and laptops/desktops, which are selected depending on the use case and which fit in the hand of the harvester or are fixed in the factory.